Monday, November 29, 2010

Cake Bonbons

I have to admit, this recipe is supposed to be called "cake balls," but while being a bit giggle-inducing that name is also a little misleading: people expect to bite into the chocolate coating and find, well, a ball of cake, when in reality it is a ball of FROSTING and cake, which makes it moist, light, and buttery. You almost wouldn't guess there is cake inside, since it mostly tastes like a confection you would buy at a candy store.

In addition to being frightfully yummy, these goodies are also a fabulous back up plan when cakes don't turn out properly. If you make a cake, and it is too dry, crumbly, flat, dense, etc., you can just break it up into crumbs in a bowl, mix in some frosting, form balls, dip them in chocolate, and suddenly the failed cake is a delicious and presentable treat. Not a bad back up to have!

I ended up making these mocha cake bonbons because I made cupcakes that fell apart a bit when picked up; I had played around a little too much with the recipe, and the result tasted good but had the wrong texture. I even decided to make the cake balls after I had decorated the individual cupcakes - just threw them in a bowl and broke them up, evening the frosting throughout.

You've got three flavors to choose in a cake bonbon: the cake, the frosting, and the dipping chocolate. And hey, you can even top them with a decoration or flavor accentuations like I did here with instant coffee flakes and coarse sea salt.

Cake Bonbons
1 cake (the equivalent of one cake mix, which makes a 9"x13" pan, two 8" or 9" pans, or 24 cupcakes)
1 recipe buttercream or cream cheese frosting (see below for recipes)
2 12-oz packages of chocolate chips (I used one of milk and one of dark - why not?)

After the cake is baked and cooled, break it up into pieces in a large mixing bowl. Add the frosting, and mix in evenly throughout the cake crumbs. You want the texture to be relatively smooth, so you can form 1" diameter balls of the mixture that will stick together. If you've started with an already frosted cake (wedding cake leftovers, for example), just dump the frosted cake into a bowl and stir. Refrigerate or freeze the formed balls on parchment-lined baking sheets until they are firm, so that they won't fall apart when you dip them in the melted chocolate.

When the formed balls are ready, melt one bag of chocolate chips (I like to do this in a 2-cup Pyrex glass measuring cup so that there's some depth when you dip the balls in it). If you're doing the melting in the microwave, just heat it in 30 second intervals and stir well in between so that you do not burn the chocolate. Many prefer to melt chocolate in a double boiler, but I find the microwave simpler and sufficient.

Dip each ball in the chocolate, using a fork in each hand to pull the coated ball out of the chocolate while letting the excess drip off. Set on parchment to dry, and top with any decorations or flavor accentuations. Repeat with second bag of chocolate chips (I do one bag at a time, since the chocolate cools down as you're dipping the balls).

Buttercream Icing
1 C butter
1 t vanilla
1 lb. powdered sugar (approx. 4 C)
2 T milk
or cream (reduce for stiffer icing)

Cream the butter and vanilla with an electric mixer or stand mixer until well combined.
Add the powdered sugar gradually until smooth.
Add milk 1 T at a time; use less for stiffer icing.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 cube butter, softened at room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese (do not use low-fat cream cheese)
1 tsp vanilla
1 lb. powdered sugar, sifted (about 4 C)

Cream together the butter and cream cheese with a hand mixer or stand mixer.
Add vanilla and, gradually, the powdered sugar.
Whip until light.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Simple Italian Appetizers

As the holiday entertaining season approaches, I can't get the fabulous food of Tuscany out of my mind. Something about the simplicity of the fresh ingredients has stuck with me - like the prosciutto and melon pictured above, and the sheep's cheese, walnut, and honey platter below.

I truly think that fresh, local ingredients are what make the food I experienced in Italy so excellent, but I think that we can translate these foods into our own local and affordable versions. These are the appetizers that I served to my family at one of our Thanksgiving meals this week, which added some variety to what we often serve at our gatherings. All are simple to prepare and serve.

Sheep's Cheese Platter

For the cheese platter, I chose a Manchego cheese over an Italian peccorino, since I have not yet found fresh peccorino I like here in California (mostly I have found Peccorino Romano, which here is usually a hard matured cheese rather than fresh). Since "peccorino" just means sheep's cheese, I found the Spanish Manchego to be a pleasing alternative sheep's cheese, which is readily available at Trader Joe's. Sheep's cheese is also a good option for the lactose intolerant in my family, since it has less lactose than cow's milk cheeses.

