I seem to be suffering from the never-ending cold, complete with new and different symptoms every few days. You know how when you are sick words on pages seem to dance circles around you? And the pictures seem to jump up off the page and wander? This made it very difficult for me to research my Variety Flour Thursday pick this week, but nothing is impossible. I gathered my blankets and shuffled to the kitchen to survey my cookbooks and ingredients.

I never tired of cookie dough landscapes, especially this one, flecked with blood orange zest!

Luckily for me, I had blood oranges in the fridge and agave nectar in the pantry. I can present a cookie that is a little out of the common way, containing significantly less refined sugar than your average cookie. My mother went on an agave nectar spree last year, either buying it for everyone she knows or convincing them it’s the miracle sweetener we’ve been searching for all these years. I was a grateful recipient and used it on pancakes and in tea. I hadn’t used it to bake before this recipe and now that I’ve seen the results, I’ll try using it more often.

And blood oranges? There’s nothing to be said about this extraordinary fruit. It’s my favorite and makes a wonderful addition to most baked goods (and my life).

Orange Agave Chocolate Chip Cookies

(Recipe adapted from Vegan Cookies Invade your Cookie Jar)

Yields 2 dozen generous tablespoon size cookies

Ingredients:

2/3 cup agave nectar

2/3 cup canola oil

2 tablespoons nondairy milk (or water in a no-milk emergency)

(Optional: 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds)

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1 tablespoon orange zest (grated zest of one orange approximately)

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

¾ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup, or 6 ounces, chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, whisk agave nectar, oil, nondairy milk, flax seeds if using, vanilla extract, and orange zest until smooth and homogenous.

3. Sift in flours, leavening agents, and salt. Stir to combine, until there are no flour streaks.

4. Add chocolate chips. Stir to incorporate.

5. Form cookies into generous tablespoon-sized disks. These cookies barely spread and rise only slightly, so how they look before baking will be how they look after baking.

6. Bake each sheet in the oven for 12 to 14 minutes, until the edges are slightly golden.

7. Let cookies cool on baking sheet for at least 5 minutes before removing them to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Store these cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

See this recipe on Sweet As Sugar Cookies for Sweets for a Saturday #7!

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On our first “date” as friends, this darling girl and I went to Sweet for cupcakes, and it has become a tradition. They switch up their menu with the change of seasons, and have special Valentine’s Day cupcakes (Which is coming up! Rejoice!), which we love because you never tire of the flavors. Conversely, though, you tend to miss the flavors you really enjoy when they are out of season, so to speak. One of those flavors is the chocolate orange cupcake, which I want to reproduce for her so she has a foolproof, easy to make recipe to use year round.

The only thing that I am deliberately changing about the chocolate orange cupcake is the cake itself. The Sweet version is a chocolate cake with orange buttercream frosting, but I would like to up the ante and find a recipe for chocolate orange cake. The first reason is personal, because I love zest in cake, but the second and REAL reason is that, just in case she doesn’t feel like making the frosting, she can simply make the cake and eat it plain. Although I’ll take this opportunity to say that I want to eat this frosting until the sun devours the Earth. Just sayin’.

All in all, I wasn’t particularly pleased with the way the cake turned out. The cupcakes were very, very crumbly, yet not overcooked. I’ve made vegan chocolate cake a few times before this, and was able to manage a moist cupcake, so naturally I was a little disappointed. The flavor was fantastic, even if it was super rich. The next time I make a vegan chocolate orange cake, I’m going to turn to Vegan cupcakes take over the world.

Random excitement, before turning over the recipe over to you, though! These cupcakes gave me a chance to use my cupcake corer!! It’s kind of a dream come true. As hard as it is to admit (because this is a baking blog, after all), I’m a frosting girl. So cupcakes filled with frosting, then topped with frosting? Yes. A thousand times, yes. I suppose you could fill them with anything you wish, but, again, this frosting is amazing.

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes (vegan)

(Adapted from momofukufor2)

Yields 12 full-size cupcakes

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup cocoa powder

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup orange juice

½ cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon orange zest

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line your muffin tins with cupcake papers.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.

3. In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together all other ingredients.

4. Make a well in the dry ingredients, then pour the liquid into the dry.

5. Mix the batter until everything is just combined.

6. Fill the cupcake liners with about ¼ cup batter, or at least make sure they all have even amounts of batter.

7. Bake tins in a preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, testing them at 20. When a butter knife or toothpick inserted into the cupcake comes out dry, you’re done!

8. Cool the cupcakes in the tin for at least 5 minutes, then let them cool on a cooling rack until they are room temperature.

Orange Frosting (Note: NOT vegan)

(Adapted from All Cakes Considered)

Yields more than enough frosting for 12 cupcakes, if you aren’t doing any crazy piping.

Ingredients:

½ cup, or one stick, unsalted butter, room temperature

3 ½ to 4 cups confectioners’ sugar

¼ cup evaporated milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon orange extract

(Optional: 3 tablespoons of dried orange peel, or finely grated orange zest)

Method:

1. Using a mixer, cream the butter until it is smooth and fluffy.

2. Add 3 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar, and while mixing on low, add the evaporated milk.

3. When the sugar is incorporated, beat the frosting at a high speed for at least five minutes (I beat mine for 8 or 9 minutes, which was almost overkill). Add more confectioners’ sugar to get your desired texture.

4. Add the extracts and zest, if using, and beat on high for another minute or two until even distributed through the frosting.

To assemble cupcakes:

Exhibit A. This is what happens when you do not let the cupcakes cool to room temperature, when you don't let the ganache cool to a reasonable temperature, and when you don't even make the ganache properly because you're so intent on eating.

1. Wait until the cupcakes are room temperature!

2. Frost the cupcakes.

3. Keep them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days. If kept in the fridge, bring to room temperature or let sit for 10 minutes before eating because the frosting gets a little stiff when it’s cold.