D’oh! Nuts!

March 19, 2017

I had never really been a huge fan of doughnuts/donuts.  Sure, if a box happened to appear at work – as was a near-daily occurrence at a different job, what feels like a lifetime ago – I was happy to grab one and continue reviewing commodity codes on a sugar high.  But they never really excited me in one of those oh-boy-gotta-have-one ways.  They have a tendency to go stale quickly (particularly when stored in their original, not-airtight boxes), or else melt and ooze glaze all over the place.  That’s not to say I don’t still consume the odd one today; I just do so much more judiciously than the Witty Child of yore.

When a new, “gourmet” donut shop opened up a block or so from my office, despite the buzz of excitement from my coworkers, I remained at first impervious.  It was nearly two months before I made my first trek over.  Lemon meringue?  Chocolate-peanut butter cup?  This wasn’t your parbaked Tim’s fare.  They were certainly delicious, but at $3 or $4 each, were definitely a treat.  And so I more or less regained my immunity to their siren song, at least until the day I decided to go for a walk and found the shop boasting a vegan yeast donut with a root beer glaze.

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Who would have known that something so deceptively simple could be so good?!  Words can’t describe it.  This is a full-on-Snuffles-float, lick-the-glaze-off-your-fingers-until-they-turn-pruny delight.

Naturally, I decided I had to try to recreate these.

I’m not a fan of deep-frying (or, let’s be honest, pan-frying) at home due to the inherent chance of setting the kitchen alight, and also because everything in the house will smell like nasty fried oil after.  Fully aware of this self-imposed limitation, I was pleased to find a recipe for baked donuts in Chloe Coscarelli’s Chloe’s Vegan Desserts.

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The batter came together really quickly, which I loved, and baked quickly, too.  However, I’m starting to suspect I’m not such a fan of baked donuts due to their propensity for getting distinctly darker on the bottom (think muffin bottom vs. muffin top).  The recipe also called for way too much nutmeg which made them smell suspiciously like a baked ham as they cooked, but that can easily be altered if I make them again.

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But ah, it’s all about the glaze, isn’t it?  My stockpile of root beer extract from Watkins came in handy, and let me double-dip these bad boys.  Hands down, the best part of the donut!

As always, thanks for looking! 🙂

So, recently I had been part of a project at work informally known as the “Blackout Blitz”.  In all fairness, its name comes from its ties to production quotas and inter-departmental deadlines; however, from the very beginning, it made me think simultaneously of the Blitz of WWII and of the blackout drills held during the war.  Hardly unusual, given the name.

(This raises an important question: why do so many people glorify the WWII era?  I do it, too, but why?  I’m perfectly able to wear oxfords and listen to big band music today, but without all the hassles of rationing, polio, wartime casualties, the marginalization of women and minorities…  I can only chalk it up to there being a heckuva spin doctor there somewhere, who made the whole damned thing seem so glamourous and wholesome.  And, let’s face it, the Bomb Girls of the eponymous television series seemed to know how to make a blackout drill a real gas.)

Needless to say, by the time my mom’s birthday was approaching, I had blackouts and blitzes on the brain, and so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that for her cake, I decided to duplicate Ebinger’s Bakery’s famous Brooklyn Blackout Cake.

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I turned to Chloe Coscarelli’s Chloe’s Vegan Desserts for the basic how-to and for the killer chocolate pudding to slather between layers and all over the outside – and was I ever excited when the mixture smoothed and thickened exactly as it was supposed to! – but deferred to Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World for the cake portion.  Their Basic Chocolate Cupcake recipe is moist and foolproof, and with the addition of black cocoa powder to make it extra-dark and rich, there was no going wrong.

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I was concerned that the step of pulsing part of the cake in the food processor to make crumbs to be sprinkled on top would detract somehow from the finished product, but au contraire!  They only add to the chocolatey goodness.

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Moist chocolate cake sandwiching rich chocolate pudding?  Sign me up!

Thanks for looking! 🙂

The Boy Scouts were RIGHT!

