Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mini Pumpkin Spice Donuts (Vegan, GF)

I absolutely love the holiday season. Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year, but I must say that Fall is catching up to it. We might not have "real" seasons in Los Angeles, but it's definitely starting to feel like Fall here. The cold(ish) weather, the light blustery winds, and the pumpkin baked goods and coffee drinks popping up everywhere...

I am a huge fan of pumpkin. In fact, Mr. Pixie Crust and I had our first unofficial date over pumpkin pancakes (he's a big fan too). I'm planning on baking up all kinds of pumpkin treats this October, but to start, I decided to finally give my new mini-donut pan a whirl by baking up a batch of mini pumpkin spice doughnuts that are both gluten free and vegan. These festive little guys are moist, just dense enough, and filled with pumpkin goodness. Plus, I discovered that mini donuts are some of the most simple, yet fun treats to make! I can't wait to keep trying out new baked donut recipes.

Equipment Needed:

-12 cup mini-donut pan
-pastry bag or durable plastic freezer bag

For the Pumpkin Spice Donut Batter (makes about 3 dozen mini donuts):

1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill all purpose flour
1/4 cup potato starch
1/2 cup sorghum flour
3/4 cup sweet white rice flour
1 1/2 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 tbsp canola oil
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray donut pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In large mixing bowl, sift together flours, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Add coconut milk, vinegar, vanilla extract, oil and maple syrup to dry ingredients. Mix well (gluten free batters cannot be “overmixed”). Using a pastry bag to pipe batter inside each cup, fill each donut cavity a little more than 1/2 full.

Bake 8-10 minutes or until the top of the donuts spring back when touched. Let cool in pan for 4–5 minutes before removing.

For donut glaze
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1 tbsp, plus 1 tsp dairy free milk (I used rice milk)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Sift powdered sugar. Add milk and extract and stir until fully combined. Glaze should be thick enough to coat donut, but thin enough so that it does not clump and you need to hold donut upside down for a few seconds to allow excess glaze to drip off.

Dip top of each donut into bowl of glaze, allowing excess to drip off before placing on platter or parchment paper. After glaze has set on donut for a minute or so, dip top half into choice of sprinkles (or leave plain, if desired).

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Double Chocolate Peanut Butter cupcakes (Vegan, GF)

Now that I am permanently on a Gluten-Free diet and temporarily on a dairy free diet, I decided to go all the way (I am technically allowed to eat organic eggs during this temporary no-dairy stage) and concoct a vegan, gluten-free cupcake.

It took a few tries, but I think I came up with a darn good cupcake. You would never know it's missing the gluten, eggs, butter, or milk! In fact, the cake is so moist and rich, I think I even prefer it to my favorite regular chocolate cupcake recipe.  The other great part of this cake is that it is soy-free.  For a while, soy had a reputation for being a "healthy" alternative, but it actually is not and can cause problems for both men and women when consumed in large amounts.  But I digress...

If you're a vegan, or if you have friends of mixed diets, I would highly suggest making up a batch of these. In fact, even if you're NOT vegan or sensitive to gluten, give these a shot. I'm totally planning on bringing a couple of dozen of these to the next party I go to and not mention anything about the fact that they're a special new recipe because I'm absolutely convinced that no one will be able to tell.

I was feeling kind of down when I first found out that I couldn't eat gluten anymore and would have to completely re-orient myself with baking. I'm now very much encouraged, though, and I even feel like this is maybe how it was supposed to be for me- baking with a sensitivity towards allergies and alternative diets.

For the Double Chocolate Cupcakes:
(Vegan, Gluten-Free) makes 24 cupcakes

2 cups brown sugar (you could also use agave or an another alternative sweetener)
1 1/4 cups coconut milk (canned)
1 cup hot water

5 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled (I used a Valrhona bar from Trader Joe's)

1/2 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup good quality dutch process cocoa powder (I used Valrhona, which can be found at speciality baking stores)
1 cup Bob’s AP GF Flour
1/2 cup superfine sweet rice flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup cornstarch (or potato/tapioca starch, if you prefer)
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar*
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt

Sift together all of the flours, starch, cocoa powder, xanthum gum, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. Melt chocolate and set aside. Combine coconut and canola oil in bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add sugar and mix for about 3 minutes. Add vanilla extract. Add all dry ingredients and mix slowly until very well combined (**see note below). Batter will be thick and doughy at this point. Add the coconut milk and chocolate and mix well. Lastly, add the 1 cup of hot water and hand mix to incorporate with large spoon or offset spatula. Once batter is fully mixed, fill cupcake liners 2/3 full with batter and bake at 330 degrees for 23-25 minutes. You should rotate the cupcakes one time after 15-16 minutes of baking, but DO NOT open the oven any more than that. Be sure to leave the cupcakes to bake long enough- it may help to stick the middle of the cake with a toothpick to test for doneness (since they're GF, cupcakes may spring back at touch earlier than they are really done in the middle).

