Friday, February 4, 2011

Who Says It Has to Be Health Food?

Since yesterday's vegan meal was the aforementioned coconut yogurt, I decided to supplement with a little vegan baking. I love to bake when it's snowing, raining, or, let's face it, beautifully sunny outside, and I hadn't done any since embarking on the South Beach diet Jan. 1st. OK, so I lost 8 pounds (go me!) there was something a little sad about the way my toddler kept looking wistfully at the stand mixer.

I chose a chocolate cupcake recipe from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's "The Joy of Vegan Baking." I've tried a few of her recipes, and have generally liked the results. I say generally, because I've found that there really is no substitute for butter in baked goods. Earth Balance is wonderful, but a chocolate chip cookie made with real butter will kick a vegan chocolate chip cookie's ass any day, in the realm of taste, if not compassion.

I decided to see if using coconut oil instead of the canola oil the recipe called for would make a difference. I'm enthralled with all things coconut (see yogurt above), and after considering it a luxury for so long, love that it's now becoming something of a health food. I wondered if using coconut oil would somehow compensate for the lack of richness inherent in not using eggs or butter.

Other than that, as you can see, the ingredients are all pretty standard baking-pantry fare:

I began by whisking together 3 cups flour (I used whole wheat for 1 of those), 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. baking soda and 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder. The recipe then says to make a "well" in the middle of these dry ingredients and add 3 tsp. vanilla extract, 2/3 cup canola oil, 2 TBSP white distilled vinegar, and 2 cups cold water.

Thrilled that I didn't have to dirty a second bowl (if I ever write a vegan cookbook it will be titled Lazy Bitch), I proceeded to dump in the wet ingredients, substituting coconut oil for the canola. Did I mention this was my first time using coconut oil? This is key. I had no idea it would be solid at room temperature. If I had to do it over, I would have warmed it slightly AS IT ACTUALLY TELLS YOU TO ON THE LABEL so that it turned liquid, but instead I dumped it in as is, and ended up with coconut oil glaciers floating in a chocolate sea:

After much mashing, I realized that the coconut oil was not going to mix consistently with the dry ingredients. This was when the chocolate chips got involved:

Because I believe chocolate chips are to baking what (vegan) bacon is to savory cooking -- it can mask many errors! I baked these in muffin cups for about 18 minutes, and they came out glorious, if slightly uneven. Here's what they looked like after frosting with vegan strawberry buttercream frosting (1/2 cup frozen strawberries pureed in food processor, then whipped into 1 cup Earth balance. Add 3 cups confectioner's sugar, 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract and 1-2 TBSP nondairy milk):

These came out wonderfully chocolate-y, with a very subtle coconut flavor. The impact of not throughly mixing in the oil was minimal (there were little pockets on top of the cupcakes, which I masked with the frosting). I would still liquify it next time, though.

Finally, I leave you with the aforementioned toddler, making off with the beater used to mix the frosting. It doesn't get much better than this on a snowy New England day!


  1. Yum yum!! Licking through the screen ;)

  2. I can just imagine the look on the little guy's face as he longed for the standing mixer to start whirling once again. Ha!
    I had once of these cupcakes on Friday night. The flavor was outstanding and I loved the chocolate chips.
    I am curious what you can do in the way of vegan cookies using peanut flour. A challenge? Maybe.

  3. I'm curious about using peanut flour too... great idea, Cellar! I almost got it last time I saw it at Trader Joe's -- but I was thinking of it more as a replacement for bread crumbs or wheat flour in frying, or in falafel making. (Yum - must post falafel recipe!)