Sunday, July 8, 2012

Gluten-free, vegan lemon & raspberry cupcakes (AKA Baking without a net)

July 4th was an important day in the domestigeek's life.

See, there was a low-key bbq to attend, with the usual Olympus family.  The perfect opportunity to attempt the kohlrabi chips i'd been thinking about.  And make up some German potato salad, an easy crowd pleaser that is safe for most diets because the ingredients are so simple.  But of course, i wanted something sweet.

I'd just done the fat kids salty-sweet cookie day, and it's been hot here in CT.  Stupid hot.  And humid.  (And awful for spending time in the kitchen, but maybe i'm a little twisted). I'd been thinking about doing chocolate cupcakes with coffee icing and heath bar chips on top, to play on Duncan's favorite ice cream flavor, but it felt too hot for chocolate.

For whatever reason, lemon was calling to me, and i thought lemon squares, but that seemed too advanced, and most of the vegan recipes called for tofu, something i knew i wouldn't be able to get Duncan to even try.

But then i found inspiration!  Lemon and raspberry cupcakes!  But this recipe was complex and i didn't want to spend the small fortune on the various flours and whatnot, if they even all were available at Stop & Shop or Whole Foods (and who wants to make 2 grocery store trips?).

So i did some more research, looked at several gluten free cupcake recipes and went to town.

Although it's not perfect, the Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Flour is decent for a base flour.  I hope to experiment more and maybe come up with a better blend when Aimee and Ian and i do Science Day (stay tuned for that adventure!), but i was willing to dumb down the flours to that.

I then had to consider the vegan element.  A cake needs the proper proteins to get the right texture.  I hate using egg replacer, because there is something kinda sketchy about it in my head.  So what would work?  I decided that this gluten free vegan recipe would be my base, which has apple cider vinegar, baking soda and water.

So for the cupcakes, this is approximately my recipe:

2-3 cups gluten free all purpose flour
1 cup sugar (yes, i know, sugar can contain bone char, which isn't vegan, but the lovely folks i'm most often baking for are comfortable with sugar, if you want an alternative, i'd suggest researching your brands or using turbino sugar)
1.5 teaspoons baking soda
0.5 teaspoons salt
0.3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
zest of 1 lemon
squirt of lemon juice

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Line a dozen cup muffin pan with paper liners. (i also used a silicone liner to make a 'test' cupcake, there was plenty of batter
  3. Sift together the dry ingredients (start with 2 cups of flour and sugar, baking soda, salt).
  4. Add the oil, extract, vinegar, and water, and zest. Mix together till smooth.  My batter was very loose and i ended up adding more flour until i liked the consistency.  You want something akin to a cake batter, loose, but not watery.  I also tasted it and decided to add some lemon juice to up the flavor.  
  5. Pour into lined muffin cups, filling 3/4 full. These seemed to rise fairly well.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Test with a toothpick, if it comes out clean you're good. 
These had a dense, spongy but soft texture.  I think next time i may reduce the amount of water to account for additional wet flavoring (lemon juice).

As i waited for these to cool i made a raspberry filling.  This was definitely a little tart.  If you'd like something sweeter, add more sugar.

1 bag frozen unsweetened raspberries
1.5 cups sugar
1-2 cups water

  1. Thaw the raspberries with about 1/2 cup sugar
  2. Put the raspberries in a saucepan and cover with water, add another 1 cup of sugar.  Simmer, stirring often and allow mixture to reduce to a thick consistency.
  3. Strain some of the seeds out with a strainer.  
  4. Fill a pastry bag with the mixture.  Using a narrow tip, insert into the cupcakes and squeeze gently (Wilton has some pictures to explain).  
Mine weren't perfect, but it did work!  Expect some leakage on the tops, but you'll cover it with frosting, so it'll be ok.  Next time, more sugar and maybe something to thicken it up better?  I'll do some research and report back.

The last part was the frosting, after all, a nice creamy frosting is one of my favorite cupcake elements!  

I've grown up on Domino Sugar's buttercream frosting recipe (although now i know Aimee's secret of a little salt, it'll never be the same).  Of course, this relies on butter, which is not so vegan.  Here's where a little playing comes into effect.  Earth Balance is great for baking, so long as you can do soy, but it's texture isn't as hard as butter, so the frosting isn't quite right.  You need to up the ratio of sugar to get the right thick texture.  I can't exactly quantify this, but i tested it as i went by seeing how stiff the frosting was on the spatula.  When it held it's shape without melting, i decided it was thick enough.  Because of the heat in my kitchen i also suspect i had a harder time establishing the right texture.

3 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup earth balance (i usually get this at stop & shop in the butter/margarine area)
3-4 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon extract
zest of 1 lemon

  1. Combine ingredients in a bowl and mix on medium, adding sugar as necessary for a thick texture.  This isn't a strict recipe, you can alter the flavor elements to taste, just remember the more wet you add the more sugar you'll need for that thick creamy texture.  You want to minimize the amount of liquid you add, so start small and add slowly.  If it's too thin add more sugar, too thick, add more wet flavor in the juice or extract.  
I topped these with raspberries.  Ta-da!

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