January 8, 2017

Is it just me, or does January seem interminable thus far?  It’s cold, it’s miserable, and there are no holidays from work until April…ugh!  While discussing the molasses-in-January (ha!) qualities of the calendar with my friend, I realized something: when it first became cold and snowy in December, I would think, “Well, December’s already [1/4, 1/2, 3/4] done.  It’ll be spring before we know it!”  January is not moving along nearly so quickly, and I joked that perhaps if I started trying desperately to get Christmas gifts finished now, the month would be gone before I knew it.  That has to be what made December so fast!

With thought rattling around my mind, I decided that since I had had such a positive reaction to my Craftmas series of posts this year and last, I should document:

The Witty Child’s Tips for a Successful Craftmas*

*(or festive occasion of your choosing; really, these can be applied to almost anything)

  1. Be prepared – that is to say, have a plan.  I don’t want to go all life-coach on you and chirp that “failing to plan is planning to fail”, but doing a little pre-Craftmas brainstorming will prevent a lot of stress later on.  Think about whom you wish to bestow crafty goodness upon, as well as what that crafty goodness might be, and make sure you’re going to have enough time/money/supplies to make it happen.  If you spend a third of your life asleep, and a third of your waking hours at work, time is a precious commodity.  You don’t want to start trying to hand-knit scarves for your list of 45 on December 2.  All the faux-sick days in the world won’t help you there.
  2. Reconsider your Christmas list.  I used to stitch up little pictures for my Avon lady, but after not…getting…much feedback (I didn’t expect gushing tears of thanks, but even a quick, “Oh, that was cute!” would have been nice), she now gets a thoughtful storebought gift, and my crafty time gets invested elsewhere.  Make sure your intended recipients are going to fully appreciate your mad skills.
  3. Reconsider your idea of crafty.  If someone on your list might not appreciate the blood, sweat, and tears that go into a Real Project (see #2), might a tin of homemade cookies or candy go over just as well?  Consumables are always nice because there’s no pressure to wear/display/utilize constantly, and as a bonus, they can come together fairly quickly – perfect for those of us who skip Tip #1.  A group of coworkers got gift boxes packed with monster cookies and Cuban Lunch candies, and were thrilled to find these care packages on their desks.
  4. Realize that things can change, and be prepared for plans to go awry.  If you’ve grossly underestimated how long it’s going to take you to finish a project, or you get slammed with a spate of last-minute invitations that you can’t pass up, things might not get done as you had planned.  Don’t sweat it.  Depending on the person/project, you can always try to postpone your gift swap, make an “I.O.U. one gift” coupon, or procure a backup gift and quietly tuck away your handmade project to be finished in time for next year.
  5. Learn from your mistakes.  This sort of hearkens back to Tip #1, in that you can do a post-mortem and make appropriate changes in next year’s plan.  Didn’t get the response you hoped for?  Found yourself super-stressed and pressed for time?  By knowing what worked and what didn’t, you’ll (hopefully) prevent undue stress going forward.
  6. Have fun with it!  After all, it’s the thought that counts, and you’re crafting/baking/creating because you like these people and want to do something nice for them.  No one should feel bad when this is over!

I hope that you guys find these tips at least vaguely useful – and I hope I take my own advice and start in on Tip #1!  😉

Thanks for looking!

I haven’t done a ton of baking lately (including a “gee-but-I-really-wanted-to” Halloween treat), fixated as I have been on Christmas crafting, but a dear friend celebrated his birthday last week and I thought it was time to get off my heinie and get baking!  This is somebody who, if you ask him, will request vanilla over chocolate every (every, every) time – and although I don’t have a problem with that, it’s been done.  There’s just not a lot you can do with that.  I still didn’t want to do the rather obvious chocolate option, however, so I put my thinking cap on.  And, inspired by the best! freaking! donut! I have ever eaten, I came up with…drumroll….root beer float cupcakes.

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In a nod to his usual preference, I used the basic vanilla cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and substituted in root beer extract instead of vanilla.  Shocking, right?  I had initially planned on a vanilla buttercream frosting to mimic the ice cream found in a float, but I was worried the root beer flavour wouldn’t carry through, so that is root beer buttercream gracing those beauties.

