Recipe: Carrot-Raisin Cupcakes (or Muffins, If You Like)

Do you ever get a craving you can’t shake?  I don’t mean a craving that last for a few hours, but I mean for days on end.

Usually, my cravings come and go.  I’ll want something for an afternoon and by the next morning, my mind (and belly) have moved on to something else.  I’m fairly fickle that way.  I want all sorts of things all the time and it can change from one minute to the next.  But, every so often, I get stuck on something and can’t let go of it.

Four on a plate - Close Up 2 - edited

Such was the case with carrot cake.  I’m not even sure what triggered this desire, but once it set in it wouldn’t be put off.  The first day, I simply wanted carrot cake.  It sounded good and it was on my mind. The second day, I REALLY wanted carrot cake.  I was disappointed I hadn’t had some the day before and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  By the third, fourth, and fifth days, I was consumed with an unquenchable desire to shove carrot cake in my face.  It kept running through my mind.  My stomach churned at the thought.  I fought hard to shake the impulse to schlep out to some mysterious all night bakery that didn’t exist and find a slice in the middle of the night.  It’s true.  Please try not to judge me.

Clearly, something had to be done.

So, baking happened.

raw 2 - edited

Instead of making a traditional cake, I decided to make cupcakes.  I appreciate cupcakes for their self-contained, individually portioned ease and neatness.  When there is a whole cake in front me, it’s too easy to just keep moving my knife to the right when I cut a slice, resulting in a portion that would feed a small family of four.  With a cupcake, though, knife creep is not an issue.

These are some of my favorite cupcakes I’ve made in long while.  Truly tasty and sweetened largely with the banana, raisins, spices, and carrot, with a small amount of brown sugar for richness.  You can eat them with the glaze, like I did, or leave it off and call them muffins.  Regardless of which way you go, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

____________________________________________________________________

Carrot-Raisin Cupcakes Four on a plate 3 - edited

Adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance

Makes 12 cupcakes

 

Ingredients:

For cupcakes

  • ½ cup raisins
  • 1 ½ cups white whole wheat flour
  • 2 tspns baking powder
  • ½ tspn baking soda
  • ½ tspn cinnamon
  • ¼ tspn ground nutmeg
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ½ tspn finely ground sea salt
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tblspn coconut oil, melted
  • ½ cup mashed ripe banana (about 1 medium banana)
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups grated carrot (about 2 large carrots)

For glaze

  • 1 – 1 ½ cup vegan powdered sugar
  • 1 – 1 ½ tblspn unsweetened almond milk
  • ½ tspn vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly spray muffin tins with cooking spray.
  2. Place raisins in a bowl of hot water and let soak while you prepare other ingredients.
  3. In a large bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, and salt.
  4. Once whisked, add your liquid ingredients: almond milk, coconut oil, mashed banana, and vanilla extract.  Stir well to combine all ingredients.
  5. Drain raisins.  Add them, along with the grated carrot, to the bowl. Gently fold them into the batter so that they are well distributed.
  6. In ¼ cup batches, scoop batter into muffin tins.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Let cool 5 minutes in tins, then remove and place on a wire rack with parchment paper underneath.
  7. To prepare the glaze, combine 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon almond milk, and the vanilla extract in a medium bowl.  Beat together well.  Add in additional powdered sugar and milk if needed to achieve the desired consistency.  Note that the glaze will thicken after sitting for a few minutes.
  8. When the cupcakes are nearly cool, drizzle glaze over the top.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Recipe: Apricot Muffins (Not, I Repeat NOT Grape Leaves)

I was going to present to you photos and writings about beautiful grape leaves.  Bright, flavorful grape leaves that had been lovingly stuffed, rolled, and cooked over low heat in a slow cooker for several hours before being presented and served as part of a delicious Mediterranean dinner.

Instead you’re getting muffins.

Apricot Muffin trio 5

You shouldn’t be disappointed because these are really good muffins.  I, however, am slightly disappointed because I was really excited about grape leaves.

But I suppose sometimes we all fall prey to kitchen disasters and my grape leaves were a casualty.  I started making them on a day that had been a bit rough for me.  I was feeling frustrated and cranky and worn out.  It happens.

Anyway, I was looking forward to the meditative act of cooking and set to it.  In my funky state, however, I got so caught up in rinsing, patting dry, and de-stemming each individual grape leaf that I didn’t pay proper attention to the filling mixture that was cooking away on the stove-top.  Needless to say when I checked on it, it was too late.  Burnt rice is nobody’s friend.

Thanks to Trader Joe’s being about a minute away from my apartment, I managed to still serve a full dinner by adding on some pre-made TJ’s appetizers to the rest of the food that I was making (my fattoosh salad, homemade paprika-spiced hummus, and pita bread), but my cooking pride took a hit nonetheless.

