Buzzzzz. The sound of silence. I know it’s no excuse, but this time around the moving process has been slow and overwhelming.

Exhibit A: This is my bedroom as of yesterday. Something seems off, no? That’s because it’s also the living room. And it’s full of everything I brought over from the old place – kitchen, living room, bedroom, everything. There are two other people moving stuff out of the apartment over the next few days, so I can’t move my stuff around until they are out and settled in the world. It’s cool. I kind of love having everyone hang out in my room all the time. In fact, last night we had some frozen cheesecake in the living room/my bedroom and everyone had to eat cheesecake and leave, whereas I could eat cheesecake in my bed and not have to move afterward. Gotta love the little things.

Exhibit B: Because all my kitchen stuff is still packed away, I haven’t baked or cooked a single thing in a few days. What you see here is the extent of my “cooking”, and basically what I’ve been eating for the last two days (and will continue to eat until tomorrow-ish, most likely). I can’t complain, though, because they are chocolate mini mini-wheats, and I’m a mini-wheat fiend.

I’m having some guilt issues concerning my lack o’ recipes this week, just in case you couldn’t tell, and I’m going to try to wriggle free from some of the guilt by sharing photos from my most recent trip to Mike’s Pastry. Mike’s is pretty touristy but they somehow manage to maintain a good level of deliciousness, and cheapness (the cost of living in Boston is in every other way astronomical). I don’t normally trek out to the North End but my mother was in town and we both love ourselves some dessert. What you see here, friends, is our lunch during one of the days we spent walking around the city. The box contains a pistachio cannoli (with the traditional ricotta filling), a chocolate peanut butter cupcake, a slice of tiramisu, and a profiterole the size of your face (no lie).

First up, the cannoli. No words, people. I love, LOVE anything with ricotta filling (sweet or savory), and the pistachio bits were a nice bit of change from the more traditional chocolate chip option. Mike’s does a great job with the cannoli shell, too, which is crispy but not crumbly and fried but in no way greasy.

Second is the peanut butter cupcake. My only concern with the cupcake was that the peanut butter filling was actually peanut butter. It sounds weird, but I don’t really come across peanut butter filled desserts that are filled with plain old peanut butter. It was a little cloying, but not enough so that we were prevented from devouring it.

Lastly, the profiterole. It was hugantic. Poofy and filled with pastry cream. I’m alright with that.

I’m sorry, again, for my lack of recipes and baking adventures. Stay tuned, though! I hope to bake in the next few days!

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I scrutinized the picture accompanying this recipe for a long time, adorable, brown-topped little cakes studded with chocolate chips. No frosting, no frills. Are they cupcakes, really? I mean, does a cake in a cupcake paper need frosting in order to become a cupcake? When you do some research, most people do draw a frosting line between cupcakes and muffins, but I for some reason I can’t rest with that. There has to be more to being a cupcake than a frosted top! Right? I began to question everything I knew about cupcakes, starting with giving this recipe a try.

So I went about chopping and mixing and baking and eating. To be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of the end result. Although I did enjoy the chocolate chips throughout the cake (more cupcakes should have chocolate chips, I daresay), the cakes themselves were dry and, well, I kind of missed the frosting. Perhaps if these were introduced to me as a muffin I would have thought differently, expecting a drier, less sweet cake-type product, but I wouldn’t say they are what you expect when you think “cupcake”. In conclusion, I’m still on the fence regarding whether or not cupcakes need frosting to be considered cupcakes and I’m not sold on this recipe.

I’ll repeat, however, that I’m still intrigued by the idea of chocolate chip cupcakes. If you could pull off a hybrid cookie-cupcake, imagine the possibilities.

Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

(Recipe adapted from Cupcakes, by Susanna Tee)

Yields 8 cupcakes

Ingredients:

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

½ cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup (scant) cake flour

¼ teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of salt

½ to ¾ cup chocolate chips or chopped semisweet, bittersweet, or dark chocolate

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and line a muffin tin with cupcake papers. I had to do two batches, since my pan only accommodates 6 muffin-size cakes.