*I know vinegar sounds weird, but the vinegar and baking soda combine to give a rise and moisture similar to what eggs would normally create.

**since there is no gluten in the batter, there is no danger of over mixing your batter. In fact, all sources I consulted suggest that mixing GF/vegan batters MORE actually aids in creating a better texture for the final product.  In my novice opinion, this does indeed seem to be the case.

For the Peanut Butter Frosting:

1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter (I like Laura Scudder's Natural, no-stir creamy)
1/2 cup, plus one tbsp organic, non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening (the organic non-hydro stuff does not have the gross Crisco taste, trust me)
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups confectioner's sugar

Combine peanut butter and shortening in bowl of stand mixer and mix with paddle attachment until well combined. Add vanilla and mix well. Add in confectioner's sugar and mix until incorporated and smooth. Decorate/frost cupcakes as desired.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sparkling Syrah Concord Grape Sorbet

The day after I found out that I have to permanently cut out gluten from my diet, I went shopping at Trader Joe's and discovered how many of my "normal" favorite items I can no longer eat. It doesn't help that I am also on a temporary dairy-free diet with Ali- aka Mr. Pixie Crust- who also cannot eat soy (temporarily). Hmm...this has been tricky.

It shows how much we're on the same page that the day after our new diet was introduced we both came home with a couple of bottles of wine each. We are wine lovers, but I think even more than that, it was nice to have an indulgence left that we didn't have to worry at all about ingredient checking.

In the spirit of our appreciation for wine, I made a batch of Sparkling Syrah Concord Grape sorbet. If you haven't had a sparkling (dry) red wine, and you enjoy red wine, I highly suggest trying it. It is a really nice alternative to a traditional red wine on these warm summer nights. My absolute favorite sparking red is Mumm Napa's Cuvee M Red, but in this batch of sorbet, I used a nice, really economically priced dry sparkling red wine from Trader Joe's.

Sparkling Syrah Concord Grape Sorbet (adapted from Martha Stewart)
1 1/2 pounds concord grapes
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup simple syrup
1 tsp lemon juice
3/4 cup dry sparkling red wine (thoroughly chilled)

Wash grapes thoroughly and combine with 1/4 cup water in medium sauce pan. Place over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until grapes begin to break apart and dark juices are released (about 5-6 minutes). Pour grapes and juices into blender and puree. Pour mixture through fine mesh sieve and place over ice bath or into freezer until very cold.

Add simple syrup, lemon juice, and chilled red wine to grape puree. Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.

For a stronger wine flavor and pretty presentation, serve in glasses with sparkling wine poured over sorbet.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Rainbow Sorbet Terrine

My dad was recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Celiac Disease is basically when your body is unable to digest gluten, resulting in damage to the small intestine, digestive and tummy troubles, problems absorbing vitamins in food, and multiple other health issues that vary from person to person.

After my dad was diagnosed, I started to become interested in learning more about gluten-free baking. A lot of desserts are naturally gluten free- crème brulee, curds and puddings, ice cream and sorbets, flourless chocolate cake, French Macarons the list goes on. However, a lot of desserts are NOT, including traditional cakes, cookies, etc.

All this is to say that in addition to not feeling very well over the past months, I progressively came to the realization that a lot of my health issues over the years have mirrored my father’s and I should get the blood test for Celiac as well. Mr. Pixie Crust and I have been seeing the same allergist (it’s really sweet- we have joint appointments) and yesterday we got the results of some tests. It looks like he may be sensitive to gluten and that I almost certainly have Celiac.

Ali and I have been placed on both a gluten free and (temporary) dairy free diet for two weeks. It seems pretty perfect that I happened to buy myself the KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment just last weekend because I have been a sorbet making machine and we can both eat it on our diet.

The terrine I made is composed of homemade pineapple, orange, and raspberry sorbet, but you could certainly make any flavors you like. You could also use store bought sorbet (soften before layering) for a really quick and easy, but impressive dessert.

If you have an ice cream maker, I would highly recommend making homemade sorbet- it's fresh, delicious, and light- as well as extremely easy to make.

For the Sorbets:

1 1/4 cups simple syrup
6 cups raspberries
1/4 cup water

Puree raspberries and water in blender and pour through fine mesh strainer. Push down on liquid to extract all of the puree. Discard solids. Place puree in freezer until very cold. Combine puree and syrup and freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.

1 1/4 cups simple syrup
2 cups fresh pineapple puree
1/4 cup water

Place pineapple and water in blender and puree. Strain through sieve, discard solids. Place puree in freezer until very cold. Combine puree and simple syrup and freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.

1 1/4 cups simple syrup
2 cups orange juice

Squeeze oranges over a fine mesh sieve until you have sufficient juice. Place juice in freezer until very cold. Combine puree and simple syrup and freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.