I also chose a Havarti (not a sheep's cheese, but very mild) at the request of one of my brothers, and both cheeses paired well with the California Premium walnuts, bits of 85% Columbian dark chocolate, creamed honey, and crackers I also obtained from Trader Joe's. I had prepared crostini by cutting a sourdough baguette in thin slices, brushing them with a mixture of half melted salted butter and half canola oil, lightly sprinkling them with fresh ground pink salt, and baking them at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes until appropriately toasted. This is a great appetizer since people can experiment with the combinations they like of the available options.

Shopping List: Manchego cheese, Havarti cheese, California Premium walnuts, 85% Columbian dark chocolate, creamed or regular honey, crackers, baguette

Prosciutto and Melon

This is the prosciutto and cantaloupe I served; next time I would go with a different source for the prosciutto, since this one was a little too salty for me, and for some reason I had to wait 20 minutes at Muzio's in San Luis Obispo in 0rder for a quarter pound to be sliced for me. Still, it's a nice salty/sweet and fairly healthy appetizer; it takes about 1/4 pound of thinly sliced prosciutto to be served with half of a large cantaloupe. Just slice the melon and drape the prosciutto over it! I let the guests cut off their desired amounts of melon and ham.

Shopping List: 1/2 of a large cantaloupe, 1/4 lb thinly sliced prosciutto

Raspberry and Mascarpone Crostini

Finally, I stole this idea from a friend of mine in L.A.: crostini topped with mascarpone cheese (a milder cream cheese), fresh raspberries, and drizzled with honey. So simple, but so good! The crostini should be toasted plain at 350 degrees for 5-10 minutes, so that they are just dried on one side but not browned yet. These were sourdough, but a plain baguette would work just as well. Prepare just prior to serving so they don't get soggy, and the larger and plumper the raspberries the better.

Shopping List: 1 baguette, 8 oz mascarpone, 1 basket fresh raspberries, honey to drizzle

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Classic Pecan Pie

Post-Thanksgiving dinner, you may not even want to look at another pie, but my family celebration today reminded me of how excellent my mother's pecan pie recipe is. She originally got it from a 1974 Dear Abby column in the LA Times, and it has remained a family favorite ever since.

The filling has great flavor, but is simple to prepare. I've never been particularly good at pie crusts (since I've always been more motivated to perfect my cake methods), so I'm not going to pretend to instruct you on how to make one. Use any pie crust recipe you normally use, or just use a pre-made frozen shell - people will rave about the filling regardless.

There's still plenty of the holiday season for you to make this at least once! Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Classic Pecan Pie

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare a 9" pie crust, either from scratch or frozen pre-made crust.

In a bowl, combine:

1 C white corn syrup
1 C dark brown sugar
1/3 t salt
1/3 C melted salted butter
1 t vanilla

3 eggs, slightly beaten

In the prepared pie shell, spread:
1 heaping cup shelled pecans

Pour the sugar, etc. mixture over the pecans in the pie shell. Bake for about 45 minutes until the filling is set (this will be after it has puffed up and then settled down again).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Theo Chocolate

For this holiday season, my gift to you is a trip to a chocolate factory - perhaps not as imaginative as Willy Wonka's, but far tastier as a REAL chocolate factory!

Theo Chocolate in Seattle is extraordinary both in the chocolate it produces and in the fact that it is one of the US's first fair trade AND organic providers.

For $6, they provide a sample-abundant, informative tour of the factory that details the complete chocolate making process, from the growth of the chocolate plant (theobroma, literally meaning "the food of the gods" - hence the name of the company) to the creation and packaging of the confections. Plus there are a lot of samples. Did I mention that there are samples of chocolate?

Theo partners with growers in Madagascar, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic to bring this excellent chocolate to us; I learned that 70% of the world's chocolate originates in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, but Theo does not import chocolate from these countries because they have not found a partner there who could qualify as fair trade (read: slavery and child labor). Interesting to know, I thought.

I also was fascinated by this stuff called mucilage that fills the cacao pods and surrounds the cacao beans; it looks like white mucus and is necessary for the fermentation process of the beans. After the pods are harvested from the trees (which may be done year-round, since the trees are in tropical environments), the mucilage and the beans within it are spread out in the open air so that the sugar in the mucilage can ferment - before chocolate was ever made, this was fermented to make alcoholic drinks. The fermented beans are then gathered and sent to the Theo factory in Seattle in burlap bags. The bags, in good green practice, are then sold or made into tote bags for purchase at the store.

