Vegan Blueberry Muffins

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Blueberry muffins, hot from the oven, made with fresh blueberries

For me, blueberry muffins are a seasonal delight. I only use fresh blueberries, so I eagerly await the first blueberries of the season. This is a sunny summer treat. ūüôā I have for some time wondered how I could veganize my favorite recipe and still have a muffin as awesome as I’m used to. I’ve tried a lot of vegan baking recipes, and if they are something that traditionally have eggs in them, the recipes — no matter how well known the cookbook author is, or how many rave reviews the book got — well, they all, invariably turned out flat and godawful. (Vegan scones — which I’ve done here on the blog — are a different matter because they aren’t something that usually has egg, and substituting soy milk for dairy milk is perfectly fine.)

Before tackling this conversion I did some research on leavening. Because a lot of the problems vegan recipes have can be traced back to the lack of rising. A few ah-ha moments later and I was ready to make awesome vegan blueberry muffins! There are a few basic things you need to understand and then maybe you’ll brave converting your favorite muffins, too! The ingredients absolutely, must be at room temperature. You see this noted in cookbooks on baking all the time, but unless I’m baking a cake, I never did it. (Why I made the exception for cakes, I don’t know. Some weird cooking quirk of mine.) Why is the temperature important? The baking powder is activated by heat. If you start with a fairly cool mixture and there’s no eggs to give it any extra “oof”, then the baking powder may not be able to overcome the coolness enough, especially if you’re not baking it in a really hot oven. Yeah, it’s the heat thing again. Higher temperatures make the baking powder go “boom” and lots of instant heat makes it act fast before it loses its potency in the mixture (or something like that). So, preheat that oven! Also, I changed the oven temperature and cooking time to be a much hotter oven and a much shorter cooking time. Again, to give the baking powder as much help as I could. Muffins are acidic and that works well with modern baking powders; that’s part of what makes it “go”. Keep that in mind when you’re veganizing your recipes. The other big thing is air bubbles. I just whipped the hell out of the margarine (I used Smart Balance Original) and sugar. Mixtures need microbubbles because that’s what expands when the baking powder does its thing. On the other hand, muffins shouldn’t be mixed much once you start adding flour because then gluten starts forming and it screws up the muffin’s texture. Because vegan muffins don’t have eggs, mixing the whole mess like mad when you add the flour will only make the texture problem worse.

So, to recap: everything at room temperature, preheat oven, beat things well before you get to the stage of adding the flour, mix minimally once you add flour, pop it into a really hot oven. I hope all the above will help you troubleshoot vegan recipes and create your own.

Minor Rant: By the way, these muffins will not have that nuclear mushroom cloud type of muffin top. They will have a nice rounded dome like normal muffins should. If you make muffins and they are spilling over the edge when baked and look like a mushroom, then you are doing something wrong. Prior to gigantic deformed muffins coming in plastic packages, a good well-formed muffin had a nice domed top, with no edges going over the edge of the cups. Muffins that were so big that the tops spilled over the edges were considered to be muffins made by neophyte bakers who didn’t know what they were doing and over-filled the cups. Then some corporation decided to market gigantic deformed mushroom shaped muffins as if they were a Gift From God, and suddenly everyone thinks that muffins are supposed to have gigantic tops that can’t be contained in the muffin cup. I’ve been making muffins for decades, all types of muffins, and if you fill the muffin cups according to the directions on any recipe created prior to the corporate we-must-have-mushroom-shaped-muffins fad you’ll get muffins that have a nice raised dome rising up from the edge of the cup, but not spilling over it. It’s sort of shocking how quickly, and almost totally, corporations have managed to change people’s entire idea of what a muffin looks like. Suddenly people think that ol’ fashioned traditional muffins don’t look right because they’re not deformed! [shakes head]

IMG_20160526_110039This makes 18 muffins. I use 2 muffin pans: one dozen, plus a half dozen.

