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. 🙂 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! 🙂

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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 BreadSpiced 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. 🙂

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!

Cinnamon Vanilla Scones

Cinnamon Vanilla Scones. They smell amazing hot from the oven!

Cinnamon Vanilla Scones. They smell amazing hot from the oven!

The cinnamon I use for this — and everything these days — is a very strong type usually sold as either “Saigon Cinnamon” or “Vietnamese Cinnamon”. You’ll know it when you get a whiff if it. It smells amazing! It’s not like regular grocery store cinnamon (which is fine if you don’t have access to stronger cinnamons, though you may want to use a bit more).

This recipe is a variation of the Lemon Poppyseed Scones recipe from last week. By the way…the browner look of these scones is due to the addition of the vanilla extract!

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 Tbls baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbls sugar
  • 1/3 cup unflavored protein powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup margarine
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven 425.

Stir together dry ingredients in a bowl: flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, unflavored whey protein powder, and cinnamon. Cut in margarine (I use Smart Balance Original) with a fork, pastry blender or your hands. I usually start by breaking up the margarine with a fork and then rub in the margarine with my hands until it’s a nice homogenous mixture.

Measure milk, then add 2 tsp vanilla extract to it. Pour milk and vanilla extract mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients.

Stir rapidly with a fork until the dough starts to hold together in clumps, then use your hands to knead it very gently and briefly into a ball of dough. (Over-kneading will result in a tougher scone.)

Divide the ball into two more or less equal pieces, shaping the dough into two equal flattened disks, about an inch in thickness.

Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Cut each disk into six more or less equal wedges, then separate the wedges so there’s about an inch at least between them.

Bake in preheated oven 12 minutes (or until a toothpick comes out clean…your oven may vary from mine).

The scent of cinnamon and vanilla is a very heady mixture. These scones are amazing hot out of the oven. Serve with strong hot tea.

They’re also good with coffee, if you prefer that to tea. If you really want to take the flavor over the top, and you live somewhere where there’s an HEB or Central Market, look for Lola Savannah Cinnamon Stick coffee. Lola Savannah is a small batch roaster in Houston. Their Cinnamon Stick coffee (also available as decaf) is more cinnamon-y than any other I’ve tasted. This may be overkill with these scones but I thought I should mention it for coffee lovers and cinnamon fiends. 😉

If you have any scones left over, Store in an air-tight container after the scones have cooled.

Lemon Poppyseed Scones

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It took me a long time to get this recipe just right. I ran through quite a few batches with unsatisfactory results first using lemon yogurt, then using fresh squeezed lemon juice, then a few more batches using bottled lemon juice, before I just gave up and went for the simplest flavor option. Lemon extract. Using an extract has a number of advantages. You don’t have to try to balance dry ingredients with wet ingredients, which means that if my recipe doesn’t appeal to you, you can use your own favorite plain scone recipe and add lemon extract to it, without having to substantially alter the existing recipe. Also, it comes in small bottles and has a longer shelf life than yogurt, lemons, or lemon juice so likely it won’t go to waste.

Soymilk can be subsituted for milk, but that won’t make this recipe vegan, strictly speaking, because (as I understand it) most whey is not made using plant-based or microbial enzymes. For more about ingredients and modifying scone recipes, see my Fakin’ It When You Bake It: Scones post.

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 Tbls baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbls sugar
  • 1/3 cup unflavored whey protein powder
  • 1 tsp poppy seeds
  • 1/2 cup margarine
  • 1/2 cup milk (or soymilk)
  • 2 tsp lemon extract

Preheat oven 425.

Stir together dry ingredients in a bowl: flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, unflavored whey protein powder, and poppy seeds. Cut in margarine (I use Smart Balance Original) with a fork, pastry blender or your hands. I usually start by breaking up the margarine with a fork and then rub in the margarine with my hands until it’s a nice homogenous mixture. Measure milk, then add 2 tsp lemon extract to it. Pour milk and lemon extract mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Stir rapidly with a fork until the dough starts to hold together in clumps, then use your hands to knead it very gently and briefly into a ball of dough. (Over-kneading will result in a tougher scone.) Divide the ball into two more or less equal pieces, shaping the dough into two equal flattened disks, about an inch in thickness. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Cut each disk into six more or less equal wedges, then separate the wedges so there’s about an inch at least between them. Bake in preheated oven 12 minutes (or until  a toothpick comes out clean…your oven may vary from mine).

The scones are very tender and almost melt in your mouth right out of the oven. Serve with strong hot tea. If you’re not serving them immediately to a pack of ravenous friends, leftover scones are still very good the next day. 😉 Store in an air-tight container after the scones have cooled.

Pumpkin Muffins

pumpkin muffinsToday it is 27C and humid, but last week it was cold and RDF (rain, drizzle, and fog) so I was looking for something cozy and comforting to make; something that would be tasty with a cup of hot tea or coffee.  These pumpkin muffins hit the spot – perfectly moist with just enough raisins to make it chewy.