Fermented cacao beans before processing

After the beans are received, they are checked for quality of fermentation - when opened, the insides should look cracked.

The machine pictured above hulls them, and then they get roasted, producing the cacao nibs that are all the rage in baking right now. The leftover shells are called chocolate mulch, which can actually be used as mulch (but not eaten). The nibs are not sweet, but a slightly bitter crunch of dark chocolate.

This machine then grinds up the nibs and heats them, so that they come out in the liquid paste that you can just see issuing from the funnel. From this point forward, the chocolate is shuttled from step to step in double-layer pipes, in which the outer pipe is filled with warm water to keep the chocolate in the inner pipe at the correct temperature to remain liquid. A little Charlie-and-the-Chocolate-Factory-esque, although the chocolate is not visible.

After running through machines that add the sugar content and aerate the chocolate (a step that removes the natural acidity of the chocolate), the chocolate ends up in these big vats.

Lucky people like this lady in the confection kitchen next to the factory room get to make caramels and other good things for the interior of the chocolates. All of these "inclusions" are made on site.

This dude works the inclusions into the chocolate, the bars get cooled, and then packaged up for all of us to eat!

Seriously, they let you taste EVERYTHING before purchasing it - and I'm not ashamed to say that I ate as many of the samples as I wanted, since I spent $50 in the store...

Ghost chili = hottest chili in existence. Yowsa!

The best news I can give you is that you can order Theo chocolate online, or use their Store Locator to find a provider near you. Yes, it costs more than most large chocolate distributors, but you will be paying for high quality flavor that is free of pesticides and fillers like soy lecithin...and for which we can reasonably hope that no person was oppressed.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Caramel-Draped Spiced Apples

I looooove caramel. Spoonfuls of caramel, all by themselves. I love it so much that caramel apples are usually a little disappointing - too much apple, too little caramel. And so darn hard to eat when you are eager to get that good stuff into your belly!

But I just discovered a way to provide more caramel with the apple, and make it easier to eat...and not unimportantly, to make this a dessert that you can plate for guests (at times that an apple on a stick is a little too informal).

Recent blog posts had me thinking about poaching fruit, since I had a great deal of mulled red wine sitting around, and the pears in this post looked especially appealing under their drapings of chocolate sauce. I also had some extra whipping cream in the fridge, but no chocolate in the kitchen, so when I stumbled upon this post for decadent-looking caramel-coated doughnuts, the caramel sauce recipe caught my eye right away. Apples in the fridge sealed the deal: I would poach the apples in the mulled wine, and coat them with thick caramel sauce.

I highly recommend mulling your own wine, since it is easy to just throw the ingredients into a pot and have the beverage on hand to enjoy - so full of comforting fall flavors! Once you've got a batch done, you can poach your fruit in it any time; if you don't have time to get some ready, follow the instructions on for poaching fruit in wine that you add sugar and spices to just prior to poaching. I promise to post an orange-scented mulled wine recipe as soon as I have some photos to include, but meanwhile, you can still poach some fruit with the linked instructions - or buy the mulling mix at Trader Joe's for a quick solution.

Poaching the fruit:
~ 1 bottle mulled wine (red or white; you can use as little as half a bottle of wine and add water to make the liquid cover the fruit)
4 peeled apples (I used organic Gala, but any except for very soft apples will do)

Bring the wine (or wine and water combination) to a boil in a saucepan. Add the peeled fruit to the pan so that the liquid covers the fruit (add water until it's covered, if necessary), then place a small lid or a piece of parchment paper on the surface of the liquid to keep the fruit submerged. Simmer gently until fruit is soft enough to be easily pierced by a paring knife, but not mushy yet. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon. Cut out the cores prior to serving if desired.

Salted caramel sauce:
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 stick (115gr) salted butter at room temperature, cut into small pieces
1 cup heavy whipping cream

In a heavy saucepan set over low heat, combine the sugar and water. Cook just until the sugar is dissolved. Add the butter. Let it come to a boil and cook until it reaches a golden caramel color. Remove from the heat and add the cream ( it will splatter and get crazy). Whisk to combine and put back on the stove. Let it come to a boil again over low heat and cook 15-25 minutes until you reach a creamy consistency.
Let cool. Spoon liberally over poached fruit when ready to serve

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Easy Fruit Crisp

This is a simple and excellent recipe that you will want to keep in your repertoire - as the original recipe says, you can make the crisp topping ahead of time and keep it in your freezer for a last-minute dessert option. Heck, you can even sugar the fruit of your choice and store it in your freezer too.