1/2 cup margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
2 flax eggs (see below)
1 Tbls baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup soy milk
3 cups organic all purpose flour
1 pint fresh blueberries
Nutmeg

Let all ingredients get to room temperature. If you don’t, your muffins may end up flat (ish).

Make flax eggs: Grind flax seed in coffee grinder or use flax meal. I’ve made flax eggs using flax seeds and also using Bob’s Red Mill Organic Flax Meal. Though the ground flax looks different depending on whether I ground it myself or used the pre-ground meal, I didn’t notice any discernible difference in the result. Mix 2 Tbls flax power with 6 Tbls water in a small bowl. Stir, then let set for at least 15 minutes. Stir again before adding to mixture.

Preheat oven 425.

Prepare muffin tins by greasing the cups, putting in paper liners, or putting in silicone liner cups. (I use silicone liners.)

Beat together softened margarine and sugar on medium speed. Do this for a couple of minutes, stopping to gently scrape down the sides of the bowl at least twice. The mixture should be light with a soft almost fluffy texture. This is an important step and shouldn’t be hurried because you’re whipping in tiny air bubbles which will help the muffins rise and give it a good texture.

Beat in 2 flax eggs, also on medium speed until mixture is smooth and creamy.

Add baking powder, salt, and vanilla. If you want to add nutmeg here you can, but the flavor is much better with the nutmeg on top.

Mix in 1/4 cup of smashed berries and juice.

Gently mix in 1 cup flour, then a splash of milk, alternating flour and milk until you’ve added it all. You should do this quickly, mixing as little as possible. Like all muffin recipes, mix just enough for it to come together a bit, otherwise you’ll have a tough muffin. Lumps are fine. Gently fold in the rest of the blueberries.

Divide batter evenly between 18 muffin cups. Sprinkle liberally with nutmeg.

Bake 18-21 mins (your mileage may vary) or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool long enough that you can handle them and eat them without damaging yourself. Pour a nice cup of tea and enjoy! ūüôā

Three Loaves: A simple delicious idea!

This is a bit different from my usual posts… and it’s¬†one of the most beautiful ideas I’ve ever heard. Have you heard of the Three Loaves Movement? Bread. Lots of loaves of every sort of bread you can imagine.

I found out about this from the most recent issue of Vegetarian Times. Jerry Stone founded the Three Loaves Movement to help fight hunger by making it simple, personal, and enjoyable. The idea is simple: you bake 3 loaves of bread, then you keep one loaf for yourself, you give one loaf to a friend, and give one loaf to a needy person. You can sign up for Three Loaves and you’ll get a bread recipe every month that makes three loaves. Some recipes are for breads that are recognizably sandwich bread, others are sweet breads, some are savory…the recipes (at least the ones I’ve been able to track down) are a mixture of vegan and vegetarian. Stone has a food blog, Cooking Stoned (a play on his name), which is a vegetarian blog, but oddly, doesn’t have an archive of Three Loaves recipes on it — only three recipes, and no links to Three Loaves recipes which were published on other blogs. ūüė¶

If you want to join the Three Loaves Movement, sign up at: http://threeloaves.info/. And be sure and scroll down to look at variety of loaves posted to Instagram! Oh yum! 

This month’s recipe — the first since I signed up — has already been sent out, but once you confirm your email address, you’ll get a new recipe starting next month. In the meantime, you can go ahead and start baking with this month’s recipe: Vegan Multigrain Sandwich Bread.

I have two notes on this recipe. I’ve seen some of the other recipes and most use ingredients that most people already have on hand. I think this recipe’s author is a bit too optimistic to assume that most people will have these ingredient already on hand, or that they can just pop into the local grocery store and get them. But don’t let that put you off from joining Three Loaves! There are other recipes the project has used that are much more mainstream! And yes, I’m going to give you a link below!

The second note is about the amount of sweetener in this recipe. I would caution you about making the suggested substitutions because the author did not adjust the amount of sweetener or even note that the amount would need to be adjusted. Honey is significantly sweeter than sugar —you will always need less honey than sugar for the same effect — but I don’t know where agave syrup falls on the sweetness per volume scale. ?? So be wary of substituting honey or sugar for the agave syrup, unless you know how much to adjust the amount.

