PB&B Vegan Cupcakes

I am currently typing this at the airport terminal as a last-minute attempt to share something with you before I take off for two weeks. Three of us in the department are being sent to a week long statistics summer course at Penn State and the prep has been a scramble. It’s amazing just how many things you can get done before a trip that are not actually on your to-do list. I’ve been very productive and still haven’t managed to write a single word of the report that’s due  upon my return; funny how that happens.

I’m really looking forward to the trip though, and – as a bonus – I’m taking a detour home to Vermont for a week on the way back. It’ll be great to see family and friends again, not to mention my old food haunts and (of course) the climbing gym! 🙂 The hardest part of traveling will definitely be keeping to a strict work schedule the whole time, but once I get into the swing of things writing-wise I can usually churn things out pretty quickly. I just have to start the darn thing. So, enough chatting! Let’s get down to business…

These cupcakes are another miraculous creation by the Post Punk Kitchen and are little servings of peanut-butter-banana heaven…okay, maybe not so little: I love to make my cupcakes in jumbo pans so you’re getting less of a “cupcake” and more of a “personal-sized cake” complete with a small mountain of frosting. However you choose to make this – mini to jumbo to full sized cake – you won’t be disappointed. We all know I’m a bit biased (see Jimmy Carter Smoothy and Buckeye Ice Cream), but even if you’re not a huge peanut butter fan I’m confident that you’ll love these and no one will ever be able to tell their vegan unless you let it slip!

PB&B Vegan Cupcakes

(very slightly adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World!)

Ingredients:

For the Cupcakes…

½   C   overripe mashed banana

1¼   C   AP flour

¼   t   baking soda

1   t   baking powder

½   t   salt

¾   C   sugar

1/3   C   vegetable or canola oil

2/3   C   soy, almond, or rice milk*

1½   t   vanilla extract

½   t   almond extract

* Note: I’d recommend them in that order. The soy and almond milks have a creaminess the rice milk lacks and the soy milk will provide a more neutral base.

For the Frosting…

½   C   margarine (Earth Balance is awesome), softened

4   T   shortening

2/3   C   creamy peanut butter**

2   T   molasses

3   t   vanilla extract

1½ – 2   C   confectioner’s sugar, sifted

2 – 4   T   soy milk, more as needed

banana chips, vegan chocolate chips, chopped peanuts for garnish as desired

** Note: Use organic if possible (better flavor) and I love the brands that give you the “just peanuts” option (i.e. no salt , sugar, or added oil). If you’re using peanut butter with added salt, sugar, and/or oil, just omit the salt in the recipe entirely and reduce the amount of oil and sugar to taste.

Procedure:

1) Preheat oven to 350°F (325 if making jumbo) and prep pans with cupcake liners. Blend banana in a food processor or mash with a fork until completely smooth.

2) In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar together and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, soy milk, vanilla extract, almond extract, and mashed banana. Make a hollow in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet banana blend. Fold the wet mixture into the dry until just incorporated (don’t overmix! Small lumps are fine) and fill cupcake liners 2/3 of the way. Bake 20 – 25 minutes (35 – 40 for jumbo) or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Completely cool before frosting.

3) In the last 10 minutes of the cupcakes cooling time, whip up the frosting: with an electric mixer, cream together the margarine and shortening until smooth. Add peanut butter, molasses, and vanilla and beat again until very smooth. Add the confectioner’s sugar and beat until incorporated – frosting will be very thick! – and taste, add more sugar if desired. Finally, dribble in soy milk while beating until frosting is pale, fluffy, and spreadable.

4) Frost the (completely cooled) cupcakes generously with PB frosting and top with banana chips, chopped peanuts, and/or banana chips as desired. Will maintain their shape without refrigeration (in reasonable temperatures) so these babies also travel well and will keep for 3 days.

Beezer’s Notes:

I’m really stuck now. I can’t decide which I love more: the Cookies ‘n Cream Vegan Cupcakes or these. Both are so good I could easily eat a whole batch alone, but both are two very different flavors… so I guess it’s a tie. These PB&B Cupcakes have a delicious banana-bread like base with a fluffy peanut butter frosting that manages to be packed with flavor without being cloying sweet. I also love the toppings which make the cupcakes fun to eat and add texture. These are definitely going on my favorites list and will be made as often as my workout schedule allows, haha.

Overall Enjoyment:  ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥

Homemade Bagels!

Yes, this post title deserves an exclamation mark after it. Why? Because during my year in Japan the food I ended up missing most surprised me: it wasn’t one of the foods I ate on a regular basis like non-fat yogurt, seriously sharp cheddar, or multigrain bread…it was bagels! Bagels with cream cheese or PB&B or just a generous slathering of butter. Yes, my friends, I craved the usually oversized, chewy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside: BAGELS!

