Tag Archives: Cupcakes

12 Weeks of Christmas Treats 2012

 

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Here begins the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats for 2012! Remember when I participated last year? Well it’s time again! Hard to believe it’s really twelve weeks until Christmas!

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I decided to try something new this year. Last year most of my entries for the blog hop were gluten free (the red velvet cheesecake brownies being the lone exception). This year, I will continue to make all my entries gluten free, but I will also be experimenting with some grain-free options. They are certainly not low-carb in most cases, and keep in mind, treats are treats and I will treat them as such. I make no presumption that these are “healthy,” though I do choose to use real food ingredients and keep dietary limitations in mind. When it all comes down to it, these are for pure enjoyment and seasonal celebration. As they should be!

Now let’s get on to it!

To start things off this year, we’ve got to head right into the pumpkin. And for the record, making these cupcakes required the last of my first stash of canned pumpkin for the season. One of the things I love about pumpkin is that it’s essentially pumpkin season four months out of the year. These translate well from fall right into Christmas time! The fact that I eat pumpkin year-round is entirely beside the point…

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Grain-Free Pumpkin Cupcakes

Adapted from Elana’s Pantry
Makes 1 dozen

1.5 cups raw almonds
1 tbsp arrowroot powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
3 tbsp applesauce
3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp molasses
1 cup pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or combination of cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor or high speed blender, combine the almonds, arrowroot, salt, and baking soda together until you get as fine of a meal as possible without turning it into weirdly seasoned almond butter. Then add all the rest of the ingredients and process for an additional 2-5 minutes. This will help smooth the mixture.

Fill a cupcake pan lined with papers with the batter, filling each cup about 2/3 full.

Bake for 20-22 minutes. I bake these for a bit longer than I do flour-based cupcakes. This helps the protein structure set a bit better, I think.

Allow to cool completely before frosting. I’ve learned that almond flour-based baked goods tend to taste better the longer they are out of the oven.

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Classic Cream Cheese Frosting

1 stick butter
1/2 package of cream cheese
1 lb powdered sugar (normal powdered sugar contained cornstarch, making this not grain-free. However, organic varieties sometimes use arrowroot in lieu of cornstarch. Or you can blend your own granulated/turbinado/coconut sugar for makeshift powdered sugar)
1 tsp vanilla

In a mixer, whip butter, cream cheese, and vanilla until soft and smooth. Then slowly add the powdered sugar until all is incorporated. Smear or pipe onto cooled cupcakes!

 

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Here are my submissions to last year’s blog hop!

Oatmeal-Apple Cookies
Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies
Nutella Cookies
Gingerbread truffles
Aztec Brownie
Orange-Cranberry Scones
Chai Cupcakes

 

 And check out all these other lovely blogs!



Chai Cupcakes

I consider cooking and baking to be something of an art. Naturally, I am often asked why I got an art degree and what am I doing with it now (or why I’m “not using my degree”). I tell them exactly what happened. In my second-to-last semester of college I essentially discovered my love of cooking and baking. I found it to be a creative outlet in a very practical form (and I am a very practical person. Win-win!). What am I doing with my degree now?

I write, design, and photograph for this blog, for one.

I also experiment with things like… gluten free chai cupcakes.

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Part of being an artist involves being resourceful. Know what is available to you and turn what you have into something beautiful. A sculptor may not have access to the finest marble, but he may have clay, an old cookie jar, and some branches. Instead of bemoaning how he can’t use marble, the artist will turn what he has into something that, in the end, perfectly fits the ingredients of which it is made. One who views the sculpture would never know that what is displayed before them was anything other than the artist’s perfect, initial intention.

But that is never the case, is it? I started off drawing and painting in photorealism. What I created had to look EXACTLY like the original. But one thing that school, and time, taught me is that sometimes it is better to loosen the grip and allow the creative flow to take over. Now when I create, I don’t have exacting expectations of how my project will turn out. I instead take an idea, set it in motion, and see where it leads me.

