Ashley’s Ultimate Vegan Challah

Since making the decision to go vegan 7 1/2 years ago, I’ve been in search of a challah recipe that can compete with my favorite eggy versions from my childhood. The kind I liked best was extra eggy, soft and cake-like challah with an extremely rich flavor and delicate crumb.  I could eat slice after slice, coated with the unsalted, pareve margarine my mom kept on hand for meat meals.  Although water challah exists in the US, it’s not nearly as popular, and can be quite difficult to find.  In fact despite reassurances from several friends, there was only one store in all of Manhattan that I knew would reliably have an accidentally vegan challah.  Given the scarcity of options, I spent many a Friday night dinner unable to participate in the cornerstone ritual of blessing and breaking bread at the start of a meal. This is less of an issue in Israel, as it is much easier to find egg-free challah here, and at most meals there’s also a pile of soft pitas sitting next to the braided loaves.

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My quest for the perfect challah recipe has been ongoing since a very young age.  Even when I knew where to buy my favorite brand, I still always had an itch to make my own, and no matter how masterful I became in pastry creation, my challah was a perpetual disappointment, eggy or vegan.  The first egg free recipe I tried called for the unholiest of sins in my book, most especially as an egg replacer: banana. There is nothing you can say or do to make me believe that “you can’t even taste the banana!” because yes, I can, even in those super chocolatey brownies.  Even the slightest hint that banana is lurking beneath the surface, and the brownie/cake/smoothie/muffin/challah is ruined.  I still wanted to try that first, sinful recipe, however, so I subbed the banana for another sweet and starchy plant, namely pumpkin.  I continued to use that recipe for several years, but nothing about it was even close to the challah I was trying to approximate.  Several years later, I adapted a recipe from a friends mother, by merely leaving the egg out.  The ratios of sweetness to breadiness was perfect, but it came out as slightly too oily.  Still, it was the best challah I’d ever made.  Because I didn’t own a blender or food processor when I lived in Manhattan, blended tofu was out as an option, but my other go to egg-replacer–non-dairy yogurt–was still on the table.  Before I happened to bring that experiment to fruition, I happened upon the brioche recipe from Bittersweet Blog, which used a chickpea flour based custard as the egg replacer. The sticky sweet brioche dough made a decent braid (and tasted delicious to boot), but it still wasn’t exactly what I was looking for in a challah.

FullSizeRender (1)For Rosh Hashanah last year, I decided to embark on yet another challah experiment, drawing inspiration from both the brioche recipe as well as from some of the other recipes I’d liked the best.  The chickpea custard gave the dough just the right amount of enrichment, so the crumb was soft and tender, with a sweet almost cake-y, but not overpowering flavor.  For the glaze, I mixed together a bit of soymilk with a touch of silan (date syrup), which helped give the loaves a bit of sheen and that same rich color that traditional loaves have.  The recipe will either make one large round loaf, or one large braid (which I prefer to bake in a loaf pan in order to retain more height).  You can sprinkle the top with traditional toppings like poppy or sesame seeds, or you can have a bit of fun and try za’atar or paprika!

May all our meals be a little sweeter this year! שנה טובה ומתוקה! Have a happy and sweet new year!

IMG_0011Ashley’s Ultimate Vegan Challah

  • 1/4 c chickpea flour
  • 1 c non dairy milk
  •  1 packet active dry yeast
  • 1/3 c maple syrup or silan
  • 1/3 c canola oil
  • 1/2 tsp black salt
  • 5-6 c all-purpose flour

Topping:

  • 3 tbsp nondairy milk mixed with 1-2 tbsps of silan
  • sesame seeds, poppy seeds, zaatar

In a small saucepan, mix chickpea flour with some of the milk to form paste. Whisk in the rest of the milk, and cook on medium heat until significantly thickened and pudding-like, stirring constantly.  Let cool until just warm to touch.  In a large bowel, stir together the chickpea custard with the yeast and maple syrup or silan.  Allow the yeast mixture to rest for a bit.  The yeast may start to bubble slightly (which is a good thing).  Add in the salt and the oil, and then begin to add flour.  I usually start with about 4 cups, then knead it in to see how sticky the dough still is.  Add more flour if necessary, a little at a time, until the dough is no longer sticky.  Knead about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic, and bounces back when lightly pressed.  Place the dough in a clean, oiled bowl.  Cover with a bit of plastic and a towel and place in the fridge to ride overnight.  In the morning, punch down the dough, then preheat the oven to 350F (about 175C).  Shape the dough according to your preference.  For a round loaf, roll the dough into one long rope.  Tie the rope into a regular knot, tucking one end underneath the loaf, while letting the other stick out just a bit. Let rise in a warm place until almost doubled in size.  Brush with milk and silan mixture, then sprinkle the topping over evenly.  Bake on a large cookie sheet (for the round loaf) for about 30 minutes.  If after that time the top is browning too quickly, cover with a piece of foil and bake for about another 30 minutes.  When done, a knife inserted into the center (do it between coils, not in the exact center of the rope) should come back clean, and will slide in easily.  You can alternatively check that it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.  If braiding the loaf, it will probably only need to back for about 30 minutes.