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…because he is!

Waiting for a wish:

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De-papered and -candled, and ready to eat:

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I like that these are kind of like stealth cupcakes…to the casual observer, they could almost pass for an unassuming vanilla – they’re only oh-so-slightly less white – but pack a flavour wallop when you bite in!  In fact, the birthday boy didn’t even question what they were when I first dished one up.  It wasn’t until he was about halfway through that he looked up and asked, “What is this?  It tastes almost fizzy!”  I don’t know about fizzy, but like a favourite soda?  Absolutely!

Thanks for looking!

At the risk of sounding like a crazy cat lady, Saturday was my cat’s birthday.  I’m not the best cat-mom when it comes to remembering stuff like that; in the eight years that I’ve had her, I think I’ve only remembered once before this.  But hey, my bad parenting/sieve-like memory doesn’t mean she shouldn’t have a fabulous celebratory cake, right?  The stars were aligned: it was a long weekend and I had icing sugar in the house.  And truthfully, I had been looking for an excuse to do up something like this, and what better reason than a birthday?

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Say, that looks tall.  How many layers did you say it was, again?

I didn’t, but: six.

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Proof that “vegan” ≠ “healthy”.  I used the basic vanilla cupcake recipe from VCTOTW, doubled it, and divided it amongst six bowls to tint each one separately.  You definitely don’t want to attempt this if you have a serious aversion to artificial colours – but my theory is, as long as the majority of my diet isn’t neon-coloured, a piece of cake now and then isn’t going to kill me.  I made a huge batch of the fluffy buttercream frosting recipe from the same book, and barely had enough to finish the cake.  Even though each layer is only 6″ across, it still used a lot!

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The birthday girl was somewhat intrigued by this candy-coloured confection, but quickly lost interest and resumed the nap from which she had been so rudely awakened.  Hey, more for me!

I’m not sure if I’d try this again.  It’s not difficult, just a bit fiddly, and is a bear to store as none of my cake-takers are tall enough to house it.  But I can cross “rainbow layer cake” off my baking bucket list.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

I try very hard to adhere to my Birthday Cake Rule (longtime readers, you know what I’m talking about!), but every so often, a wrench gets thrown into the works.  Take my dad’s July birthday; the first thought that popped into my head was, “Ugh, it’s too darned hot to bake!”

(In all fairness, I had that same thought last year and took what I thought was an easy out by ordering an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen.  Their regular decorator was on vacation – though no one told us this when we special-ordered it a week in advance – and the resulting dessert fell firmly into the “can’t-sleep-clown-will-eat-me” nightmare category.  But hey, all cats are grey in the dark, right?)

To my credit, I had a plan this year.  I had made the Peanut Butter Cup Icebox Cake from the Brown Eyed Baker for Father’s Day, and it was a resounding success.  Chocolate and peanut butter appear to be the way to his heart – so why not make it again?

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I’ve started to think of this as my “cardio cake” (which is really stretching to make something sound far healthier than it really is): because the instructions indicate that each layer needs to chill in the fridge while the next one is prepared, and because there’s never a 9 x 13″ chunk of spare real estate in the upstairs fridge, I had to keep running it down to the basement fridge for its solitary confinement and then back down to retrieve it when I was ready to proceed.

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But was it worth it?  Just look at those layers of chocolate-peanut butter-y goodness!

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It does generate a lot of dishes – and necessitates the dirtying of that clunky monster, the food processor – but for a cool and creamy finish to your meal, you could do a lot worse!

As always, thanks for looking! 🙂

Happy Canada Day!

July 1, 2016

I think the name says it all – and I hope everyone is enjoying the day off!  (I know I am.)

I knew I wanted to bake something, but the question was: “What?”  I didn’t want to mess around with Nanaimo bars and all their layers, and butter tarts evoked a “been-there-done-that” response in me.