Apricot Muffin with jam

The next day, I needed to redeem myself, so muffins happened.  This muffin recipe is adapted from a cookbook that I borrowed from my local library.  Loads of tasty looking things live in this cookbook, by the way, and I was certainly pleased about how these turned out.  I am a huge fan of the texture of these muffins, as well as the minimal sugar content.  If you like them sweeter, you can certainly add additional agave or a bit of sugar (I would recommend turbinado or light brown sugar), but I also found that spreading a bit of apricot preserves on them before eating finished them off nicely.

Enjoy them for breakfast or an afternoon snack.  Or, as the cookbook originally suggested, with a cup of tea.  Just please make sure you are feeling quite proper and sophisticated if you enjoy them with tea.  Tea tastes best that way.

_______________________________________________________________

Apricot Muffins

Adapted from The Karma Chow Cookbook

Makes 12 muffins

 

Ingredients: Apricot Muffin with knife 3

1 ½ cups White Whole Wheat Flour

1 ½ tspn baking powder

1 tspn baking soda

½ tspn salt (kosher or sea salt)

1 ½ tspn ground cinnamon

½ tspn ground nutmeg

3 tblspns coconut oil, melted

3 tblspns unsweetened apple sauce

½ cup apricot preserves, jam, or spread (sweetened or unsweetened, per your preference    – I used sweetened because it’s what I had on hand)

¼ cup agave nectar (if you used unsweetened preserves, you may want to add a bit more)

½ cup milk of your choice (I used non-dairy milk – Pacific 7-Grain)

2 tspns vanilla extract

2 tblspns egg replacer + 6 tblspns water, mixed (or 2 eggs if you prefer)

½ cup dried apricots, chopped into bits

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray your muffin tins (you will need 12 muffin cups) with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together your flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine melted coconut oil, applesauce, apricot spread, agave nectar, milk, vanilla, and egg replacer or eggs.  Whisk together until ingredients are incorporated.  (Tip: melt, measure and add in your coconut oil last to prevent it from hardening while you prepare the other ingredients) 
  4. Make a well in the center of your dry ingredients and pour in wet ingredients.  Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, stir together to combine all ingredients.  Stir until smooth.  Then, pour in chopped apricots and stir together just a few more times to distribute apricot chunks.
  5. Distribute your batter evenly into the 12 muffin cups (approximately ¼ cup of batter per muffin).  Bake 16-20 minutes or until a wooden toothpick is inserted and comes out clean.
  6. Place muffin tins on a wire rack to begin to cool for 3-5 minutes.  Then, remove muffins and let cool completely on a wire rack.

These muffins can be enjoyed just as they are, drizzled with agave or honey, or topped with additional fruit preserves (I tried them all the ways!).

 

 

Recipe: Cherry Almond Chocolate Snacking Cakes

Sometimes only chocolate will do.  I actually don’t bake chocolate items all that often, but some days . . . it absolutely must be done.  Last weekend was such a case.

I wanted chocolate cake.  But I didn’t want a giant, frosted chocolate cake.  I wanted something smaller, something that I could pull apart with my hands as I ate it.  Perhaps a bit denser then a layer cake, but still soft and spongy.

I also wanted add-ins.  I was imagining some sort of treat baked into the chocolate batter, something that would compliment the chocolate flavor without taking it over.  I was inspired!  But I needed a basic recipe to start with.

Enter one of my most trusted food blogs.  Smitten Kitchen has yet to lead me astray.  Everything I have made from this fantastic site has been tasty and satisfying.  So when I was able to find this recipe for Chocolate Yogurt Snack Cakes (originally from David Lebovitz’s The Sweet Life in Paris), I knew I had my starting point.

I made several adaptations to the recipe in order to create the kind of cakes I particularly wanted and they came out wonderfully.  I love the texture of these snacking cakes, as well as the versatility.  They feel appropriate for just about any time of day – perfect for a sweet treat at breakfast, a snack throughout the day, or a light post-dinner dessert.

Adding the dried cherries really did add something special to the flavor of these, I think.  I used a moderate amount so they didn’t overwhelm the other components, leaving chocolate as the stand out ingredient.  The flavor, though, that the cherries contributed was lovely.  The combination of the almond oil and almond extract also imparted a deeper flavor to the cakes, though if you’re not a fan of almond flavor, you could easily substitute a different oil and omit the extract. I’m actually curious how orange extract would be in these, in place of the almond.  I may have to test that out soon!