 

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Fluffy Vegan Matzoh Balls

Oh matzoh balls; the quintessential Passover delicacy. For the past few years, I’ve been on a quest to create the perfect vegan matzoh ball. The first recipe I tried used tofu—which I prefer not use being Ashkenazi—to replace the egg. The matzoh balls definitely held up well, but I found them to be rather dense, and I would have preferred a matzoh ball with a fluffier consistency. But then, it was no matter, since I was just excited to be eating matzoh balls for the first time in several years.

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My next attempt at vegan matzoh balls saw the tofu replaced with flax seed, but I found the density to be about the same. So the year after, I eschewed matzoh balls altogether, and made a potato leek soup instead. I had all but given up hope that I would one day make a matzoh ball that was vegan, kitniyot free, and fluffy.

Enter flax foam.

A few innovative individuals took it upon themselves to experiment with different ways of using flax seed as an egg replacer. Rather than simply grinding the flax and mixing it with water, they boiled the flax to extract a thick gel, which looked an awful lot like egg whites. They then whipped the flax “whites,” and either folded them into recipes in order to add airiness, such as mousse, or (in whatever consider a stroke of genius) created vegan meringues. I followed these developments through this thread, and thought, hey maybe this would work for matzoh balls. I set to work, boiling and straining the flax, freezing the goop, and whipping it into a light and fluffy mass. I then used the whipped flax in a traditional matzoh ball recipe I found in one of the many Pesach recipe books my mom has floating around.

The results were perfect. I rejoiced in the eating of a light and fluffy matzoh ball that didn’t disintegrate in broth (and tasted great to boot). I served my matzoh balls in an herb scented mushroom broth, but really they can go in any kind of broth you like.

Fluffy Vegan Matzoh Balls

  • 1/4 c flax goop
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seed mixed with 3 tbsp of water
  • 1/8 tsp salt (I prefer Indian black salt to add just a touch of egginess
  • 1/4 c matzoh meal

Combine the group flax seed with the whipped flax “whites”. Gradually add the matzoh meal, stirring gently until well combined. Let rest for 10-20 minutes.

In a large pot, heat some vegetable broth or salted water until boiling . Wet hands with cold water, and form the matzoh mixture into small balls. Gently drop each ball into the boiling liquid, and then cover and simmer about 20 minutes. I wouldn’t recommend cooking the matzoh balls in the soup you plan to serve them in because they will soak up a lot of liquid.

Remove the matzoh balls from the cooking liquid and serve in your broth of choice.

Chag Pesach sameach (חג פסח שמח)!

Vegan Passover (פסח טבעוני)

As Passover creeps ever closer, my usual worries begin to take hold. What will I eat, where will I eat it, what do I do about cleaning my kitchen etc, etc. What was once one of my favorite holidays has become the bane of my vegan existence. I used to actively look forward to cleaning the kitchen with my parents, despite being a rather messy child (now as my friends can attest, I apologize for having a messy room if I’ve left out one shirt). I would get to explore the deep mysteries that were hidden in the attic when my dad allowed me to come up with him to bring down the Passover dishes. Even now, I’m hit with a nostalgic whiff of excitement whenever I open the pink plastic box containing the dairy dishes, as I remember how special it felt to use something that we only saw for one week a year. Even better than the attic and the dishes though, was waking up the morning of the first night to find the kitchen completely covered. The counters were covered in plastic, the stove and sink in foil, while the table had a pink tablecloth. To my young eyes, it was like entering into another world; the alternate universe of Pesach land (never actually gave it that name).

Raw Strawberry Cheesecake with Cashew Cream

Raw Strawberry Cheesecake with Cashew Cream- April 2012

As for the food, I loved all of the homemade, traditional Pesach food we would eat throughout the week. I also loved a simple piece of matzoh spread with real butter (not margarine…Pesach margarine is actually quite gross) or cream cheese. After the kitchen was cleaned and covered, I would spend the rest of the day helping my mom prepare food for the seder that night. We would fry up pounds of mushrooms and onions, to be used in everything from “mushroom stuff” (mock liver) to farfal (matzoh based stuffing). My mom would make chicken soup from scratch, and then shortly before the seder, add big, fluffy matzoh balls. It’s funny to recount this now, but one of my favorite dishes to help make was the brisket. It’s not that I was ever an ardent meat lover (though mom’s brisket was one of my favorites), but her recipe called for browning the meat in brandy before going in the oven, and really, what child wouldn’t like lighting a pan on fire.

Soaking all the nuts (almost) March 2012

Soaking all the nuts, plus dates and sundried tomatoes – April 2012

Pesach was also the very last time I ever ate meat. When I was 14, Take Your Child to Work Day happened to fall in the middle of Pesach, and so I went to work with my mom in order to get off from school for a day. While I had long ago made the decision to go vegetarian, back then, I would ever so occasionally eat a small amount of animal. By this time, those occasions were very infrequent, but being 14 and rather unprepared for a Passover lunch, I was hungry.  After (possible) fierce deliberation, I broke down and ate some of my mom’s chicken salad on matzoh. I’ve learned a lot since then, especially after giving up eggs and dairy, since much of traditional Pesach cuisine is egg based. I’ve been flexing my creativity and finding ways to veganize the traditional foods of my childhood within the confines of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Passover customs, which is to say, without beans or rice.