I love that this truly is a crisp topping, given the semolina (again replacing cornmeal) and ground nut composition that avoids getting soggy. I put the whole batch of topping over a relatively small pan of fruit, so the proportion of topping-to-fruit was just to my liking (read: lots of topping!). For those of you who are curious, this type of dish is called a "crumble" by the French. But if you call it that, you must say "crumble" with a good French accent, to be true to this amazing crumble recipe from real Frenchie Brigitte.

Pick any in-season fruit that bakes well; I chose nectarines, but I was really dying to try figs. I was uncertain of how figs bake up, since their texture is so unique, so I hesitated to make them for my class as this dish was intended. Guess the figs will have to wait. Hmm, maybe with pecans?

Easy Fruit Crisp

6 ripe nectarines, or equivalent volume of fruit of your choice
2 T granulated sugar

3/4 C (105 g) flour
2/3 C (90 g) semolina flour or cornmeal
3/4 C (80 g) almonds or walnuts
1/2 C (110 g) brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
4 oz (1 stick, 115 g) unsalted butter, well chilled

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Dice fruit, place in a bowl, and stir it together with the 2 T sugar. Let sit to permit the juices to start flowing (called "macerating" the fruit).

In a blender or food processor, pulse the flour, semolina, nuts, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt until the nuts are in smaller pieces.

Cut the butter in chunks and add to the processor, pulsing until the butter is finely broken up, the mixture no longer looks sandy, and it's starting to stick and clump together.

Place the fruit in a 9 or 10-inch round baking dish, and spread the topping over it. Bake until the topping is browned and the fruit is bubbling underneath and can easily be pierced with a sharp knife. Baking time will vary from 30 minutes for softer fruit like nectarines to nearly twice as long for firmer fruits like apples, so check after 30 minutes and then continue to keep an eye on it if you're trying a fruit for the first time.

Serve alone, or with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Beautiful Food in Paris

In the life of a student, luxury is something that normally comes in small doses, so I have come to be very appreciative of the luxurious pastries that pass through my life (=mouth). The parisian macaron is of course one of those extravagant moments that I love the most, and while a few dollars seems like a lot to spend for a few bites of bliss, it certainly can fit an economical budget from time to time.

Pierre Hermé, my favorite macaron provider in Paris, is closed for another four days for their summer revamp (not that I'm counting or anything), so meanwhile I have explored a few other options. The macarons above are found, well, at McCafé, and I believe are only 90 centimes. I tried the caramel au beurre salé, and it really wasn't bad! I have had much worse from patisseries in Paris, and it turns out that McCafé gets their macarons from the same provider that Ladurée does, albeit of a slightly lower quality (more on Ladurée later). Quite the affordable, speedy, and widely available option.

The McCafé at the Louvre food court

I also did a bit of research into cooking classes here; thanks to David Lebovitz and Clotilde Dusoulier's fabulous sites/books, I was introduced to the affordable Atelier des Chefs. Some of their lessons are as low as 15 Euros for a class that can be taken at lunchtime, which includes the food that you make so that you can eat it for lunch. They have many locations and different classes in Paris - and other cities in France - so you can choose one at a convenient place and with a menu that you find interesting. I chose a class for 36 Euros at the BHV store on the rue de Rivoli which featured financiers and caramel macarons. Predictable, perhaps, but given the opportunity to take a class on macarons in Paris, I had to take it!

In the end I learned some valuable techniques from the class, and will definitely use the pistachio-confit orange financier recipe (and will post it in English; click here for a demo video and the recipe in French). The final product of the macaron shells, however, was quite disappointing - they were crunchy, and not as smooth on the surface as I would have liked. So, I will take what I learned and supplement it with the other recipes and techniques I have read.

The Atelier des Chefs kitchen at BHV rue de Rivoli

I finally succeeded in making it to fine chocolatier Pierre Marcolini's store at a time when they weren't closed for their long daily lunch break - this is the third trip to Paris when I've tried to buy their chocolate-covered marshmallows/guimauves.

Pierre Marcolini rue de Seine boutique

Some of the best gourmet marshmallows I've had, and of course the chocolate was excellent! I love that the French for these is "Vanille enrobée de Chocolat" - as if the marshmallow is clothed in the chocolate.

