Friday, February 3, 2012
As some of you know, I am no stranger to the cupcake. I have baked plenty for family, friends and work-related crowds, where some people have been known to ask if I was sure I didn’t get them from a bakery. (Leaving my reaction uncertain: to take it as a complement that these people think the cupcakes looked as good as the ones from a bakery, or as an offense in that they thought I was actually incapable of producing them?) In any event, I was enticed by the idea for these cupcakes because I liked the challenge of it: to make vegan cupcakes tasting as good or better than my ordinary fare.
I’m not vegan, but we make a lot of vegan and vegetarian dishes. Yet one of the bigger challenges for me has been vegan desserts and baking, because I’ve been afraid to stray from a recipe that I have tested and that I know works (and also knowing that precision is important in the chemistry of baking, as every ingredient is there for a reason). Maybe I'm simply afraid of failure, but I have discovered from my scientist husband that experiment is an essential part of learning, and that failure is an essential part of most experiments. So I have experimented, and I’ve learned that in order to make successful vegan dishes, particularly desserts, one only needs to know the purpose of the non-vegan ingredient you're replacing. And besides, who can go wrong with peaches and coconut?
Here I was experimenting with two different recipes at once: the cupcakes and the frosting. For the cupcakes, I started out as I would for a carrot cake, which doesn't call for milk or butter (using vegetable oil instead), leaving only eggs to get rid of. I substituted the eggs with apple sauce, adding more baking powder to compensate for the leavening quality of the eggs that I would be losing.
For the frosting I used coconut milk as my base. My frame of reference for this was cream cheese frosting. The only trick is to have the coconut milk be of a similar, thick consistency as that of cream cheese, to be able to whip it properly. As a result I used only the solids from the coconut milk (it's good to refrigerate a can of coconut milk overnight to help it separate).
I was pleased with the final result: one thing that Tony said when he tried one of these cupcakes, when I told him they were vegan, was "I'm surprised," muffled by a mouthful of the cupcake.
Peach Cupcakes (Vegan)
(Makes 12 cupcakes)
You will need:
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup plain apple sauce
1 15 oz can peach halves (sugar-free or naturally sweetened)
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with fluted cups. In a medium bowl, combine together flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder and set aside. In a food processor or a blender, purée the peach halves (discard the juice or use it elsewhere), and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, beat sugar and apple sauce with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined, 1-2 minutes. Add puréed peach halves, canola oil and vanilla, and beat until well-blended and the oil has emulsified, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in batches, and mix until just combined, about 1 minute.
3. Divide the batter between the 12 muffin cups. Bake for 30 minutes or slightly longer if needed, until cupcakes are a rich golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for 1 minute before transferring the cupcakes to a wire rack. Let cool completely before frosting.
Coconut Cream Frosting (Vegan)
(Frosts 12 cupcakes)
You will need:
1 15oz can of coconut milk
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp triple sec or other liqueur
1. Before using, refrigerate the can of coconut milk for several hours or overnight. The solids will have separated from the liquids, with the solids on top. Carefully spoon out only the solids onto a bowl (use the liquids elsewhere or discard). Add confectioner's sugar and triple sec, and beat with an electric mixer at medium speed for about 2-3 minutes, until ripples form and the consistency is smooth and creamy. Always refrigerate until needed. Pipe or spread onto cooled cupcakes.