Beautiful raw lasagna- April 2012

Beautiful raw lasagna- April 2012

I am the first to admit that it isn’t easy, but for those of you looking to do the same, don’t lose hope! I’ve spent the last few years compiling tips and recipes that are super delicious, can be featured at a seder, and are kosher for Passover. In the next few weeks leading up to Pesach, I’ll be posting some recipes, but in the mean time, here is a list of what I usually make:

Herbed Brazil Nut cheese (in bad lighting I might add)

Herbed Brazil Nut cheese (in bad lighting I might add) – April 2012

Seder Stuff

Raw blood orange cheesecake, tastes like a creamsicle! March 2013

Raw blood orange cheesecake. It tastes like a creamsicle! March 2013

Rest of the Week

  • Matzoh lasagna (I’ve also made raw lasagna if you’re looking for something a little bit lighter)
  • Potato Gnocchi
  • Quinoa with Vegetables
  • Salad!
  • Kale Chips

    Potato Leek soup, a nice alternative if you're too lazy for vegan maztoh balls- April 2012

    Potato Leek soup, a nice alternative if you’re too lazy for vegan maztoh balls- April 2012

This year is going to be an interesting Pesach, considering it’s my first in Israel (and without my family). While adapting to cooking here has been incredibly easy, I’m used to relying on my mom’s food processor for Pesach (in order to deal with all the nuts that become a staple when I can no longer eat beans). Additionally, I may be going on a week long Pesach program in Tzfat, where we will be doing our own cooking apparently (yay!), but I have no idea what kinds of equipment and ingredients will be available to me. No matter, every year, I remind myself that now is a good time to really bump up on my whole foods and veggies. Maybe this year will be the year I actually listen.

The Crispiest Vegan Latkes Around

One of the things you hear most frequently about vegan cooking and baking is “but what do you do about eggs?” Generally speaking, especially in pastries, eggs aren’t really necessary and can be easily substituted by making vegan “buttermilk”, where some acid (usually vinegar or lemon juice) is added to nondairy milk, which then reacts with baking soda to create a stable structure. If it’s the richness that eggs bring, using some blended tofu or soy yogurt are easy options. As a last resort, there is always EnerG egg replacer, which is made with a combination of starches, and then, there is flax. When ground and mixed with water, or boiled whole in water, flax releases a viscous, gooey gel, which makes a brilliant egg replacer. The ground flax works particularly nicely in smaller things, like cookies, or in latkes! The boiled gel is a different animal all together, but some wonderfully experimental vegans figured out it can be whipped like egg whites to make foam! (but more on that later).

Latke with apple sauce, December 2012

Latke with apple sauce, December 2012

Making exceptional vegan versions of the traditional Jewish foods of my childhood has proved to be much more difficult a challenge than vegan baking. The first vegan latke recipe I used, I found to make rather dense latkes, due to its reliance on extra flour as it’s only binder. The were ok, but not exactly what I was looking for in a homemade latke. I was looking for something light and crispy, faintly scented with onion, that was perfectly warming in the dark of December.

Hanukkah out. December 2012

Hanukkah out. December 2012

Enter the latke recipe from The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick Goudreau. Her recipe included ground flax as a binder, which freed the potato pancake from it’s floury, glutinous density. In fact, these latkes were exactly as I remembered them, light, crispy, and the perfect compliment to a dollop of applesauce. I am sharing her recipe in all it’s glory, so you too can have the perfect vegan latkes this year.

Crispy Latkes (adapted from the Vegan Table)

  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 c water
  • 4 c peeled and shredded potatoes (about 5 medium sized potatoes)
  • 1 small onion, peeled and shredded
  • 1 tbsp al purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • Canola oil for frying
  • Applesauce for serving

In a food processor or blender (a fork works too honestly), whip the flaxseed and water together, until mixture reaches a thick and creamy, almost gelatinous consistency, 1 to 2 minutes.  Set aside

Spread potatoes on a kitchen towel or cheesecloth, and roll up jelly-roll style. Twist towel tightly to wring out as much liquid as possible.  You may need to do this again with a second towel.  Transfer to a mixing bowl.

Add flax egg to potatoes, along with onions, flour and salt.  Use your hands to combine ingredients.  You want the mixture to be moist, but not too wet.

Heat some oil in a large nonstick sauté pan over medium heat until hot but not smoking.  Using a tablespoon, scoop a large spoonful of potato mixture unto hot oil, pressing down to form a patty.  You are not trying to create dense patties, but the batter should stick together enough to be flipped without falling apart.  Slide a spatula underneath the latkes while they’re cooking to make sure they don’t stick to the pan.  Brown on one side, turn over, and brown on the other side.  You may need more oil as you add more latkes to the pan.  Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel to soak up the excess oil.  Season with salt, and serve with apple sauce.