________________________________________________________________

Cherry Almond Chocolate Snacking Cakes

Makes 12 cakes

 

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz semi-sweet chocolate (baking squares or chips will work)
  • ¼ cup almond oil
  • ¼ cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • ½ cup plain yogurt (I used non-fat Greek)
  • 1 cup sugar (I used turbinado)
  • 3 tblspns egg replacer, combined with 9 tblspns water (or 3 large eggs if you prefer)
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract
  • ½ tspn almond extract
  • 100 grams whole wheat pastry flour
  • 100 grams spelt flour
  • 1 ½ tspns baking powder
  • ½ tspn course salt
  • 1/3 cup dried cherries

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat muffin pans with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg replacer with water (or eggs) until just combined.  Add applesauce, yogurt, sugar, vanilla and almond extract.  Stir until well combined.
  4. Chop the dried cherries into small pieces.
  5. Melt your chocolate with the almond oil.  You can do this in a heatproof bowl over lightly boiling water on the stove, or in the microwave (as I did).  Combine the chocolate and oil in a microwave safe bowl and heat for 30 seconds.  Stir.  Heat for 20 more seconds.  Stir again.  Repeat until the chocolate is completely melted and combined with the oil.
  6. Create a well in the center of the flour mixture.  Pour in the yogurt mixture and stir together until just combined.  Then, pour in the melted chocolate and continue to stir until all the dry ingredients are well incorporated.  Finally, fold in the chopped dried cherries so that they are distributed throughout the batter.
  7. Spoon batter into muffin cups (about ¼ cup batter in each cup).  Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  8. Let stand for 5 minutes in the tins, then remove and allow to cool on a wire rack.

*Notes:

– You could certainly use other flours in these.  I particularly liked the combination of the whole wheat pastry flour, which I think contributed to a lighter texture, with the spelt flour, which complimented to the nutty undertones of flavor.

– Add toppings if you like.  A dusting of powdered sugar, a glaze, or a ganache would be lovely.  I just wasn’t in the mood!

Recipe: Not-Unhealthy Plum Muffins

For two weeks it seemed like every day when I opened up my blog feeds, I came across a new plum recipe.  I like plums, you see, but they aren’t one of my go-to fruits.  When push comes to shove, I often pass them over for other fruits of the season.

But they just kept showing up.

And, they looked amazing.  Plum coffee cake.  Plum upside down cake.  Plum jam.  Plum tarts.  You name it.  The photos lured me in and the descriptions of the items won me over.  I needed to partake in the plum frenzy.

As is typical of me, I loved the photos of the fancy, decadent plum cakes, but ultimately, I decided that making something a bit less fancy, a bit more portable, and a tad bit healthier would be more to my liking in the long run.

So I baked plum muffins.  I came across this plum muffin recipe on Whimsi Market Mag, made a few adjustments to suit my preferences, and donned my apron!

The result was delightful – a just slightly sweet muffin with a really great soft texture to bite into.  Perfect for breakfast.  Or dessert.  Or an afternoon snack.  Or a lunch treat.

You get the idea.

While I hesitate to call such a baked treat healthy, these certainly aren’t unhealthy.  Basic, clean ingredients and a nominal amount of sugar and fat make a muffin that you can feel good about eating any time of day.

I have been eating mine as is, but I imagine they would be quite nice with some butter, lemon curd or jam on them, as well.

_________________________________________________________

Not Un-Healthy Plum Muffins 

Adapted from whimsimarket.wordpress.com

Makes 17 muffins

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups pastry flour

1 tblspn baking soda

1 tbspn cinnamon

2/3 cup unpacked brown sugar

¼ tbspn salt (I used kosher)

1/3 cup almond oil

2/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce

¾ cup almond milk

1 tblspn vanilla extract

5 black plums, chopped into ¼ inch cubes

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and coat muffins pans with cooking spray.
  1. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, brown sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk together until combined.
  1. In a separate bowl, combine almond oil, applesauce, almond milk, and vanilla.  Stir until just combined.
  1. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in wet ingredients.  Mix together with a spatula or spoon until smooth.
  1. Add chopped plums to the batter and stir them into the batter, until well distributed.
  1. Spoon or pour approximately ¼ cup batter into each muffin cup.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until a wooden toothpick can be inserted into a muffin and come out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.

*** Note:  I suspect that these would be also be nice with some chopped nuts added in if you are so inclined!

My Weekend In Pictures

My new flex schedule at work provides me with three day weekends twice a month.  I’m loving the extra time and here’s some evidence to prove it!

A lovely little tea service.  Followed by a delicious cucumber sandwich.

Working fast to get caught up with my fellow knit-a-longers on the Holla Back Tank.

Time spent in the kitchen for blueberry jam and plum muffins (recipes to be posted soon).

A trip to the Farmer’s Market.

And an evening chopping veggies for Samosa Wraps.

Plus, a great long run and ordering yarn for another knit-a-long (more on that to come)!