For the simple syrup:

Combine 2 cups water and 2 cups sugar in a medium sauce pan. Place over medium heat until mixture is boiling and sugar is fully dissolved (about 10 minutes).

Place in the freezer until very cold.

To assemble the terrine:

Line pan with a layer of plastic wrap. Allow plastic wrap to hang over edges of pan at least a couple of inches.

After sorbet has been made in ice cream maker (it will firm up more after being place in the freezer), use an offset spatula to spread first layer of sorbet in a loaf pan or similar rectangular pan. Place in freezer for at least 3 hours. Next, layer next sorbet flavor in same manner. Freeze again for 3 hours. Layer last sorbet and freeze for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

Pint of Pineapple sorbet!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Hello Kitty Cupcakes- "Pink Velvet" Stuffed with White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

You could not have imagined my excitement when I first found the perfect Hello Kitty cookie cutter in the Little Tokyo area of Downtown L.A. I finally had the reason to use it to create these edible kitty heads out of gum paste to top this girly, fun cupcake.

The cupcake flavor is "pink velvet" and was made from a recipe I found off of this blog. I had tried a couple of pink velvet cupcake recipes using buttermilk and cocoa powder, but the color was consistently off, so I decided to go for this version, which is more like a white chocolate flavored pound cake. Each cupcake is stuffed with white chocolate cheesecake filling and raspberry sauce, and then topped with raspberry buttercream. Since these cupcakes have several steps and the cheesecake takes a few hours to set, I would recommend making the cheesecake the night before you bake and assemble the cupcakes.

For the Pink Velvet Cupcakes:

* 8 ounces imported white chocolate, chopped
* 1/4 cup heavy cream
* 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
* 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
* 1 1/3 cups sugar
* 4 large eggs
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
* 1 cup half and half
* Rose or pink gel food coloring as desired for correct color

Heat 1/4 cup heavy cream in small saucepan over medium-low heat until sides bubble. Remove from heat and stir in chopped chocolate until fully melted and combined. Set aside.

Sift dry ingredients together and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar. Once light and fluffy, add eggs one at a time. Add extracts and food coloring. Add in dry ingredients, alternating with half and half- be careful to not overmix. Fold in white chocolate ganache mixture.

Fill each cupcake liner about 2/3 full and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, or until cake springs back to the touch.

For the Cheesecake filling (recipe adapted from Paula Deen's recipe)

* 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
* 1/3 cup sugar
* 3 large eggs
* 1/2 cup sour cream
* 10 ounces fine white chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a 9-inch round baking pan with aluminum foil, letting edges of foil extend over sides of pan. Lightly grease the foil.

In large bowl, beat cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add sugar, beating until smooth. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in white chocolate. Fold in sour cream last. Bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, open oven door for 30 seconds and close again. Leave cheesecake in for another 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool and then place in refrigerator to finish setting.

For the Raspberry Sauce:
3 cups fresh raspberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cornstarch

Puree 2 1/2 cups fresh raspberries in a blender. Strain with fine mesh sieve to remove seeds. Set aside 1/3 of a cup for frosting.

Place remaining puree, 1 tsp corn starch, 1/2 cup fresh whole raspberries and 1/4 cup sugar in a small saucepan. Place over low-medium heat until fully combined and slightly thickened (about 5-7 minutes).

For the Raspberry Buttercream
3 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/3 cup raspberry puree
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Cream butter and powdered sugar together, adding in puree slowly. Allow mixer to run 2-3 minutes to ensure smooth consistency. Add in heavy whipping cream and additional pink food coloring, if a darker shade is desired.

To assemble:

Once cupcakes are fully cooled (it helps to refrigerate them after they've cooled a bit out of the oven), core the center of each one out. Pour about a tsp of raspberry sauce into the core. Next, fill the core with a couple of spoons of cheesecake filling, pushing down on the filling with a spoon or wax paper. I highly recommend using wax paper or parchment paper to press in the filling because it's sticky and hard to press in otherwise. Top the cupcakes with another spoonful of raspberry sauce. Last, frost the cupcakes with the raspberry buttercream and top with Hello Kitty heads/pink sprinkles.

To make the Hello Kitty Cupcake Toppers:

I used gum paste because I was not in the mood to make a batch of marshmallow fondant. If you have a Hello Kitty cookie cutter, it makes this step MUCH easier. Otherwise, you can trace a picture of Hello Kitty onto a piece of wax paper and cut out the fondant with a paring knife. Once the Hello Kitty heads are cut, set aside and allow to dry by placing them on a flat container loosely covered with wax or parchment paper (it's best if you make the heads a night or two before, so that they have sufficient time to dry).

I used AmeriColor edible food pens to draw on Hello Kitty's face and bow. You should allow them to dry after coloring for at least 30 minutes.