Rumpkin Pie Chai Cupcakes

Given that I was leaving the US two days after my birthday to the land of (soy) milk and (date) honey, where it has been fairly consistently sunny and warm (aka Paradise. I’ve gone to the beach more times since I’ve been here than I have in the last few years. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that my Ulpan (Hebrew language school) is about a block away from the water) I thought it was necessary to try and make as many autumny recipes as possible before I left, so for my second birthday cupcake (the first being the Apple Orchard cupcake) I of course had to do something with pumpkin.

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Vegan Pumpkin Spice Latte (not chai) at Peacefood Cafe Downtown in New York City

While I briefly discussed that the cupcakes I have been making are all part of a theme, what I didn’t reveal was that I actually have a whole list of cupcakes to make sitting on my phone, combining seasonal ingredients, with tea and/or booze into awesome cupcakes. Well some of them are seasonal, some are based off of favorite cocktails, while others are inspired by well known tea based drinks. Mental cupcake creation is one of my favorite things to do when I have a long trip to take, and as I dream up cupcake combinations, I have finally taken care to write all of them down. The task now, is to slowly test out these cupcake combinations to see what works, what doesn’t, what’s popular, what I can effectively make gluten free etc.

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Rumpkin Pie Chai cupcakes with the pumpkin peeking through a patch of frosting. Garnished with a sprig of thyme.

There were several factors that went into the creation of this cupcake. First, how to best incorporate some booze into the already popular Chai Latte cupcake from VCTOW (that’s Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World…I’m not going to pull a Rachael Ray and always say the abbreviation and what it stands for, I promise). This is one of my dad’s favorite cupcakes, and the best part is, they’re super simple to make on their own. I thought a good spiced rum would fit nicely with the flavor profile, so that was settled quite easily. Then came choosing an appropriate filling. On my list I actually have written both pumpkin pie and cashew cardamom mousse. I wanted something that would meld nicely with the spices already present in the cake, but when it came down to it, the pumpkin craze had already begun, and nothing could beat a chai spiced cake with a deliciously creamy pumpkin pie filling. I generally consider spiking my frostings, just for the extra dose of booze, but because I was making these in tandem with the apple cupcakes (rather than packing….sorry Dad. And Jordan. I bake when I’m stressed, ok?) I needed to make my life a little easier and use only one frosting for both cupcakes. So on went the cinnamon buttercream. The last element to these cupcakes were attempting to make them gluten free. I have tried several different flour mixes for cupcakes with varying successes. This time, I used some leftover from the mix suggested in The Allergen-Free Bakers Handbook by Cybele Pascal. I’ve found that this mix creates a cupcake that is a little more dense than I would like, but the secret to the chai cupcake recipe is the addition of some non dairy yogurt, which creates a moist, light cake. I wanted to see if the combination of the yogurt with the flour blend would create a more satisfactory texture. Good news: it did!

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Autumn in Israel

Frequently, when I write down my cupcake ideas, I like to dream them up as the perfect package, complete with elegant if not time consuming garnishes. After all, I would eventually like to sell these (in which case maybe I should stop giving away all my secrets!), but usually, I just don’t have the time to make some of these complicated little additions, nor can I necessarily finance all the resources. For example on the apple cupcakes, I really wanted to throw on a little piece of pie crust, because yum. Crust is totally the best part of the pie. Also, they go crazy for garnishes like that on cupcake wars, but when it came down to it, not only was in nice to have a slice of fresh, crisp apple on top, it also added a nicer color, and, took significantly less work. When it came to garnishing the Rumpkin cupcakes, I found they needed a pop of color to brighten them up. Luckily, I had some sprigs of thyme that had dried up in my fridge, and added the perfect touch of color/actual pumpkin patch vibe I was going for. While I didn’t intend them to add anything flavor-wise, thyme and pumpkin make a pretty nice pair, though you could also probably use a sprig of rosemary or even a sage leaf (talk about an autumn classic, pumpkin and sage).

And now for the recipe:

Chai Cupcake (adapted from VCTOW)

  • 1 scant cup non dairy milk
  • 4 black tea bags or 2 tbsp loose black tea
  • 1/4 c dark or spiced rum
  • 1/4 c canola oil
  • 1/2 c vanilla or plain non dairy yogurt
  • 3/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 c gluten free flour blend*
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • Pinch to 1/8 tsp ground white or black pepper

*I used the the flour mix from the Allergen-Free Bakers Handbook, but you could try whatever you have on hand (or regular flour, and leave out the xanthan gum).  I just can’t vouch for the final product using a different gluten free flour combo.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin pan with cupcake liners.  Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until almost boiling.  Add tea bags, remove from heat and cover.  Let sit for about 10 minutes, then squeeze all the excess milk from the tea bag/leaves and discard.  Measure the tea mixture, and rather than top off with milk, top off with rum, so the mixture equals 1 cup of liquid.  (This is why you can even start off with a little bit less milk even).  In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, yogurt, sugar, vanilla, and the tea mixture until all lumps disappear.  Sift in flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and all the spices into the wet ingredients. Mix until large lumps disappear; some small lumps are ok.  Fill tins full and bake about 20 to 22 minutes until a sharp knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool.