Of course, other beautiful things popped out at me once I entered the PM shop, so I returned another day to buy these macarons, which were not quite delicate enough, but well flavored and very pretty.

Mojito and Limoncello Macarons

And this bouchée of nougat and chocolate cream topped with crisp cookie wafers had me intrigued, so I had to try it:


I also made a stop at the nearby Patrick Roger shop, where I bought this caramel dome for a ridiculous 4 Euros, which I assume pays for the fact that it comes in its own box like a piece of jewelry (like I said, moments of luxury):

liquid caramel with a touch of citrus encased in chocolate

And my final moment de luxe this week was my first trip to Ladurée, the classic and classy tea shop that invented parisian macarons. As I have confirmed with my trial of their macarons and conversations with Parisians, these are good macarons, but not the best. The flavors were good, but the texture was lacking the magic of the Pierre Hermé macarons. Their shells were slightly too thick, and the filling in the middle not quite plentiful enough, so that the result was less delicate and less fondant in the middle. All the same, good, just not mind-blowing.

Ladurée to-go bakery at the Champs-Elysée location

I did very much enjoy the other pastries I got at Ladurée, which included a millefeuille praliné (praline napoleon) and an Ispahan macaron, which is actually a flavor creation of Pierre Hermé's: rose, raspberry, and lychee all together (which I had in croissant form back in June, amazing).

Ispahan and millefeuille praliné from Ladurée

But Paris on a daily basis for me has been typified by the wonderfully fresh foods that are all around the city in outdoor markets and even neighborhood supermarkets. My generous hosts even picked up pastries from a local shop for one breakfast:

And I have enjoyed this lunch on a number of days: whole grain cracker with goat cheese and fresh peach slices (see the caramel macarons in the background from my cooking class?). No complaints here! Gotta balance the rich pastries somehow.

Thank goodness for gorgeous weather to go running through the Parc des Buttes Chaumont!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Mediterranean Semolina Cookies

I was really at a loss when deciding what to call these unique treats...they're based on zaletti, an Italian cornmeal cookie (see David Lebovitz's recipe here, which I used as a starting point), but I replaced and changed the proportions of the flours and sugars, and created a theme with the dried fruits, so they certainly aren't zaletti any more.

Despite appearances, they also aren't what you would typically think of as "cookies," nor do they fit the categories of "biscuit" or "crisp" or any other cookie-ish designation that I can think they're just cookies in this post. What that means here, however, is that they are both a teeny bit chewy from being baked, and a little crunchy from the semolina flour. They aren't too sweet, but have the flavor interest added by the variety of dried fruits and the crisped brown sugar on the outer rim.

The Mediterranean theme comes from the combination of dried fruits I found at a little shop in the Old City of Jerusalem - dried figs, kiwi, coconut, mango, and pineapple. You certainly could create any fruit combination of your choice, so see what is available to you and go for it! I loved the colorful results of this particular mix, but I could see a really beautiful Christmas cookie coming out of dried cherries, cranberries, maybe candied green cherries?

A lot of what I made while in Israel was inspired by the contents of my cupboards - as an apartment that changed student hands frequently, still-fresh ingredients were left behind by previous tenants, and I resolved to use as much of them as possible. It would have been a pity to waste perfectly good (free) food! Such was the case with semolina, which I had never bought before, but the full bag of it convinced me that it was the perfect substitute for polenta recipes that I found. If you have polenta or cornmeal instead, feel free to sub it back in. As you can see in the original recipe, regular or coarse ground cornmeal works just fine.

Mediterranean Semolina Cookies

3/4 C (90 g) dried fruit
2 T (20 g) flour

5 1/2 oz (155 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 C (110 g) brown sugar
1 1/2 T honey
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 C (210 g) semolina flour (or polenta/cornmeal)
1 C (140 g) flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt

extra brown sugar or raw sugar for rolling the logs of dough

1. Toss the dried fruit and the 2 T (20 g) of flour together in a small bowl and set aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or by hand, beat together the butter, sugar, and honey until smooth and creamy, about one minute. Add the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla, beating until incorporated.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the semolina flour, 1 C flour, baking powder, and salt.

4. Mix the dry ingredients into the beaten butter mixture until incorporated, then stir in the dried fruit.

5. Form the dough into a rectangle 4- by 7-inches (10 by 18 cm), wrap in plastic, and chill the dough for about an hour, or until it’s firm enough to handle.