2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat until incorporated. Mixture will separate but not to worry! It will come together with the addition of dry ingredients. Add vanilla and stir to combine.

3. Add flour, baking soda, and salt to butter mixture. Stir until just combined, and then stir in chocolate chips.

4. Fill cupcake papers ¾ full, using either “guess-timation” or a ¼ cup ice cream scoop with release mechanism.

5. Bake cupcakes in preheated oven 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Tops will brown considerably, as a warning.

6. Let cupcakes cool in pan just a few minutes before removing them to a rack to cool completely.

These cupcakes are best eaten while still warm and/or on the same day, but if you must, store them in an airtight container at room temperature up to 2 days.

Mini Cupcakes, Carrot Style

December 15, 2010

The next co-worker request? Easy peasy.

“CARROT CAKE!!!”

There was also a sketch of a bunny that kind of reminded me of the bunny in Donnie Darko. Even if I could include a scanned image, it would frighten me a little. He’s definitely not a bad artist, I’m just easily terrified by seemingly silly things.

Since the request was so straightforward, I spent a bit of time pondering which of the many carrot cake recipes I should make. What I ended up doing, however, was think outside of the recipe box. My favorite carrot cake recipe, from Cupcake project, was always first in my mind, but I wanted to do something else vegan, so everyone could have some and not have to push any personal boundaries and limitations. I researched what eggs did for baked goods (and by researched, I mean I read a few paragraphs from In the Sweet Kitchen and decided it was more fun to make up my own storyline for eggs in baked goods. More fun, yes, but definitely less productive), and came up with a few things. Eggs help bind the batter together when baking, help retain moisture and in turn help to keep things fresh, and also have the power to aid leavening agents.

Following a blank stare into the pages of the book, I turned around to scrutinize my pantry. Black beans, cans of soup, pumpkin puree. Bingo. Pumpkin it was, and the mini-cupcakes I made turned out wonderfully. They didn’t rise as much as the egg-included ones did, but they turned out perfectly cakey regardless. I loved the depth of flavor and color added by the pumpkin, which wasn’t overwhelming at all; you still got the flavor from the carrot, coconut, and pineapple.

I halved the recipe to yield only 24 mini-cupcakes, due to my excessive baking this time of year. And mini-cupcakes, as apposed to full size, because they are easy to pop in your mouth when you run into our back office.

Delicious, adorable cupcake mini? Check. Awesome piping skills? Yet to be seen.

Veganized Carrot Cake in cupcake form

(Adapted, and halved, from the Cupcake Project)

Makes 24 mini cupcakes

Ingredients:

¼ cup granulated sugar

eyeball half of ¾ tsp baking soda

½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp cardamom

½ cup grated carrot

½ cup crushed pineapple

½ cup flaked coconut

1.5 handful of raisins, or cranberries, or other dried fruit

¼ cup pumpkin puree

1/8 cup canola oil

2 tablespoons margarine

½ cup all purpose flour

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line your mini muffin tins (or one regular muffin tin).

2. In a bowl large enough to fit all ingredients, mix everything except the last three ingredients.

3. Add the oil and margarine, then mix until everything is combined.

4. Add the flour in two batches, making sure you mix just until the flour is combined.

5. Fill mini cupcake liners with batter (you can fill them up to the top with this recipe).

6. Bake in the preheated oven for 16-18 minutes, checking them at 16, or until they test done with a toothpick coming out clean.

As much as I appreciate the art of baking vegan, and respect the choice to become a vegan, I haven’t warmed up to vegan cream cheese and the traditional side of me loves cream cheese frosting on carrot cake. I copied the cream cheese recipe from Cupcake Project exactly (except halved, in order to fit the cupcake order).

Cardamom Cream Cheese Frosting

(Halved, from the Cupcake Project)

Ingredients:

4 oz cream cheese

2 tbs unsalted butter at room temperature

1 ½ cups sifted confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp ground cardamom

½ tsp vanilla extract

Method:

1. Beat cream cheese and butter until creamy and light colored.

2. Mix in the powdered sugar gradually, until you get the consistency you desire.

3. Add the cardamom and vanilla extract, then mix until completely incorporated.