Pumpkin Pie Filling

  • 1/2 can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling, you want plain old pumpkin)
  • 1/2 c coconut milk
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 tbsp tapioca starch (cornstarch would probably work too)
  • 1/4 c sugar or maple syrup or to taste
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • pinch of cloves
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tbsp spiced rum

Combine everything but the vanilla and the rum in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Stir until well combined and smooth, then cook until it just starts to boil, stirring frequently.  The mixture should smooth out even more and then thicken to a thick, custard-like consistency.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and rum.

Cinnamon Buttercream*

  • 1/2 c nonhydrogenated vegan margarine
  • 1/2 c nonhydrogenated shortening
  • 3 1/2 c confectioners sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-4 tbsp non-dairy milk

*You really only need a half batch for 12 cupcakes.  I made this whole recipe in conjunction with the apple cupcakes, and was able to frost 2 dozen with this amount of frosting.

Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined.  Add the sugar and cinnamon and beat for another about 3 minutes more.  Add the vanilla and 2 tbsp of the non dairy milk.  Beat for another 5 to 7 minutes until fluffy.  If it is too dry add more milk, 1 tbsp at a time.

To assemble:

Put the pumpkin pie filling in a piping bag fitted with a large round tip.  Using your pinky finger, poke a hole in each cupcake.  Fill with as much pumpkin pie filling as you can, leaving a nice round dollop of filling on top of the cupcake.  Fit a separate piping bag with a star tip and fill with the cinnamon buttercream.  Pipe little star flowers all around the pumpkin.  Garnish with a sprig of something green.

Sorry for the lack of pictures with this post!  I was in the middle of moving, and didn’t think to take more.  Mostly, I’m happy I took five minutes to write down these recipes.  Also, I probably should have gotten this out sooner, but good thing pumpkin is still entirely appropriate to eat throughout November!

Vegan Apple Orchard Cupcakes

It’s been a few years since I’ve had the opportunity to go apple picking, but nonetheless, apples are still one of my favorite fruits. As much as I don’t look forward to fall (I know blasphemous, but I really dislike cold weather, even autumn cold) I still look forward to apple season, when I can get fresh crisp apples in all kinds of sweet and tart varieties. My favorite apples are usually a pleasant blend of sweet and tart, with just a hint of berry in the finish, like the pink lady apple. And while I definitely prefer all of my fruit fresh, apples are probably my favorite to eat cooked into a pastry, be it pie, cake or muffins. It came as no surprise then, when I discovered Woodchuck hard cider about two years ago, and instantly fell in love. It’s the perfect drink to casually sip, and never gets old given the preponderance of seasonal flavors and special batches. I particularly like the Summer blend, with it’s hint of blueberry, as well as the 802, which is slightly richer and has some deep caramel notes. Of course it was completely necessary to turn my favorite drink into a cupcake, one which is perfect for a northeastern autumn—or my birthday, which falls at the end of September. I hadn’t planned on making my own birthday cupcakes this year, but I accidentally joked about doing so when I invited my friend out for my birthday party, and everyone kinda took that seriously. So I heeded their advice and made not one but two kinds of cupcakes (the second of which I’ll post about at a later date).

Woodchuck Winter and Woodchuck Pink

Woodchuck Winter and Woodchuck Pink

I blended the cider into a cake with just a hint of warming cinnamon, and then filled it with a scrumptious spiked apple filing, and topped it off with a cinnamon buttercream. It’s garnished with a slice of fresh apple, and drizzled with a little dulce de leche. The first time I made these, I actually used several different spices in the cake, but I found that they overpowered the cider, whereas I think cinnamon will be complementary, and add that hint of warmth we expect with apple cakes, without overpowering the cider flavor.

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Apple Orchard cupcakes in all their glory

Cupcakes:

  • 3/4 c hard apple cider, such as Woodchuck 802
  • 1/4 c non dairy milk
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 c brown sugar
  • 1/3 c canola oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners Combine the non dairy milk and the vinegar, and set aside while you mix the cider, sugar, oil and vanilla together in a large bowl. Add the milk mixture, and beat (a fork does the trick) until the mixture looks fairly homogenous. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture in two batches, mixing well before adding the second batch. The batter should be fairly smooth, with only some small lumps remaining. Add the batter to the liners, filling until each is about 3/4 full. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool.