Well, I’ve been back on this side of the planet for about 3 years now and have been able to satisfy any cravings that pop up unexpectedly…until now. I’m sure there has to be a homemade bagel shop somewhere in either Halifax or neighboring Dartmouth, but without a car or significant free time I’ve been stuck with these. I was gamely making do until a friend of mine from Colombia mentioned that the only bagels he’s ever tried are the pre-packaged ones from the grocery store (*gasp*). I decided that, for both our sakes, I was going to try the homemade bagel recipe so clearly laid out for me in my go-to bread book: The River Cottage Bread Handbook by Daniel Stevens.


Homemade Bagels! (adapted very little from The River Cottage Bread Handbook)

makes 1 dozen little bagels

Ingredients:

1  lb.  2  oz.  unbleached, white bread flour

1½   t   instant yeast

2   t   fine salt

1   C   +  1  T   warm water

1½   T   superfine sugar

3½   T   vegetable oil, plus extra as needed

1   medium, free-range egg – beaten*

poppy or sesame seeds for topping (optional)

* Note: For my vegan friends out there, just skip the egg-wash and use water or a light brush of oil to adhere seeds.

Procedure:

1) In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast onto the warm water and let sit while assembling the rest of the ingredients. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and sugar (since I didn’t have superfine sugar, I dissolved mine in the water). Pour the wet ingredients into the large bowl with the dry and begin to incorporate the two with a wooden spoon. Once the dough has begun to cling together, turn it out onto a clean surface dusted with flour and kneed until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes) – or, alternatively, use a standing mixer with dough-hook attachment for about 5 minutes on medium speed.

2) When dough has become smooth and elastic, shape into a round and coat it with a bit of oil. Place in a clean dry bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a bag, and let sit in a warm place to rise.

3) When dough has approximately doubled in size (anywhere from 1 – 3 hrs depending on the temp. of the room – I let mine sit overnight), deflate it, kneed it a bit to redistribute the yeast, and divide into 12 even pieces. One at a time, roll the pieces into a sausage-shape about 6″ long. Wet the ends and press them together to seal piece into a ring shape. Assemble all 12 pieces and place on a lightly-oiled baking sheet. Cover rings with clean clothes and let proof <– have a cold room and/or want to speed up this step? I began preheating my oven here and set the covered baking sheets on top (NOT in!). The heat from the oven warmed the dough and the rings doubled in size within an hour.

4) Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bring a wide pot filled with about 4″ of water to boil. As water is heating, place proofed rings on a tray (I used a bowl but some got squished) off to the side and re-oil your baking sheet off to the other. In addition, get a clean dry towel ready to drain the wet bagels on. When water is at a rolling boiling, turn it down to a simmer and begin poaching your bagels in small batches – they will puff up a bit in the water! – by cooking a batch for 1 minute on each side before putting them gently onto the dry towel.

5) When all the bagels have been poached and drained, gently place them onto the prepped baking sheets. If any have come apart just carefully stick them back together again. Brush bagels with beaten egg and sprinkle with any toppings you’d like. Bake for 15 minutes or until the bagels are a uniform, glossy, golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes or until just slightly warm before slicing (otherwise they’ll seem gooey).

Beezer’s Notes:

Folks, Daniel Stevens knows what he’s talking about. These little guys had the perfect texture and the most lovely color, and you know what? They really aren’t difficult to make, you just add in the poaching step. My dough was a bit dry, I’ll admit, but I think that was due to letting it rise overnight. If you’re going to do the same you might want to rub in an extra teaspoon of oil beforehand.

My friend from Colombia said he really liked them although, since he’s never had any homemade bagels before mine, we admit he’s a bit biased, haha. Finally, if you’re like me and really love a good bagel, you might want to consider doubling the batch and either making 2 dozen small ones or one dozen jumbo. I rather like the palm-sized versions so I’m going to make 2-dozen next time and begin trying more exotic flavors (cinnamon raisin, cinnamon sugar, blueberry…).

Overall Enjoyment:  ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥

Cookies ‘n Cream Vegan Cupcakes

I want to let you know just how close I was to not putting the word “vegan” in the title of this post. I really wanted you to look at these cupcakes and judge them as you would any other, without any preconceived notions. In my fantasy, you look at the photos of these beauties and decide to make them immediately. You then somehow neglect to notice the lack of any and all dairy in the recipe, bake up the cakes as normal, and take a huge bite exclaiming, “Mmmph oh mah gwwwd!” through a mouthful of rich chocolate cake and buttery cookie bits. This is where I jump into your kitchen (a bit creepy, I’ll admit) and shout: “…and they’re VEGAN too!”

