Sweetie. . . Tuesday – OH’s B-Day!!

My twice-weekly posting plan is. . . failing so far. I’ve been caught up in other goals: fitness goals. So that’s not too bad, right?

It’s not the best of excuses, given that I do most of my posting during down time between work and studying. You know, while. . . already on the computer.

Here’s a few more sheepish ellipses: . . . – . . . – . . .

Anyway, I realized today that I needed to post. I had planned to post this on Friday, but I thought it would be best to actually post rather than preserve a theme.

My camera was dead during the actual baking process (recurring theme), so you can instead enjoy the beautiful shots of my cake in transport. Yes, my car is messy. Yes, I made sure everything was sanitary and stable. The cake is actually in a large bit of Tupperware – I removed the lid for the pictures, but it’ safe from car messiness. Just consider it “art.”

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No?

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I am quite obviously not a professional cake decorator. I’m learning! This was my first time making a serious attempt to decorate a layer cake, or a cake other than a cupcake. I don’t think I’ve ever written in icing before.and my writing is atrocious enough with a pen. Let’s give me a bag of butter-cream!

For the blue icing, I actually cheated. I used one of those little icing packs with the change-able plastic tips. It was “accidentally vegan” and gave me a steadier hand to work with. PLUS, I didn’t have to work on a fourth recipe. Recipe number four for something that hardly imparts flavor? Nah.

I baked this cake and ganache from the Post Punk Kitchen. I was going to fill cake with chocolate mousse, but I bought too soft of tofu. Apparently, there is a huge difference between silken soft and silken extra-firm. The difference is melted milkshake vs mousse. I ended up throwing in some powdered sugar and even cornstarch, but it wouldn’t set. I threw in peanut butter – nothing. I finally took spoonfuls of this mess and beat it with powdered sugar for a peanut-butter-chocolate glaze.

Overall, it’s not perfect, but I’m very satisfied with the results! I haven’t had samples of the whole cake, but I did have little tastes of each component: all but the decorator’s icing are either good (filling) or GREAT (Isa’s stuff).  I can’t wait to show it off to Mr. Obnoxious Hand!

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Sweetie Fridays – Chocolate Chip Cookies, Version 235723

Sweetie Fridays - Chocolate Chip Cookies, Version 235723

I really need a new baking sheet, huh? Preferably with a big roll of wax paper to preserve it. Anyway. . .

I’m on a mission to find the ultimate chocolate chip cookie recipe. A mission to find this recipe and share it with my five-odd readers. There hasn’t been a mission this intense since Monica tried to track down the cookies once baked by Phoebe’s late grandmother.

Unlike Monica, however, I know the perfect starting point: the back of the bag. Now, when I say back of the bag, I really mean, “back of a bag I haven’t purchased since God knows when.” Nestle Tollhouse (nesle tolus, not nesli tolhaus) has been my go-to since I first started baking cookies solo, and they’re a great control recipe.

Wanting a) to have my own recipe for blogging and fattening purposes and b) to have a cookie more suited to my own personal tastes, I’ve been experimenting. Going vegan has led me to make two obvious changes: switching out the butter and eggs. The butter was easy – Earth Balance sticks are a godsend.

For my first couple batches, I played it safe and baked the recipe as is, with Earth Balance buttery sticks, two “flax eggs,” and subbing half my flour for whole wheat pastry. This has been great, but again: not my own.

My next experimentation was majorly healthy. . .izing. . .  it. I used all whole wheat pastry flour and cut the sugars down to 1/2 cup each. These were alright – very cake-y and very health food-y. They tasted too much like what people would expect to taste when you tell them you’re giving them a vegan dessert.

Yesterday, my omnivore boyfriend requested chocolate chip cookies. This time, I decided to make them anti-health food (no flax, only white flour), so he wouldn’t be too angry when I turned around and took the crisp right out of the cookies.

He loves crisp and I love chew. It’s enough to tear a couple apart!

What I ended up doing. . . I subbed half the baking soda with baking powder, and was very pleased at the texture. Chewy and really held a round shape once baked. I think I found my new control!

Sweetie Fridays – Donut-Shaped Cakes

Baking is a science; everyone knows that. Yes, a seasoned baker can experiment with good results. Yes, even some of the most experienced cooks need a cookbook to refer to turn by turn, if they decide to bake. And it’s best not to substitute if you’re working with a new, unfamiliar food (such as cake donuts).

Luckily, not all accidents are bad. Sometimes, an accident ends up being pretty darn good. Those times, a simple name change may be in order.

I had fresh pumpkin to use, and after much thought, I finally decided on the pumpkin spice donuts from Betty Goes Vegan. I bought the cookbook on impulse when it was featured in a giveaway during VeganMoFo and was excited to try my first recipe.

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The ingredients above are where you can see the red flags. Ener-G is not called for in the recipe once. Instead, I haphazardly used it to replace arrowroot flour. As for the seemingly innocent brown sugar? Hard as a rock.

Being impatient and what-not, I decided to try moistening the brown sugar directly, rather than throwing in a slice of bread or covering in a wet cloth. I ended up using way too much liquid (which, I assume, is why this has never been advised).

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Other than the poor ingredient choices, I gathered my supplies and followed the directions. The first element I took issue to was that brown sugar was grouped as a dry ingredient, that you were to mix in with the flour, etc.

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And then. . . If I read this correctly, you are to throw the wet ingredients directly on top.