Now for the other recipes…I’ve been doing some internet sleuthing off and on since discovering Three Loaves and waiting impatiently for my first recipe to hit my inbox. So far I’ve found four more Three Loaves recipes, in addition to the three recipes on Jerry Stone’s food blog, and this month’s recipe. I’ve made a “3 loaves” tag on my Delicious bookmarking account, so you can browse all the links to Three Loaves recipes I’ve bookmarked. So far I’ve found: Blueberry and Thyme Bread, Ginger and Cardamom Bread, Dilly Buttermilk Sourdough Bread, Spice-swirled Cranberry Sweet Potato Bread, Sticky Caramel-Pecan Babka Loaves, Honey Wheat Brown Bread, and Cheesy Garlic Bread Challah, in addition to this month’s¬†Vegan Multigrain Sandwich Bread.

I will bookmark more as I find them. If you have any links to a Three Loaves recipe (not just a recipe that makes 3 loaves, but one distributed by the Three Loaves Movement) that’s not in my bookmarks, please drop it in the comments and I’ll add it!

Now, let’s get baking! For ourselves, for our friends, and for those who really need some nice warm home-baked kindness!

Gingerbread Scones (Vegan)

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A nice cup of tea and a gingerbread scone. Ahhhh….

If my last post, Irish Black Ginger Cake, was a bit too strong for you, try this mellow taste of autumn instead. This is an adaptation of my Ginger Bread recipe (which I also adapted to make gingerbread men). What I did to adapt this into scones was to eliminate the egg (which isn’t needed in any of my scone recipes), increase the flour slightly (because scone dough needs to be less wet than a quick bread), then adjust the levening and amount of margarine to be like my typical scone recipes. Because I didn’t touch any ingredients that contributed to the wonderful autumn flavor, these taste just like my Ginger Bread. Lovely! If you’re curious about how I come up with my scone recipes and how you can do adaptations of your own, check out my Fakin’ It When You Bake It: Scones post. For more scones (mine and others) check out the scones tag.

2 1/2 c. flour
1/4 c. sugar
1 Tbls baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. margarine (1 stick or 8 Tbls)
1/2 c. soy milk
1/2 c. molasses

Mix dry ingredients. Cut in margarine until it’s worked in well and the mixture is crumbly.

Measure milk and molasses and stir the two together. Pour into scone mixture. Stir well until dough starts to come together, then knead a bit with your hands until it comes together into a smooth dough. Divide into two balls, flatten each on baking sheet and cut each into six wedges. Separate the pieces slightly so that they aren’t touching.

Bake 425 for 12-14 mins, or until done. (Your oven may vary.)

Irish Black Ginger Cake

This is an excellent cake for fall if you want something with a bigger bolder flavor than¬†Ginger Bread,¬†Spiced Teacake, or Buckwheat Sourdough Spice Cake. It goes good with strong black tea (like P.G. Tips or Brodies of Edinburgh’s Scottish Breakfast) or coffee (it has coffee in it). It also goes well with strong black beers like porters and stouts. This past weekend I had the Wasatch Pumpkin Ale on tap and the spice in it had me wishing for gingerbread to go with it, and made me think of this Irish Black Ginger Cake which I haven’t made in a few years. I can’t say for certain that this beer would go with this cake, not having had them side by side, but you get the idea: any strong black liquid is a potential pairing for this cake. A word of warning, before you spring this delicious confection on your friends: not everyone will be on board for with the flavor of this cake. It gets its strong flavor from blackstrap molasses. It’s really, really, really a blackstrap molasses cake. People either love it, or they’ll give you a forced smile and discreetly throw out their piece. But the people who love this cake really love it!! And I guess you know by now I’m one of the ones who really love it. ūüôā

If the idea of blackstrap scares you off, you would probably be better off just baking gingerbread or some other spice cake (see links above) instead of trying to alter the recipe. I substituted regular molasses for the blackstrap once and the result was disappointing. It wasn’t nearly as good as gingerbread is, nor was it a very good molasses cake. So, if you’re going to make this, stick to the recipe. And serve it with strong black coffee, strong black tea, or strong black beer.