You will need:

  • flax eggs to equal four eggs (4 tbsp flax seed with 12 tbsp of water – make this first so it has time to set [about 15 minutes] before you need to add it to the recipe)
  • 2 cups of sugar (I used organic)
  • 1 1/2 cups of oil (I used canola)
  • 1 3/4 cup of pumpkin puree
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cups of flour (I used spelt)
  • 2 cups raisins (I used organic)

Put flax eggs in a large bowl.  Add sugar, pumpkin, oil, and beat thoroughly.

Add dry ingredients and mix with a spoon or spatula until batter is smooth.  Stir in raisins.

Fill muffin pans almost to the top (about 2/3 full) and bake at 375.  I found the muffins took about 25 minutes before they weren’t dunchy in the middle, but you should probably check on them after 15-20 minutes.

This recipe yields 30 regular size muffins.

Spiced Teacake

Spiced Tea Cake.

Spiced Tea Cake.

This is a nice simple teacake that you can make with spiced black tea. That’s right: it has spiced black tea in it. The recipe originates with the Bigelow tea people who make Constant Comment, a black tea blend with citrus and spices, but you can use your favorite chai instead, if you aren’t in the mood for Constant Comment. I have only used it with Constant Comment, Constant Comment decaf (more on this in a minute), and my favorite chai which is Stash tea’s black chai blend. (Stash has a boggling array chai blends; I can’t vouch for any except the Black Tea Chai, not having tried the others.)

This is my favorite chai and it makes a lovely spiced teacake.

This is my favorite chai and it makes a lovely spiced teacake.

I got the recipe for this teacake from the inside of the Constant Comment box many years ago. You can get it online on the Constant Comment site. The version on the website varies slightly from the way I make it. For one thing, I use margarine instead of butter.

Also, there’s a difference in technique: it says to submerge the teabags in the milk in a saucepan and heat it up to almost boiling. In my smallest saucepan, the teabags aren’t submerged and I’m not sure how easy it would be to get 5 teabags submerged in any saucepan with so little liquid.

What I’ve done in the past is to heat the milk, then pour it into a glass measuring cup, which is tapered so that the bottom is narrower than the top and I then steep the teabags in the already heated milk until it is cool, then wring them out as directed.

Aside from the problem with the teabags not being submerged, the other thing you need to watch out for if you put the teabags in the sauce pan is keeping the paper tags off the burner where it might catch fire, or at least singe. (I have an electric stove.) Since it takes just a moment or two for the small amount of milk to heat up, you can just hold onto the tags above the pot. When mixing the batter, I don’t use a whisk: I just briefly increase the speed of the mixer. Whether on not this works for you depends on your mixer.

I test for doneness using a toothpick in the center, rather than the spring-to-touch test. If the toothpick comes out clean, it’s done. It takes slightly longer to cook in my oven than the time stated in the recipe.

Cooling in the pan. I usually remove it from the pan before it's completely cooled.

Cooling in the pan. I usually remove it from the pan before it’s completely cooled.

The only other note I have is that when I made this with Constant Comment Decaf, the flavor seemed milder to me, so when using the decaf, I use 7 teabags instead of 5. (And good luck with submerging that many!)

This is one of those recipes I can make any time because I usually have the ingredients on hand. (If not Constant Comment, then some chai…I always have some type of spiced black tea on hand.) It needs to be started well in advance of when you want to serve it, however. The eggs need to be room temperature. The heated milk needs to cool before being added to the mixer and it’s recommended that the teacake cool completely before serving, also. It may take slightly longer to bake, depending on your oven. (40 minutes in mine.)

So, my order of doing things goes something like this: take eggs out of the fridge; when the eggs are at room temp, turn on oven, then get out teabags, heat milk and add teabags to milk. When the milk is hot decant the whole thing into a narrow deep cup to cool. While it’s cooling: get out all the other ingredients, grease and flour the pan, cream the sugar and margarine. Etc.

This is a perfect teacake. Serve with a strong plain black tea. (There’s enough spice in the cake.)

Spiced Tea Cake.

Spiced Tea Cake.

Wild Berry Bubbly! Cheers!

Cheers!

Cheers!

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

Here’s a drink I came up with after New Year’s when I was experimenting with left-over bubbly.  It’s appropriately colored for Valentine’s Day, but has a bright fizzy flavor that will also be nice for a party in spring and summer.

The “tea” is an herbal blend, wonderfully sweet and tart. I have become enamored of it over the past year and make iced tea from it. Very refreshing! The “bubbly” is Barefoot’s sparkling moscato. This sweet citrusy Barefoot sparkling wine is what we get every year to celebrate New Year’s because it makes the best mimosas! (See Hair of the Dog Brunch.) This year a friend brought over a bottle of the pink sparkling moscato to go with our left-over white. The pink seems like it’s slightly sweeter than the white. I used the pink for the picture, but given the robust color of the tea, and the small amount of alcohol added to it, I’m not sure the pink bubbly contributed much to the overall color. This was bubbly two days dead, so yours may be more conspicuously fizzy.