Now. . . While I doubt this is responsible for my donuts coming out wrong, I do take issue to the method.  I grew up in the two bowl school: one for liquid, one for dry – throw it together. If you want to be ballsy, one bowl; but you first cream your sugar and butter, then mix in the liquid, and then throw in the dry. This all seemed incredibly backwards to me and, unsurprisingly. . .

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I was left with lumps.

Also, I don’t think I need to point out that the batter is practically liquid, making boxed cake batter look like cement. I’ve especially never seen a batter this thin when using solid oils.

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In the end, they looked fine, and they tasted great! Just, admittedly, not like a donut – more like the moistest, most decadent muffin you ever sank your teeth into.

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I didn’t have a donut pan, so I made most of my donuts as “holes” in a mini-muffin pan. . .

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And then made one small batch of half-filled cupcake liners with small foil balls to give them a hole.  I saw this idea online and it apparently can work wonders – I’m assuming it didn’t work properly on mine since they were too moist.

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Once dusted and iced, they did look nice, right? Either way, they were popular with those who tried them, and that’s all I can ask for.

Next time, however, I plan on following unfamiliar recipes better.
And don’t be surprised if I stop buying brown sugar from now on, and start adding the molasses back in myself.

Maple Wheat Bread and Red Velvet Cupcakes

What’s the time? B-b-b-baking time!

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I am house-sitting for my parents this week. I had a “mini” day off today, where I technically had 24 hours between the end of my last shift and the beginning of my next. It’s “mini” because I am still scheduled both days and do not have an extra sleep between the two. This day off tends to be boring for me, because I spend most of the time trying to adjust to the idea of working from midnight to dawn. After today, I might make all mini-days-off into baking days, and I might have to beg my parents to let me use their kitchen each time!

Their kitchen not only has more equipment than mine, but also includes an island counter-top and amazing lighting. I’m afraid I’m going to get spoiled.

I decided to make a bread and a sweet, and to prep a sourdough starter for use next week and beyond.  For the bread, I chose “Whole Wheat Loaves” from Baking With Julia, with some changes. For the sweet, I decided on “Red Velvet Cupcakes” with “Cream Cheese Icing”, both from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

Since this was my first attempt at vegan cake-making, I decided to play it safe on the cake. The only adjustments I made were doubling the icing, using gel food coloring instead of liquid, and following the in-book substitution for people who have never heard of chocolate extract and can’t seem to find it in any store.

For the bread, however. . . I really wanted to use my new cookbook, which hasn’t been used for actual baking since it was given to me in December. But I forgot to pick up malt extract and don’t eat honey, so I made some adjustments.

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Maple syrup. the adjustment is maple syrup (for both, yes). I also halved the recipe, because I really didn’t want an excess of bread if it didn’t turn out

Here we have some fungus-y tree sap doing its thing.

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Aaand there isn’t a good shot of the bread itself mixing because the mixer ran away. I had turned around to start flouring a cutting board, when I heard a loud crash. I turned around and found that the mixer had fallen, still plugged in and with the bowl still attached, into the kitchen sink. (Luckily, the dough was sticky enough at this stage to stay in the bowl and not touch anything.)

Apparently this mixer is a little old and unbalanced, and likes to throw a fit if you don’t give it proper attention! NOTED!
Now I wish I had brought my own mixer. It’s brand new, but I decided not to bring anything that my parents already have. . Oh, well. Can’t beat the laughs!

Eventually, the mixture turned into what looks slightly less than appetizing.

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But the mixer was a sweet assistant, going so far as to knead for me. . . Under careful watch. . .

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And then I had a pretty little ball!

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Meanwhile, while the dough rose, I stirred up my dry ingredients. . .

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And some nuclear-looking wet. . .

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And combined them!
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I may or may not have shared the liquid bowl. . . It’s. . . A lesson in sharing? Annie (bichon) failed.

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While the cakes baked, I finished prepping the bread and threw together my starter.

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Then, having switched the cake for bread in the oven, I let the cakes cool and got to work on my icing. (Yes, gasp, I still use refined cane sugar! I know some people view this as un-vegan, and I’m kind of on the fence. But I figure I might as well use up what I have!)

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I ended up doubling the icing, so I could practice my poofs.

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Meanwhile, my possibly-too-dense Plain Jane bread came out of the oven. It didn’t rise as high as I had hoped, but it still tasted great! Peanut butter jelly, here I come! Next time, I’ll try garnishing the tops with some seeds, for some prettiness.

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And because I fall victim to the chubby puppies and their spoiled ways, I did end up sharing my icing bowl. . . And the heels of the bread!

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Some of the prettier poofs, topped with Cupcake Gems (top), red glitter sugar (middle), and chocolate covered cacao nibs (bottom). Taste-wise, the best is the cacao nibs. Hands. Down. Appearance? It’s all about the pearls. They look elegant, perfect for such a sophisticated flavor! Meanwhile, the delicious cacao nibs ended up looking like rat droppings. Or raisins. Or raisin rat droppings. The sugar comes in last for both categories, giving the taste and appearance of a marshmallow peep.

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But look at those poofs!

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The bread ended up looking much prettier on the inside. It’s just too bad I can’t cut even worth a damn!

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Or choose proper bread bags? The bags I bought weren’t the right size for the loaf, and even without heels or a couple slices that I snacked on, they didn’t have enough room to tie! So I taped them shut and snuck the tie underneath for safe keeping. Meanwhile, these adorable stickers I saw near the bags. . . Well. . .

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I couldn’t resist.