I found a recipe online which is exactly the same as the recipe I use, except suggesting fresh ginger as possible alternate for ground ginger. I always use ground ginger and think that grated fresh would substantially alter the recipe. I’d recommend making the cake with ground ginger to see if you like the flavor in general before doing any substitutions.

I bake the cake in an 8″ x 8″ pan and do not put any icing on it.

Irish Black Ginger Cake¬† — Enjoy!

Julember: ‘Tis the Season to Sit by the Fire and Eat Comfort Food

While most of the world is experiencing the summer fun of July, here in my part of the world we are experiencing Julember Рthe calendar may indicate it is July, but the weather is indicating it is November.  With temps hovering around 9C, I have spent the past week thinking of soup instead of salad, socks instead of sandals, and Santa instead of summer.  The normally ignored fireplace has been lit every day this week and I have been knitting Рnot one of my regular summer activities.

So, when a recipe for strawberry muffins popped up in my Facebook feed I jumped at the chance to mix a traditional comfort food with a summery delight.  I gathered the ingredients and immediately called my visiting sister and her family to drop over for a sit by the fire, coffee, and muffins.

With help from my adorable nine-year-old niece, and changes to the recipe to veganise it, the dual season muffin-making began.

As always, prepare your flax egg first:  1 tbsp of flaxseed and 3 tbsp of water.  Mix in a small ramekin and let gel.

This is also a good time to hull, clean, and chop the strawberries.

You will need:

  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance butter, softened (each Earth Balance butter stick is 1/2 cup)
  • 3/4 cup organic sugar
  • 1 flax egg
  • 2 cups flour ¬†(Your choice; I used all-purpose)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used soy, but almond or rice milk will work just as well)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped organic strawberries

TOPPING:

  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • I usually make a small bottle of sugar and cinnamon to have on hand so I don’t have to prepare this much-used topping every time a recipe calls for it. ¬†

With your nine-year-old niece having a tight grip on the mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add the flax egg and mix well.

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and let the wee child stir it about. Add the flour mixture and the milk alternately to the butter mixture (much more fun when two people are doing this!). Add vanilla. Stir in strawberries.

Spoon batter into muffin pans and sprinkle the topping on the batter.  Of course, only small children are allowed to sprinkle the topping on the muffins. 

Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes.

This recipe makes one dozen regular-sized muffins.

Now announce to all and sundry that the beaters, bowls, spoons, and spatulas are ready to be licked!  Go sit by the Julember fire and enjoy!!

BEFORE:

strawberry muffins raw

AFTER:

strawberry muffins cooked

Buckwheat Sourdough Spice Cake

Buckwheat Sourdough Spice Cake. Still warm from the oven!

This batter is a variation on the Buckwheat Sourdough Muffins last week. It’s sweeter, has more dates, and also a complex mixture of spices which complement both the buckwheat and the dates nicely. It’s baked in an 8″ x 8″ pan.

1 cup sourdough starter (See Buckwheat Sourdough Starter post)
1 cup flour
1 Tbls baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 Tbls sugar
2 Tbls oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup chopped dried dates
1 tsp cinnamon (I use a strong Saigon cinnamon, aka Vietnamese cinnamon.)
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cardamon

Preheat oven 350. Grease and flour an 8 x 8″ pan.

Put the 1 cup sourdough starter into a bowl. (The rest of the starter you will replenish and put back in the refrigerator See Sourdough Starter post.) Add all the rest of the ingredients to the bowl with the 1 cup of starter. There may be a better way of doing this, like mixing this and that, then adding…but I just dump all the ingredients into the bowl on top of the 1 cup of starter and stir it all together vigorously. No need to get out your mixer. It whips up into a batter very quickly. I stir until the flour is completely incorporated.

