Head over to Seitan Beats Your Meat and learn to make your own vanilla extract with two ingredients: vanilla beans and vodka. It takes 2-3 months to steep, so it’ll be ready in time for cookie baking when the weather gets cool!
My ice cream maker was in hibernation through the very long Midwest winter this year. So rather than valuing the simple things in life, it was ravenous for over-the-top flavors when I pulled it out for the warmer months. This is peanut butter butterscotch maple chocolate chip (PBBMCC) ice cream. Coconut milk-based, this ice cream is full of peanut butter, pure maple syrup, butterscotch extract, and two kinds of chips. It’s extra decadent and also extremely simple to make because it’s not an exact science and there’s nothing to heat up. Lazy ice cream, if you will.
Here is how you make peanut butter butterscotch maple chocolate chip, PBBMCC, ice cream (see, I pulled a Rachael Ray* there) or a variation thereof:
1. In a medium bowl, stir together 1 can of full-fat coconut milk, at least 1/3 cup maple syrup, a few heaping spoonfuls of creamy peanut butter, and a splash of butterscotch extract.
2. Add a few splashes of non-dairy milk to make your ice cream go further. A little goes a long way. Too much will make your ice cream less creamy because fat=delicious. Taste and adjust the flavors as necessary. The two reasons I used maple syrup are (a) this is maple ice cream, and (b) it would be so much work to heat up the coconut milk and dissolve granulated sugar in it. You could do that though, especially if you want to mix up the flavors. Start with 1/2 cup sugar since maple syrup is concentrated sweetness.
3. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Typically, you’ll toss in the add-ins during the last 5 minutes of freezing (check your instructions). I added about 1/2 cup total of butterscotch and chocolate chips.
4. Done-zo! Eat that ice cream! Store in the freezer in an airtight container.
You can use these guidelines for a myriad of ice cream flavors. The basic formula is 1 can of coconut milk, 1/3-1/2 cup sweetener, and your flavors. There is much room for experimentation as ice cream is very forgiving.
*I don’t have anything against RR’s tendency to refer to an ingredient along with its clunky acronym over and over in speech (à la EVOO, extra-virgin olive oil). It’s proof that if you consistently say something odd and gratuitous, it can become your brand. In fact, I even have her orange tea kettle.
This week I’m finishing up preparation for the two classes I’ll be teaching:
Artful Food Photography, Sunday at 1:45pm
I’ll be talking about the blog as a space where you have complete creative control to develop your own style. Having recently completed my degree in photography, I spent the last few years working with fine arts in school, producing commercial work for books and print media, and making photos for this blog that fall somewhere in between. We’ll discuss influences, designing your photos around the food, and presenting your own voice through the photos on your blog.
Finding Balance: Blogging & Personal Life, Saturday at 2:15pm
Jamie J. Hagen, Gena Hamshaw, and I will be speaking about the importance of setting realistic schedules and boundaries while juggling a full-time job or going to school, writing a blog, and maintaining a personal life.
I’ll be back following the conference to recap the weekend, the food, the classes, and what I learned!
I’ve been sick for five, going on six days this past week and I’ve enjoyed it too much. Unabashedly staying home writing, reading, watching too much TV, and crafting for five days straight, save for a few short trips around the block or to the grocery store, is pretty much my dream life. To eliminate the risk of becoming one with my blankets and couch and the fact that I feel mostly better today, I decided to descend upon reality and take more risks: sensory overload from the outside world, fresh air, and interaction with other humans. Needless to say, I survived, and the holiday season will be upon us soon in full force of overindulgence, reminiscent of those glorious five days when I was too sick to leave the house. Until then, simple pleasures will fuel the next couple weeks of an unseasonably warm December (in the Midwest, anyway). One of those pleasures is cake. Straight up chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, no frills.
This recipe is modified from my chocolate malt cake recipe. It’s plain chocolate cake, super fudgy, no unanticipated anomalies. You could add peppermint extract and Candy Cane Joe Joe’s to be festive, but save that for the end of the month and just eat chocolate cake.
Makes 2 layer 8 inch cake
2/3 cup canola oil
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 cups almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2-3 tablespoons almond milk
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Line two 8 inch cake pans with parchment rounds and grease the sides with margarine or cooking spray. Set aside.
Pour the canola oil, sugar, almond milk, vanilla extract, and apple cider vinegar together in a stand mixer or large mixing bowl. Stir until just combined.
Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. Gradually sift into the wet ingredients, stirring after each addition. The batter should be thick and pourable.
Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans. Bake for 30-32 minutes, until the tops of the cakes are firm and a toothpick comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a wire rack to cool before attempting to remove the cakes.
In the meantime, make the frosting. Cream together the margarine and shortening in a stand mixer or with hand beaters. Gradually add the powdered sugar and cocoa, stirring as you go. Mix until completely incorporated, then add the almond milk. If the frosting is too soft or liquid, add more powdered sugar. Beat the frosting for 6-8 minutes. Add more powdered sugar or almond milk to adjust the flavor and consistency of the frosting if necessary.