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Apple filling in progress, complete with bourbon

Apple filling:

  • 1 medium sized apple, diced small. Skins on or off. (I used a pink lady apple and left the skins on for color)
  • 1-2 tbsp Earth Balance (or other non hydrogenated vegan margarine)
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup (or to taste)
  • 1/2-1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tbsp liquor of choice*

*I used bourbon here because that’s what I had and I didn’t want to buy a whole new bottle of something since I was moving out of my place the next day, but I think an apple brandy would also be excellent in this filling. Melt the margarine in a skillet over medium heat, add the diced apples and sauté for about five minutes until they just start to caramelize, add the cinnamon, water, and maple syrup and cook until soft, then let the water reduce until there’s only about a tablespoon of liquid left. Now add the liquor, and (VERY CAREFULLY, this step is not entirely necessary, mostly it’s fun) light it aflame! Let the flames burn out, then cook down until there’s only a tablespoon or so of liquid left. We don’t want soggy cupcakes. Remove from heat, and set aside to cool. Cinnamon Buttercream (adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World):

  • 1/2 c non-hydrogenated shortening
  • 1/2 c non-hydrogenated vegan margarine (like Earth Balance)
  • 3 1/2 c confectioners sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-4 tbsp non dairy milk

*You really only need a half batch for 12 cupcakes.  I made this whole recipe in conjunction with the chai cupcakes, and was able to frost 2 dozen with this amount of frosting.

Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined.  Add the sugar and cinnamon and beat for another about 3 minutes more.  Add the vanilla and 2 tbsp of the non dairy milk.  Beat for another 5 to 7 minutes until fluffy.  If it is too dry add more milk, 1 tbsp at a time.

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Cupcake assembly process

To assemble:

  • 1 apple (I used another pink lady)
  • Dulce de Leche*
  • Piping bag fitted with a large star tip
  • Paring knife
  • a few tbsp of lemon juice

*I used this recipe to a T because I already had it on hand, but if I were to make it specifically for this recipe, I would probably substitute the Jameson for apple brandy.  Just make sure you match the liquor to what you use in the filling. Using the paring knife, cut a circle out of the top of the cupcake, so you end up removing a small cone of cake (you can almost see it in the picture). Do not discard the excess cake!  Add about a teaspoon of the apple filling to the center, so the hole is just full.  Fill the piping bag with buttercream and pipe a beautiful swirl over the top of the cake to cover the filling.  Take the apple, and cut off one side, close to the core (but don’t cut into the core).  Slice that side into very thin slices (so they look similar to the photo all the way above), discarding (ie eating…ok or maybe sharing with the dog if you’re nice) the weird triangular ends. Dip the slices in lemon juice and pat dry. Place the cake piece you cut out just off center of the cupcake, with the smooth part perpendicular to the cupcake surface.  Now lay the apple slice over the cupcake, so it is leaning on the little cake cone.  Drizzle the with dulce de leche, and serve! While these look fairly delicate, I managed to transport them from my apartment to a dinner and then a bar with my friends, and then even managed to take the (one) leftover cupcake to my mom’s in NJ.

Tipsy Shades of Earl Grey

Some may say I should have opened with the title post, but as any good musical theatre fan will tell you, sometimes the show doesn’t even have a title song (My Fair Lady, Les Miserables…I could go on), but when it does, quite frequently it is not the opening number.  Given the natural progression of concepts, I thought it was more appropriate to begin with the Car Bomb Cupcake, which got me into booze cakes in general, then lead you by the hand to the one thing I love more than booze cakes—tea.  You may think I thought long and hard about this title, but the truth is, I happened to wake up one morning and think, “You know, it would be really funny if I started a tea and cupcake bar called Tipsy Shades of Earl Grey.”  While it wasn’t a totally serious thought at the time, it did get me thinking about how to incorporate both liquor and tea into cupcakes, which was definitely something of a challenge, as I had really only made one tea infused cupcake before (Masala Chai, not Earl Grey).  The rules of the challenge were that cupcakes had to include either tea or alcohol, but preferably both, in complimentary combinations. I also decided tisanes, such as Rooibus could be included as tea.   Alcohol is exceedingly easy to incorporate, but tea, not so much.  Despite being a big tea drinker (I can easily consume several cups a day), most of the tea I drink is flavored, but not necessarily flavors that are as classic as Earl Grey, or Masala Chai.

December Tea Party with Earl Grey tea from France

December Tea Party with Earl Grey tea from France

 One would think my first creation along these lines would have been the classic Earl Grey cake, but instead,  I was thinking more along the lines of something fit for a graduation celebration, and thus came up with a champagne cake with a champagne and rosewater infused strawberry filling, topped with white chocolate mousse, and champagne syrup.  I did in fact make that cake, but the recipe definitely needs to be tweaked before I can share my secrets, so I’ll just leave you with this picture for the time being.  (The folly of using an iPhone was that I had a better picture earlier on in the day, which didn’t save, so I hastily snapped new pictures of all the cupcakes I made that day with fading light, and unkempt wrappers).

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Gluten-free champagne cupcake with champagne and rosewater infused strawberries, vegan white chcoolate mousse, and a strawberry “flower” garnish.