Pour batter into the 8″x8″ greased and floured pan.¬†Bake 20-25 mins. (My oven it’s 23 mins. Yours may vary.)

Let cool slightly in the pan on a wire rack, then cut into squares and serve warm with strong black tea or coffee.

If you like the flavor of buckwheat, check out the Buckwheat tag for more posts!

Buckwheat Sourdough Starter (recap)

Some of you may recall my Buckwheat Sourdough Pancakes from a couple of years back. I didn’t keep up with the starter after a while (I’m the only one who likes buckwheat cakes around here), but recently made the starter again, this time with the idea of using it for other things. So, I’m reposting a more concise version of the instructions for making the starter — just the starter — today. In the next two weeks I’ll post some other yummy things you can make with it, besides the¬† Buckwheat Sourdough Pancakes.

Organic buckwheat flour¬†(I use Bob’s Red Mill brand)
2 cups of lukewarm water
1 pkg active dry yeast
2 cups slightly warm water
1 Tbls buckwheat honey (or other honey)

20150528_102458You will need 4 cups of buckwheat flour total for the first week, just to create and feed the starter, more if you make buckwheat cakes with it at the end of the first week. I usually buy two packages Bob’s Red Mill organic buckwheat flour at a time when I’m shopping.

I began the starter on a Monday and “fed it” as follows Tues-Friday, so that it’s ready to use by the weekend. Choose whatever timing works best for your household.

Day 1: In a glass bowl or other non-reactive container (not metal!), dissolve 1 pkg of active dry yeast in 2 cups of warm water. Stir in 1 Tbls honey, then 1 cup buckwheat flour. Leave the starter in the glass bowl, lightly covered, either with plastic wrap or a lid not fastened down, in a dim room.

Day 2: (The day after you mixed up the starter.) Stir well, then remove and discard 1/2 cup of the starter. Add 1/2 cup buckwheat flour and 1/2 cup water. Stir well.

Day 3: Same as day 2

Day 4: Same as day 2

Day 5: Same as day 2

Day 6: Remove 1 cup of the starter and set aside to make buckwheat cakes or to use in baking. Add 1 cup buckwheat flour and 1 cup warm water to the remaining starter mixture. Cover the remaining starter mixture (a lid works better than plastic wrap) and refrigerate.

20150528_102622You will not touch the starter again for another week when you will once again remove 1 cup of the mixture for buckwheat cakes or baking and add 1 cup buckwheat flour and 1 cup water. Do this every week.

The starter must be tended weekly, removing some and feeding with more flour and water. If you don’t want to make up something using part of the buckwheat starter ever week, just discard what you remove and feed as directed. (If you neglect the starter it will get nasty. Throw it out and make a fresh batch. It only takes five days until a new batch is ready to use, so don’t fret if your starter dies. It happens.)

A well-tended starter will develop a wonderful spongy, almost mousse-like texture over time. Don’t worry if feeding and making/baking¬†doesn’t work out to¬†exactly one one week: it won’t hurt anything to wait an extra day to feed the starter and use what you remove. Because I have more time for cooking and baking on the weekend, I set my starter up to be ready to go on a Saturday…and if Saturday is too busy, I use it and feed it on Sunday. You can let it slip a day here and there. The main thing is that you need to tend it weekly. Work out when to make the starter according to the rhythm of your daily life and when you’d be most likely to use it.

Next week: Buckwheat Sourdough Muffins!

Apricot Ginger Scones (Vegan)

20150331_161943Usually when trying something new I try to limit changes to one thing at a time so I know which new thing is the problem if my “fake it when you bake it” recipe goes awry, but I was pretty sure this was going to work out okay, so I used soy milk to see how vegan would work for scones. I’ve had this flavor combination in mind for a while, but only just recently threw a bunch of ingredients together and tried it out. Oh, wonderful!