  • Bigelow Wild Blueberry and Acai herbal tea
  • Barefoot Sparkling Moscato (White or Pink)

Make a big pot —or two — of the tea. Chill in the refrigerator until cold. Pour into champagne flutes or other festive glassware, filling three-fourths full. Top with the sparkling moscato. Basically I make this the way I make mimosas, only with the tea instead of orange juice. I always pour the non-fizzy liquid in first to moderate the amount of foaming. Also, adding the alcohol in the glass last (rather than mixing up a batch in a punch bowl) means that everyone can add the amount of alcohol they are most comfortable with. (Teetotalers can be tea-totalers because this tea tastes great cold without the addition of anything.)

Cheers!

Hazelnut Scones Three Ways

Hazelnut scones with mini-chocolate chips

Hazelnut scones with mini-chocolate chips

I threw this together because I wanted something a bit different for Thanksgiving morning, but with the variations they’re the perfect yummy scone for any time.  I usually make cranberry scones for Thanksgiving morning, but I had some hazelnuts on hand so decided to use them to make up a new recipe. It took two tries to get it just right. After that I went on to make this recipe without the cranberries, then — because it’s such a natural combination — I made a batch using chocolate which debuted at my Hair of the Dog Brunch this year. So here it is: plain hazelnut scones, hazelnut scones with dried cranberries, and hazelnut scones with mini-chocolate chips. Easy and delicious. 😀

Plain hazelnut scones, hot from the oven.

Plain hazelnut scones, hot from the oven.

1 1/4 cups of ground hazelnuts
1 1/4 cups flour
1Tbls baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbls sugar
8 Tbls Smart Balance Original margarine
1/4 cup dried sweetened cranberries (optional) OR 1/4 cup mini-chocolate chips (optional)
1/2 cup milk (Silk Organic Unsweetened Soy Milk may be substituted)

Preheat oven 425.

If you don’t have access to hazelnut meal (which I’ve rarely seen), do like I do and grind hazelnuts into a meal in either a coffee grinder or food processor. The meal will be soft and fluffy so it needs to be pressed down in the measuring cup to get an accurate measure. It only takes seconds to make the small amount of meal needed for the recipe, so this extra step in scone making does not add an appreciable amount of time or effort to the preparation.

Mix dry ingredients, cut in margarine with a fork, pastry blender, or your fingers. (Then toss in dried sweetened cranberries or mini-chocolate chips if desired.) Add milk. Stir until it forms a sticky dough. Form into a dozen balls, about 2 inches in diameter, I’d guess.

Bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 425 for 15 minutes. (Your oven may vary. Scones should be slightly browned on top and done all the way through.)

While the scones are in the oven make a pot of tea or coffee. Relax. Enjoy. 🙂

Amok Tea

This was originally written in 2010.

Remember that Star Trek episode “Amok Time” where Spock, in the grip of raging hormones, throws a bowl of green plomeek soup at Nurse Chapel? I was forcibly reminded of it just now when I attempted to make Matcha in the blender only to have the top blow off (twice) spraying me and the kitchen in hot green liquid.

Why, you may ask, were you attempting to make a big pot of matcha in the blender? Well, I got the idea because a friend had given me a vortex mug which was sort of a mini blender travel mug. I used it for hot chocolate mostly, but also experimented with making matcha with it; afterall matcha is green tea powder that has to be whipped to a froth in hot water so I figured the mug would be an easy way to whip it, whip it good (apologies to Devo). It did OK, but the result was still a little gritty and tended to coagulate in the bottom of the mug. Then the mug gave up the ghost (a loose connection probably, that I haven’t been able to track down). So I was left with a small bag of unused matcha.

There’s not much I can do with it unless I get a bamboo whisk and do the whole tea ceremony thing…or I make it up using a much bigger, more powerful blender. Today I finally got around to trying it. When it erupted the first time, sending a hot green geyser up and out, spattering other appliances and the wall (not to mention me, yelping), I thought that I just didn’t have the little do-hickey in the top fastened down well. So it was with great surprise that the whole lid blew off when I fired it up again. 😯 Perhaps I filled it too full.

I was thankful that green tea is prepared at less than boiling temperature, because otherwise I would’ve been scalded. As it was I had difficulty holding the lid onto the blender with my fingers being burned by liquid frothing up around the top, even with a towel over the top. Of course, by then the towel was already pretty wet from mopping up the plomeek soup..sorry…green tea. I only guestimated the amount of water and tea I put in and I may have made it too strong. It looks thick, sitting there on the counter in the blender, but the consistency and flavor are pretty good and there’s not much in the way of dregs (yet).

Now that I’ve had a couple of mugs, it’s cooled off a bit—and I’ve cleaned up the kitchen, I think I’ll take it for another spin. My contemporary matcha experiments, I think, are in that Star Trek spirit of  seeking out new things…of  boldly going…of…ducking for cover when the hot green liquid hits the wall. 😉