Thursday, September 20, 2012

Triple-Chocolate Cupcakes with Buttercream Icing

Mmmmmm.....chocolate.  Mike's youngest turned six this month, and apparently the birthday cake that his mom got him was destroyed in some sort of refrigerator accident and then not replaced.  Just thinking about it made me sad.  I mean geez - I'm nearly 32 and would be mad if I didn't get a birthday cake (hear that, Mike?  I like chocolate paired with either berries or peanut butter!) and I couldn't imagine not getting one at six.  So after he said he really wanted a chocolate cake with white icing, I decided to whip up these cupcakes for a belated birthday celebration last weekend.

The "triple chocolate" comes from the cocoa in the batter, the chocolate chips, and - just to make them extra-decadent - using dark chocolate almond milk instead of regular soy or almond milk for the liquid. The icing is a simple buttercream made with non-dairy butter.  I topped them off with multi-colored sugar crunchies shaped like dinosaurs to make them fun and colorful.  There were birthday smiles all around!

Triple-Chocolate Cupcakes with Buttercream Icing
Makes 12 cupcakes

1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate non-dairy milk
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 Tablespoons non-dairy butter, melted
1 cup vegan chocolate chips
Buttercream Icing:
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup non-dairy butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons non-dairy milk
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
First, make the cupcakes.  Whisk the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl until well-blended and free of clumps.  Mix the remaning cupcake ingredients in another bowl.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just blended.  Do not overmix!  Fold in the vegan chocolate chips.
Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake papers.  Fill cups about 2/3 of the way to the top.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of cupcake comes out clean.  Remove pan from oven and cool the cupcakes for 5 minutes in the pan.  After 5 minutes, carefully remove the cupcakes from the pan and finish cooling on a wire rack.  Refrigerate the cupcakes for at least 1 hour or overnight.
Now make the icing.  Cream the non-dairy butter and vanilla with a mixer until smooth.  Add in the confectioners sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating on low after each addition until incorporated.  Add the non-dairy milk and beat on high for 5 minutes until the icing is glossy.  The icing should not be too runny or too dry.  If it is too runny or too dry for spreading, add either milk or confectioners sugar, 1 Tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is acheived.  Refrigerate icing for 1 hour.
Spread icing on completely cooled cupcakes, decorate as desired and enjoy!
Tips and Tricks:
1. If you don't want to use chocolate non-dairy milk, it's fine to use regular or vanilla flavored.  The results will be equally delicious!
2. Chilling both your cupcakes and your icing for at least an hour will make icing the cupcakes easier.  For pretty swirls of icing like in the picture, use a star decorating tip and either a pastry bag or just a plastic sandwich bag with a corner cut off to push the decorating tip through.  Ice the cupcakes using a swirling motion, decorate, and refrigerate until the icing hardens slightly. 

3. Vegan chocolate chips can be challenging to find.  The only readily-available milk-free chips I've found in regular grocery stores is Ghiradelli, but be careful - only the semi-sweet chips are vegan.  You can also find vegan chocolate chips in natural foods stores.
And now I leave you with some pictures from our birthday celebration:
Don't forget the candles!

That's me there in the wheelchair - no more though; I'm walking this week!

 Making a wish....

The little ninjas loved the cupcakes!
That's all for now.  Recipe for fridge pickles forthcoming, and experimenting with some homemade vegan mayo and roasted garlic and acorn squash pasta.  I'm back on my feet after surgery and have the cooking bug BAD, so I'll see you again soon!
The Fur Ninja

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sunshine Carrot Muffins with Blueberry Filling

Happy Labor Day weekend, ninjas!  I hope everyone is having a lovely time saying their unofficial goodbye to summertime.  Here in Philadelphia, the weather is kind of disappointing - overcast and drizzling.  In order to combat the rainy-day blues that seem to be capping off our summer, here's a recipe for healthy and delicious carrot muffins with a little bit of "sunshine" in them. 