During my elimination diet several months ago, I did my fair share of whining about my restrictive diet. But eventually I realized that it was far healthier (and tastier) to see this “obstacle” as more of a challenge. I began learning the complexity of gluten-free baking. I’d already become well-seasoned in conventional, low-calorie, and vegan baking, and I decided to use my diet change as an excuse to broaden my culinary horizons, if you will. A new frontier. I picked up my whisk and began to play.

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Very quickly I noticed how tricky gluten free baking could be. I also learned how overly-complicated many gluten-free recipes are. In my quest toward “real food” eating, how could I justify ingredients such as gums and pure starches making permanent residence in my baking pantry? I understand their place, and I have them sitting in my pantry right now, but these ingredients are not cheap, nutritious, or very easily accessible. But for some reason, every gluten free recipe I found seemed to rely on them. Since “gluten-free” is a big part of my current diet vocabulary, it can be understood why I would have such ingredients on hand. And they do come in handy! But then I had a realization. What about those who wish to bake for their gluten free friends and family? Is it fair to expect them to spend $50 on a cart-load of gluten free flours, starches, and gums just to have on hand when their gluten-free guest visits? How can I make gluten free baked goods simple, effective, accessible, and delicious? How can I relieve the anxiety surrounding gluten free baking? How can I make gluten free baking as fun and seemingly effortless as conventional baking?

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Well, I’m not there yet. There is still much to learn, and I’m by no means an expert. But I’m experimenting and discovering along the way what happens when you mix two or three colors, or ingredients, together.

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Chai Cupcakes
Adapted from Alton Brown’s Chiffon Cupcakes

I spent many an hour trying out recipes, adjusting ingredients, baking disasters, eating rogue unfrosted cakes, researching baking science, running out of ingredients, running to the store for more ingredients, trying, failing, trailing, flying (what?), and eventually…success on the fifth attempt. Through it all I found that yes, it is possible to get a moist, delicate yet structured, cupcake, sans gluten, gums, pure starches, or other strange texturizers. But it’s also not necessarily fool-proof or forgiving. After my third try, I finally secured my ideal pastry flour ratio (2:2:1 sorghum/brown rice/flaxseed) and decided that a recipe with whipped egg whites folded in for structure would be ideal.

I made it my personal mission not to give you cupcakes that were good for being gluten free. I didn’t want to show you cupcakes that were too dense, too gummy, too crusty, too cratered, too loose, etc. etc. and try to cover up the mess with frosting and say, “oh well. they’re gluten free.” No. Gluten or no gluten. These are some dang good cupcakes.

  • 5 1/4 ounces gluten free whole grain pastry flour*
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp chai spice mix **
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 6 ounces brown sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

*Gluten Free Pastry Flour—It’s a 2/2/1 ratio of sorghum flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill Sweet White Sorghum Flour)/brown rice flour (Arrowhead Mills)/ground flaxseed (Arrowhead Mills, ground at home), measured by weight.

**6 parts cinnamon, 6 parts cardamom, 2 parts ginger, 1 part cloves, 1 part nutmeg

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, salt, and chai spice mix.

Using a stand or hand mixer, beat the egg yolks together with 5 ounces of the flour for several minutes until creamy and smooth. Then add the water, coconut oil, and vanilla. Mix until well blended. Then slowly add the flour mixture, beating well as you add in the dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl (this is where having both a stand mixer and a hand mixer come in handy), whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar into a frenzy. When foamy, add the last 1 oz of brown sugar and mix until firm peaks form.

Gently fold the egg white foam into the rest of the batter in three parts, being careful not to overmix and destroy the air bubbles in the egg white foam.

Portion out into muffins tins, filling most the way full (since most the structure comes from the egg white foam, they really won’t rise much). Or you could use greased mugs! Your choice.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

For frosting, I tried several different options.

I initially tried this recipe for chai buttercream, but I honestly found it too heavy and cloyingly sweet for such a subtle cupcake.

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Personally, I found that I preferred a simple whipped cream adornment with just a sprinkle of leftover chai spice on top. It seems to harken more the idea of a chai latte, don’t you think?

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I hope you enjoyed this week’s installment of the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies & Sweets. See you again next week!

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