6. Spread brown or raw sugar liberally over a surface on which to roll the dough into logs. Divide the dough in two, lengthwise, and roll each piece of dough on the brown sugar into a smooth cylinder 7-inches (18 cm) long. Wrap the cylinders and freeze until ready to bake.

(To bake them right away, pinch off pieces of dough about the size of a small unshelled walnut, and roll into balls. Place them evenly spaced on the prepared baking sheet and press them down gently with your hands to flatten them partially.)

7. To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 325 F (170 C).

8. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

9. Slice the cookies into 1/4-inch (.75 cm) slices and place them evenly spaced on the prepared baking sheets. The dough is easier to slice when frozen, but if it's too firm or crumbles when you slice it, let it defrost for a few minutes, or reform the individual slices by hand.

10. Bake the cookies for about 12 minutes, rotating the baking sheets midway during baking, until the cookies are very light brown on top. Remove the oven and let cool completely.

Serve the cookies by themselves, alongside a fruit compote, or with a scoop of your favorite ice cream or sorbet.

Storage: The cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to four days. The dough can be refrigerated for up to one week, or frozen for one or two months.

Because these have more fiber, less sugar, and fruit in them, they almost felt like a healthy snack to me. That's justification for making them and eating them whenever you feel hungry, right? Right?

Another crunchy semolina recipe to follow!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lemon Olive Oil Cupcakes

Being outside of the U.S. for more than a month now has brought up a number of food cravings for me; I expected to miss authentic Asian food, and while I am in Israel, pork, but lately the American blogs I've been reading have been featuring gorgeous cupcakes that I can't get out of my mind. I find myself desiring a cute, fluffy, frosting-laden cupcake.

Fortunately, there is something I can do about this - especially since I usually prefer my own cupcakes to anything from a professional bakery. Sometimes I think it's good to know how to cook for the sake of knowing how to satisfy one's food cravings in one's own kitchen, but on the other hand I think that the more foods I try, the more cravings I develop. At least the two go hand in hand! This time a longing for cupcakes coincided with a craving for lemon-flavored dessert, and I am completely pleased with the result.

Some of you will be glad to know that this is a vegan cake recipe; others of you will be dubious, but if you've tried this red velvet cake recipe you'll know that vegan baking can make a successful cake. In fact, I find this recipe formula to be much more consistent in providing good texture than almost any scratch cake recipe I've tried, and it is easy! Because the only somewhat perishable item in the recipe is soy milk (well, and the lemons too, but I keep lemon zest and juice in the freezer all the time), you can easily make these out of the normal contents of your kitchen.

And is it horrible that I think that one of the great benefits of vegan baking is the fact that you can eat as much of the batter as you want without worrying about raw eggs? Because I guarantee that you will want to have more than one lick of this batter.

The olive oil is not a strong flavor, but it is a nice compliment to the lemon (much more than it is to chocolate in my opinion!).

Your cupcakes will look much cuter than mine since I had to make do without a proper cupcake pan; some of mine ended up more deformed than others, but they were still much enjoyed. Like I've said before, every recipe I've tried in Israel has had to be adapted, but the changes always add character, and sometimes even improve the result.

Lemon Olive Oil Cupcakes (Vegan)
loosely based on this red velvet cupcake recipe

1 C soy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 C all-purpose flour
1 C sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 C olive oil
4 tsp lemon juice
1/2 T lemon zest (zest of one medium lemon)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350° F/180°C.
Add vinegar to soy milk, and set aside to curdle.
Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
Add olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla extract to the curdled soy milk, and whisk together.
Pour liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients, and mix until just incorporated.
Fill cupcake liners ¾ full; makes about 12 full-size cupcakes and 45 teeny mini cupcakes.
Bake for 20 minutes for full-size cupcakes, 16 minutes for mini cupcakes, or until a toothpick comes clean.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

4 oz cream cheese
4 oz butter (room temperature)
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 T lemon zest (zest of one lemon, with a bit set aside for garnish)
2 1/3 C (300 g) powdered sugar

Cream together cream cheese, butter, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Add the powdered sugar 1/2 C at a time until well incorporated. Beat until fluffy, then top cooled cupcakes.

See the red velvet cupcake recipe for a vegan frosting option (it actually tastes pretty good). I also think this would be excellent with a mascarpone frosting that has lemon zest and a little juice added.

I garnished them with a mixture of lemon zest, granulated sugar, and a dash of salt.