But, fortunately for you and your right to privacy, my fantasy isn’t reality and I do feel obligated to call these Cookies ‘n Cream Vegan Cupcakes. That said, I hope that if you aren’t familiar with vegan baked goods you’ll trust me and at least give these a shot. My winning argument: since making my initial batch two days ago I have since made two more and have been asked to make another 2 dozen for Easter dinner. Do the math people, that’s 5 dozen cupcakes in just under a week. Only a few of my friends/coworkers are vegan and no one in my family is, so there must be something good about this recipe. 😉

I didn’t tweak the source recipe all that much. After my first round of batter came up short (I got 9 dense cupcakes) I decided to double the amount and forgive any leftovers. This works out well because the source recipe for the “butter”cream yields an extremely generous amount of fluffy topping and covered my second batch of 20 cupcakes perfectly. My second round of cakes also turned out a bit different; they were lighter, airier, but still had that initial rich chocolaty taste. I’m guessing the change had to do with the fact that my first batter was made with the final cup of almond milk I had in my fridge. I’m terrible at remembering to shake the container, so that liquid was probably denser than that used in the second batter which came from a brand-new container. The cupcakes were delicious either way, but I found I liked the lighter ones more. Finally, I experimented with adding peppermint extract to the frosting and mint-flavored Newman-O’s to create a mint cookies ‘n cream version.

Cookies ‘n Cream Vegan Cupcakes

(adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World by Moskowitz and Romero)

Ingredients:

For the Cakes (makes ~ 20)…

2   C   almond milk

2   t   apple cider vinegar

1½   C   granulated sugar

2/3  C   canola oil

2   t   vanilla extract

2   C   flour

2/3   C   cocoa powder

1½   t   baking soda

1   t   baking powder

½   t   salt

For the Frosting…

½   C   non-hydrogenated shortening

½   C   non-hydrogenated margarine (Earth Balance is great if you can find it)

3½   C   confectioner’s sugar, sifted if clumpy

¼   C   vanilla almond milk

1½   t   vanilla extract

½   t   peppermint extract

2 – 3 drops green food coloring, if desired

10   crushed vegan chocolate cream-filled sandwich cookies, divided*

10   whole cookies, halved

* Note: Newman-O’s are vegan and can be found in the organic section of most grocery stores. I used 5 of the original vanilla flavor for the vanilla frosting and 5 of their Hint ‘O Mint flavor in the mint frosting, but I’m a little obsessive. With the peppermint extract already in the mint frosting, feel free to just use the regular vanilla flavor in both mixes for simplicity.

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F and line 2 cupcake pans with liners (I needed about 20). Whisk together the almond milk and vinegar in a large bowl and set aside to curdle.
  2. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Go back to the liquid mixture and add to it the sugar, oil, and vanilla extract. Beat the liquid mix until foamy, then slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet a little at a time to avoid clumping.
  3. Using a large tablespoon or scoop (I am a firm believer in cookie dough scoops now!) fill the liners about 2/3 of the way full with batter. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.
  4. While cupcakes cool beat the shortening and margarine together until light and relatively airy. Add the sugar and beat a few minutes more. Add the almond milk and vanilla extract and beat until fluffy. Now, at this step, if you want ONLY vanilla frosting simply add all of the crumbled cookies and fold them in with a spatula. Otherwise, divide up the frosting and add the peppermint extract and food coloring to one of the halves – beating until incorporated. Then divide the crumbled cookies equally among the two bowls and fold in until well combined.
  5. Once cupcakes have completely cooled (you can even save the frosting overnight in the fridge if you’d like, just allow it to return to room temperature before trying to work with it) top with a generous scoop of frosting and a cookie half, alternating vanilla and mint flavors as you desire.


Beezer’s Notes:

Do I have you convinced yet? I hope so. These cupcakes are well worth your time, and I completely understand that you do not have a lot of it to spare. And, yes, I know “vegan” does not necessarily mean “healthy”. I’m not trying to tell you that these bombshells are actually good for you – well, good for your soul maybe as they will rock your world from first bite to last crumb – but I honestly think vegan cupcakes just taste better! They have a lighter, cleaner taste that doesn’t compromise flavor. My mother said she particularly loved the mint version of these because the subtle cool peppermint went well with the light cake and sweet, fluffy frosting. Plus, even if these aren’t exactly good for you, they ARE lower in hydrogenated fats and cholesterol which is slightly less evil. If made to choose I’d eat a dozen of these in one sitting over a dozen traditional cupcakes…maybe even if I wasn’t made to, haha.


Overall Enjoyment:   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥   ♥

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