And now, what I know you have all been waiting for: The Tipsy Shades of Earl Grey cupcake.  This cupcake is so steeped in pop culture—from the popular literary reference, to food worlds new obsession with infusing Earl Grey tea into everything—I should probably change its name to the PopCulture Cake (the earl of pop culture?)  While it isn’t the booziest cake I’ve ever made, far from it in fact, it has a really unique flavor profile.  The cake has beautifully moist, but light crumb, and a slightly citrusy flavor with complex undertone from the intense blend of tea that I used.  Due to time constraints, the first time I made the Earl, I settled for just brushing the top of the cake with some Grand Marinier, but really, I wanted to make a Grand Marinier infused custard to inject into the center of the cake.  From there, I dipped each cupcake in a rich, Earl Grey infused chocolate ganache.  To be perfectly honest, the first time I saw Earl Grey chocolate, I was definitely a little skeptical about how the flavors would compliment each other.  I bought it as a gift for my stepmom’s birthday because two of her favorite things are Earl Grey tea and chocolate, and this was a neat little package that was too hard to resist.  Luckily for us, it was quite tasty, and she enjoyed the chocolate a lot, so I had a good feeling that repeating the combination on a cupcake would go over well.

Mini citrus fruit in a tea cup

Mini citrus fruit in a tea cup

What is Earl Grey tea anyway? It is not in fact a specific variety of camellia sinensis, the plant that tea leaves come from.  It is simply black tea flavored either with bergamot oil.  According to the incredibly reliable Wikipedia, one may also find such delights as “Lady Grey” tea—which includes either lavender or Seville orange peel in addition to the bergamot, “French Earl Grey” which includes rose petals, and “Russian Earl Grey” which includes either more citrus peels, or lemongrass in addition to the bergamot.  Given the preponderance of rather complicated tea flavors  nowadays, Earl Grey is quite simple, but also exceedingly delicious.  (I just wanted to point out, I feel like the register of language I’m using became way more elevated once I started discussing the tea.  Clearly my brain correctly associates “tea” and “Earl” with British aristocracy and an elevated form of English).

Earl grey cupcake brushed with Grand Marinier, topped with Earl Grey chocolate ganache and a twist of orange and lemon zest as garnish

Earl grey cupcake brushed with Grand Marinier, topped with Earl Grey chocolate ganache and a twist of orange and lemon zest as garnish


Earl Grey cupcake (from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World):

  • 1 c non dairy milk
  • 4 Earl Grey tea bags or 2 tbsp loose leaf  Earl Grey tea
  • 1/4 c canola oil
  • 1/2 c vanilla or plain non dairy yogurt (just don’t use the new Greek style yogurts. They are much harder to work with.)
  • 3/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 c all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp orange zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.  Heat non dairy milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until almost boiling.  Add tea, cover, and remove from heat.  Let sit for 10 minutes, then squeeze the tea to remove as much liquid (and flavor) as possible.  Discard the tea.  Measure the milk mixture and add some more if it is less than 1 cup.  In a large bowl, whisk together oil, yogurt, sugar vanilla, and tea mixture until all yogurt lumps disappear.  Yogurt tip: if you buy the individual serving cartons, which are usually 6 oz, just dump it in with out measuring, but don’t scrape out the container!  It’s much easier than actually measuring out 1/2 a cup but you end up with the same amount.

Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and zests into the wet ingredients and mix until the large cupcakes disappear; some small lumps are ok.  Fill tins full, and bake about 20 to 22 minutes, until a sharp knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool completely, then brush with Grand Marinier

Earl Grey Ganache:

  • 1/4 c coconut cream (full fat coconut milk works just as well.  The cream is just what solidifies at the top of the full fat coconut milk can)
  • 1 Earl Grey tea bag or 2 tsp loose leaf Earl Grey
  • 1/2 c semisweet chocolate (chocolate chips are fine, as is a bar that has been chopped up)
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup

Heat the coconut milk in small saucepan until almost boiling.  Add the tea, remove from heat, and let sit for about 7 minutes.  Squeeze the leaves to extract excess liquid and thus infuse more flavor into the milk.  Add the chocolate and maple syrup and stir until smooth.  Let cool slightly, then dip the top of each cupcake into the ganache, and let cool until set.  Garnish with twists of lemon and orange zest (there are zesters that will take tiny strips off for you, or you can use a vegetable peeler to take of large strips and use a pairing knife to turn them into tiny strips).

If you wanted to fill the cupcake with a Grand Marinier pudding (not giving a recipe since I haven’t actually made this yet), you could leave off the Grand Marinier that’s brushed on top of the cupcake.  Or not, if you want to up to booze factor just a little bit.

Beer, Baileys, and Cupcakes

I’ve gotten a lot of requests for a food blog in the last few years, and I figured the time was ripe to give in to peer pressure.

This is the “Irish Car Bomb” cupcake, named after the drink (I apologize if you find that drink offensive, but I didn’t make it up).  I invented this recipe when I decided to enter the vegan bake-off last February.  I think I applied too late (too late for another cupcake anyway), so I didn’t get to compete with it, but I did make it for fun several weeks later as a treat for my coworkers.  I then improved on the recipe for my friends 21st birthday a few weeks after that.Image

This cake is all vegan, all the time.  In fact, I considered calling this blog “The Olive Branch” because I feel like a plant based symbol of peace of was an appropriate description my cuisine.  Alas, tea, booze and cupcakes have managed to take over, and this is the one that started it all.

This cupcake is a chocolate stout cake, with a Jameson chocolate truffle baked into the center, topped with a homemade “Bailey’s” (or I guess I could just say dairy free Irish creme) buttercream, and drizzled with a Jameson spiked dulce de leche.  I know there’s no tea in these, but in order to get to tea time, I had to go through booze time.