These muffins are moist, healthy, and delicious - chock full of carrots and not to sweet, dripping with gooey, fresh blueberry filling in the middle, and topped off with a sunshine-y burst of lemon zest in the batter.  Perfect for filling your kitchen with a hint of summer, even on a dreary day.

Sunshine Carrot Muffins with Blueberry Filling


Blueberry filling:

8 ounces fresh blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon non-dairy butter
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon vanilla


2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon coriander
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
3/4 cup non-dairy milk
1/3 cup canola oil
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup grated carrots

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.  Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin, or line with paper cupcake liners.

In a medium saucepan, combine the blueberries, 1/4 cup sugar, water, and non-dairy butter.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Simmer 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove about 1/4 cup of the berry mixture from the pot and place in a small bowl.  Add the cornstarch and whisk until all lumps are dissolved.  Add back into the saucepan with the rest of the berries and whisk constantly until thickened, about 3 minutes.  If your mixture does not noticeably thicken after 3 minutes, turn up your heat slightly.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla.  Set aside.

Combine flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a large bowl.  Combine the applesauce, non-dairy milk, oil, lemon zest, and vanilla in a separate bowl.  Add wet ingredients into dry and stir until just combined.  You don't want to over-mix or your muffins will be tough.  Stir just enough until everything is incorporated.  Add the grated carrots and mix again until combined.  The batter will be very thick.

Fill the cups of your prepared muffin pan 1/2 full with the muffin batter.  Add about 1 Tablespoon of the blueberry mixture to each cup, then fill the cups the rest of the way with the muffin batter.  The batter should reach almost to the top of the muffin cups.  Bake 20 minutes or until tops of muffins are firm and a toothpick inserted through just the muffin part (not the filling) comes out clean.  Allow muffins to cool 5 minutes in the pan, then remove and finish cooling on a wire rack.

Tips and Tricks:

1. Cupcake liners - I was never a big user of these, preferring usually to just grease my pan and be done with it.  However, I have had issues in the past with muffins with tough bottoms.  After a bit of research on the 'net, I discovered that this was likely due to the fact that the part of the muffin that is touching the pan continues to steam-cook after removal from the oven.  The liners allow your muffins a bit of protection from the heat of the pan, and also makes them easier to remove from the pan while still hot without making them fall apart - important because the cooling on the rack keeps the bottoms from over-cooking.  After these muffins came out so darn perfect, I'm a total convert to the liners and will be using them from now on.  If you don't want to, just make sure you carefully remove your muffins from the pan and transfer to a cooling rack as soon as you are able to.  Be careful not to try to move them when they're too hot though, or you risk them falling apart on you.  Five minutes of cooling in the pan should be fine.

2. Don't sweat it if the blueberry filling doesn't stay all perfect in the middle of your muffins.  Some of my muffins had the filling leak out and form a kind of  muffin-sandwich with two halves of muffin covering a layer of filling, instead of just a blob of filling in the middle.  This is really just aesthetics - your muffins will be delicious either way, so don't let it bother you.  

3. You'll likely have extra blueberry filling.  This is great on pancakes, vanilla ice cream, or eaten as-is with a spoon while you're waiting for the muffins to finish baking.  I went for option three :)

That's all for now, ninjas.  I haven't been able to cook since having ankle surgery on the 29th, so I don't have tons of new stuff for you.  I do have a recipe for sweet and spicy fridge pickles I'd like to get up, and my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe as well.  However, once those are up I won't have anything for you until I get back in the kitchen (probably a few weeks from now), so please be patient with me!  I had a muscle-lengthening procedure and a bone chip removed that had been floating around in there for 2 years and causing me pain, and even though I'm going stir-crazy at the moment, I know it'll all be worth it in the end.  My ninja-brain continues to come up with new things I'm dying to try out once I'm back on my feet though, so hopefully before too long I'll be cooking again.  Prayers and good thoughts for my speedy recovery are appreciated!  Until next time then....

The Fur Ninja