Remove the cakes from the pans. Spread frosting atop one layer and place the second layer on top. Frost the sides and top of the double layer cake, piping on a border or adding chocolate and candy for decoration if you wish.
While perusing the beverage aisle during a grocery trip with recipe writing in mind, I tossed a few bottles of grape soda* in the cart thinking I’d have big plans with it, eventually. The bottles sat on top of my refrigerator for about two months before I decided what to do with it. Everything just sounded so…gross. Grape soda cookies? Yuck. Biscotti? VOM. Donuts? It’s been done. Sorbet? I don’t really like making ice cream-y type things. Muffins? Pass the barf bag.
How would grape soda taste good in a baked good? It’s fruity, sickly sweet, and fizzy, and grape doesn’t really go with anything. One day, I broke it down with the transitive property. Grape soda=grapes. Grapes=wine. Wine goes with chocolate. I thought of the chocolate cakes and cupcakes I made with Merlot and Cabernet recently and decided to try something similar with the grape soda. The worst that could happen is that they turn out gross and I’d have an entertaining kitchen disaster post for MoFo.
Grape soda is far from the elegance level of wine, unless you buy really crappy wine. Which I do. But grape soda trying to be fancy could not fool anyone, so don’t even try. It’s one of those drinks kids spill on themselves and turn into a sticky mess with, so cupcakes is the obvious choice. They’re single-serving, cutesy, and I guess you could make a huge mess with them if you really tried.
*Or grape pop, as we call it in the Chicago suburbs, which I get so much shit for saying in Milwaukee.
I laid out all my ingredients, then faced the moment of truth and tasted the grape soda.
I could’ve sworn I just took a shot of cough syrup. I used to really love grape soda as a kid and this is not how I remembered it tasting, at all. My hopes were not high after this initial reaction, but what the hell, I jumped right in and started making the reduction. Instead of just adding straight up grape soda to the batter, reducing it concentrates all the flavors. A little bit goes a long way without having to add extra liquid. This also makes it so the buttercream can be grape flavored.
I made the cupcake batter, tossed it in the oven, and held my breath for 16-18 minutes. Then, because I’m not a vampire and need to breathe, I passed out and had to be revived, waking up to a chocolaty grape-y aroma. I promptly started making the grape buttercream. It was actually yummy! Oh, and none of that passing out stuff actually happened.
After frosting the cupcakes and decorating with straws, sprinkles, and star gummies (mentioned in yesterday’s kitchen tour MoFo post), it was the real moment of truth. I bit into a cupcake. It was deep and chocolate-y, then the essence of grape wafted through my taste buds. Success! THEY WEREN’T DISGUSTING! While suited more to a whimsical, child-like palate, the flavors are more complex than you’d think. Just don’t try to pass them off as fancy and sophisticated. They would be perfect for a casual get together or birthday party.
The final product:
Please don’t judge that unicorn on the mug for eating honey. For all we know, maybe honey is vegan in unicorn world.
Grape Soda Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes
Note: You will need grape soda in the cupcake batter in addition to the 4 cups for the reduction, so don’t drink the leftovers just yet!
4 cups grape soda
1 1/3 cups flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1 cup grape soda
¼ cup grape soda reduction
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup margarine
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
2 ¼ cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons grape soda reduction
Pour the grape soda into a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a low boil and let boil for 30 minutes, reducing the soda to ¾ cup. If you reduce it too much, simply reconstitute it to make ¾ cup. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Combine the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a stand mixer or mixing bowl. Stir until combined.
Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the canola oil, grape soda, ¼ cup grape soda reduction, vanilla extract, and apple cider vinegar. Mix until just combined.
Using a cupcake scoop, fill each cupcake liner a little more than halfway. Bake for 16-18 minutes, until the tops of the cupcakes are firm and a toothpick comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting. Cream together the margarine and shortening in a stand mixer or with hand beaters. Gradually add the powdered sugar, sifting as you go. Once half the powdered sugar is mixed in, start gradually drizzling in the grape soda reduction as well. Mix until completely incorporated and beat the frosting for 6-8 minutes. Add more powdered sugar or grape soda reduction to adjust the consistency of the frosting if necessary.
Dip the tops of the cupcakes in grape soda reduction, then pipe or spoon on some frosting. Drizzle with ½ teaspoon grape soda extract. Repeat for all cupcakes. Top with sprinkles or other colorful candies and edible glitter. Serve!
That concludes the grape soda cupcake saga. Love ’em or hate ’em.
Now, in all honesty, I’m really stuck in a rut with recipe ideas right now. I have a list of drink ideas on my bulletin board and I walked around Whole Foods last night looking for inspiration, but I’m not super inspired at the moment. I would love if you guys posted some of your favorite drinks or favorite kinds of baked goods, or both, in the comments and maybe I’ll play around with the ideas and turn them into desserts!
And while we’re at it, what other parts of the cookbook writing process are you interested in reading about here this month? I have some recipes, recipe failures, segments on publishing, and more in the works, but I’d love to hear what you guys want to hear about as well!
Thanks for reading!