I did adapt the cupcakes into a whole cake recently (yesterday) which made me realize that I’m not particularly fond of making whole cakes. From here on out, I will only be taking orders for cupcakes.  And now, for the recipe.  There are a lot of components, but most of them can be made well in advance.

A note on my cooking: when I cook, I generally tend not to have any kind of recipe, and to just dump things into a pot or pan and see what happens, but I can at least try to guesstimate proportions when I post stuff now.  I do use actual recipes when I bake, so those are easier to provide, though they also still generally involve a fair bit of tweaking.

Dulce de (coco) leche (adapted from Alton Brown):

  • 1 can full fat coconut milk
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split with seeds scraped
  • 1/2 tsp of baking soda
  • Irish whiskey (I used Jameson)

Combine the coconut milks, sugar and vanilla bean and seeds into a size pan over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer and stir occasionally until the sugar has dissolved, then stir in the baking soda (the mixture bubbled up quite violently when I did this, so I would definitely lower the heat first).  Bring back to a gentle simmer, and cook for an hour, stirring occasionally. After an hour, remove the vanilla bean, and then continue to cook until it is a dark caramel color, about 2 hours.  Turn off the heat and incorporate the whiskey.  The thicker the mixture, the stronger you can make it (since you can use the whiskey to thin it out).  Strain through a fine mesh sieve and allow to cool. Serve on cupcakes or ice cream (or on a spoon…or finger as was the case last night).  Store in the fridge (I keep mine in a squeeze bottle).

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Irish Cream

  • 1 can of full fat coconut milk
  • 1 can of light coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup of sugar (brown sugar works too!)
  • 3/4 cup espresso or strong coffee (I used a heaping tablespoon of instant coffee dissolved into 3/4 cup hot water
  • 1 heaping tablespoon cocoa powder
  • Whiskey to taste (about 1 cup, but really, make it as strong as you want it)

Combine the sugar and coconut milks in a pot and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves.  Simmer for about 10 minutes, until just slightly reduced, and stir in the coffee mixture.  Remove from heat and add the whiskey.  Enjoy over ice, stirred into coffee, hot chocolate, soy milk!  Store in the fridge.

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Jameson chocolate truffles (adapted from Chloe’s Kitchen)

  • 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk, with the cream stirred in
  • 1 1/2 cups of semi-sweet (or bittersweet) chocolate, either chips or chopped
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 shots worth of whiskey

Warm coconut milk in a sauce pan over medium heat, until barely boiling.  Add chocolate and stir until smooth.  Remove from heat and add vanilla, salt and whiskey.  Pour in a pie plate or loaf pan and chill until firm.  Form into walnut sized balls, using a tablespoon and freeze until ready to use.  If you want a stronger truffle, I would reduce the amount of coconut milk before adding more Jameson because we want the ganache to set up firm.

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Cupcakes (adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World)

  • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsps all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder (I prefer Cocoa Rouge by Guittard.  It has a really deep chocolatey flavor that is exceedingly smooth, rather than bitter)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup stout (I used Brooklyn Brewery chocolate stout. Most Guinness is not vegan in the US)
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and fill a cupcake tin with liners.

Combine the milk and vinegar in a large bowl, and let stand (to curdle just a little) while you work on the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Combine the milk mixture with the stout, sugar, oil and vanilla.  Stir together until foamy and well combined.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet in two batches, mixing until well combined, about 2 minutes.  Distribute the batter evenly among the cupcake tin, so each is about 3/4 of the way full.  Place a frozen truffle on top of each cupcake, and bake about 18-22 minutes. The cake should spring back lightly at your touch.  It will not be possible to use the toothpick test for doneness because of the truffle, which should have become encased in batter while baking.  Let cool before frosting.

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“Bailey’s” buttercream

  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance (I prefer sticks for frosting)
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp espresso powder
  • 1 tbsp whiskey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup vegan Irish Cream

Beat together shortening and margarine until fluffy.  Add sugar and cocoa pwder and beat a few minutes longer, until well combined.  Then add the espresso powder, whiskey, vanilla and “Baileys”  Beat together about 5 minutes, until smooth and creamy.

To assemble: either pipe or spread frosting onto cooled cupcakes.  Drizzle with dulce de leche. Eat and repeat.

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Here’s a picture of the full sized cake version.  Making this was definitely a case of Murphy’s Law, as one thing after another tried to trip me up.  Tweaks I made to convert this include adding more liquid as well as some Earth Balance into the ganache, so as to make it spreadable.  Turned out, even though I loved the consistency, I think I over filled the layers, and ended up with ganache oozing out into the icing, so that’s where the chocolate shavings came in.  The writing was dulce de leche mixed with confectioner’s sugar in order to stiffen it up a little bit.  The birthday boy and friend thought it looked great (though I would have liked to make a cleaner presentation of it), and gave me ultimate praise for taste.

Whew! Well that was quite the recipe typing marathon.  I promise I don’t always make stuff that is this complicated, but I can promise it will always be delicious!