I love crystalized ginger. I put it in my tea sometimes, or snack on it. But I realize that its combination of sharp and sweet may not be to everyone’s tastes, and I didn’t want it to overwhelm the other flavors so I used less of it than the dried fruit. More than 1/8th cup, but less than 1/4 cup. The ginger and nutmeg play very well together. Also, because the crystalized ginger is lightly dusted with sugar — and the fruit is sweet, too — I can get away with very little added sugar in this recipe. You might could pare the added sugar down even more, depending on how sweet you like your scones.

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 Tbls baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbls sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 8 Tbls margarine
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup dried apricots, diced
  • slightly less than 1/4 cup crystalized ginger, diced
  • 2/3 cup soy milk (I used Silk organic unsweetened)

Preheat oven 425. Stir together all the dry ingredients (first five ingredients). Then blend in the margarine with a fork, pastry cutter, or just use your hands, until it’s all worked in evenly. Toss in the fruits and stir in well so that it’s evenly distributed. Pour in soy milk. Stir until the dough starts to come together, then use your hands and knead it until it makes a firm round of dough. Divide into two more or less equal pieces. Shape each into a ball and then a flattened round probably 5 or 6 inches in diameter. Place the rounds on an ungreased baking sheet. Cut each into 6 equal wedge-shaped pieces. Separate the wedges on the baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes or until done.¬†(If the wedges don’t come out equal sized, then test the larger ones with a toothpick for doneness when you take them out of the oven.)

This is heavenly! Good as is, or broken apart with a dab of margarine inside. You could put jam on them, but this has so much fruit and flavor that jam might be overkill! ūüėČ

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Boiled Raisin Cake

boiled raisin cake 1

Boiled raisin cake is a Christmas staple in our house. ¬†My Aunt Connie wrote out the recipe when she was twelve years old and gave it to my mom who has been making this cake ever since. ¬†(Family trivia: ¬†the recipe from Aunt Connie is still tucked away in one of my mother’s cookbooks.) ¬†If you celebrate the twelve days of Christmas as do those of us living in this part of the world, you still have plenty of time to make it; after all, Christmas is not over until 06 January!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb Earth Balance butter
  • 2 cups sugar (organic)
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 cups raisins

 

  • 3 cups of flour (all-purpose or spelt)
  • 2 tsp baking soda

Combine first six ingredients in a saucepan and boil for 2 minutes, stirring often.  Place the hot saucepan in a sink of cold water to cool.  Add the flour and baking soda.  Pour into a greased tube pan and bake at 300 degrees (F) for 2 hours.

boiled raisin cake 2

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When left out for Santa, this cake is traditionally served with strawberry Purity syrup, a thick and very sweet syrup that is mixed with water.  Santa loves it!

Gingerbread: Ninjas and Zombies

Ninjabread Man in action!

Ninjabread Man in action!

OK, I haven’t created the zombies yet, but with Christmas closing in on us, I thought I’d go ahead and post a bit about gingerbread ninjas. Last year I got some cookie cutters called “Ninjabread Men” and had some fun with them. The gingerbread men recipe that came with them made good gingerbread men, but curiosity got the better of me and I experimented with making the man from my old gingerbread recipe since it was for a very dense loaf-type gingerbread. And…it worked! (You’ll need to add more flour to make a workable dough. I’ve added a note to the bottom of the gingerbread recipe about gingerbread men. I would caution you that you need to roll the dough out very thin or you’ll end up with hilariously fat ninjas! The figures are thin, not just in the thickness of the dough, but also with thin arms and legs unlike the short wider limbs of traditional gingerbread men, so they don’t hold their¬†precise shape when you transfer them from the cutting board (or parchment paper, etc) to the baking sheet. This isn’t a problem, though: it means you can make adjustments to their “stance” when you lay them out for baking. This Halloween I scored some “zombie” cookie cutters, so come Christmas, it will be zombies versus ninjas! Here’s the recipe for my gingerbread, which is super easy…and if you roll it very thin, it will make a nice chewy gingerbread man (or ninja, or zombie).

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