Ultimately, I decided on this:

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I’ve always been drawn to those American flag cakes done with blueberries and strawberries, but knew if I tried that I’d wind up with a terribly unbalanced fruit load, with some slices being covered in berries and others with none at all (and my poor maple leaf would likely come out looking all Picasso-esque).  Some simple coloured sugar made an excellent substitution, because who cares if they get or don’t get a little sugar?  It’s strictly decorative, with no real effect on the flavour of the cake.

But make no mistake; this is no ordinary cake with a handful of sugar tossed artfully on top.

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Ta-dah!  Poke cake!  Little rivulets of cherry Jell-o run through it, livening up the otherwise basic white cake considerably.  The test audience seems to approve wholeheartedly.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy long weekend – thanks for looking!

Did everybody have a great Mother’s Day?  It took me longer than usual this year to come up with a cohesive gift/meal plan, but luckily that all fell into place within the last week or so.

My original intention had been to make the Tiramisu Pancakes from Chloe’s Vegan Desserts, but then I saw the IHOP commercial touting their new Cupcake Pancakes and Red Velvet Crepes, and darn it, I was moved.  The nearest location to me that doesn’t require a passport still requires an overnight bag, so it was time to take matters into my own hands:

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Behold: Confetti Pancakes, courtesy of the plain pancake recipe from Vegan With a Vengeance plus a handful of sprinkles thrown into the batter.  (Note that “plain” is a bit of a misnomer; the batter has cinnamon and maple syrup and vanilla in it for flavour before my own addition, and is wickedly delicious.)  And yes, that’s blueberry syrup drizzled on top.

My Birthday Cake Theory extends to Mother’s Day as well, so I whipped up a batch of chocolate cupcakes from VCTOTW last night and decorated them this morning.  Now, as I’ve gotten older and less cute, I’ve been replaced by a furry, four-legged little sibling, and he provided me with decoration-inspiration.

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It’s like looking into a decorating gel-covered mirror.

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He’s really quite impressed by this homage.

Also:

 

 

Thanks for looking!

Because it’s 2016

April 21, 2016

I should preface this by saying that back before the federal election last October, I had had visions of baking cupcakes inspired by each of the three major parties, and holding an informal “election” at work.  Life and stuff got in the way, and it never happened.  (That’s okay; I think this was fueled primarily by a latent desire of mine to make Harvey Wallbanger cupcakes, dubious motivation at best.)  Fast-forward six months, and with the victor clearly apparent, I had my work cut by 2/3.  Score one for procrastination!

Some time ago, I had tried the Black Velvet Cupcake recipe in Hannah Kaminsky’s Vegan Desserts.  It was a neat idea, using blackberry puree for colour and flavour not normally found in pedestrian red velvet recipes, but didn’t work so well in its execution.  The blackberries commercially available in grocery stores taste like absolutely nothing, yielding black-ish, flavourless cakes.

For whatever reason, a thought had been brewing for the past few weeks: why not substitute raspberries for the blackberries, and have an all-natural red velvet without all the Red #40?

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Clearly, Red #40 exists for a reason, because these don’t quite rock the vivid crimson I was hoping for.  However (and this is a big however), the raspberry puree pairs wonderfully with the hint of cocoa for a chocolate-raspberry dessert that doesn’t taste like sugary Torani syrup.

It just goes to show: Better is always possible.

I have just this to say: lousy Smarch weather!  Things were melting and thawing, darn it, and then whammo, enough snow on March 16 to make things look distinctly Christmassy.  Oh, I’ll admit, it was pretty, but getting snow in my shoes walking through the parking lot to work?  Not so much fun.

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That’s okay.  I keep telling myself it will melt.  It will melt.

What better way to stave off snow-induced shock than with a hearty vegetarian chili and hot biscuits?

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This is the Vegetarian Chickpea Chili from Sweet Potato Chronicles, and oh, my word.  Now, I haven’t eaten meat-based chili in forever, but in my totally out-of-touch opinion, the pearl barley gives it this lovely, meaty, chewy texture.  It definitely provides a fun twist on the standard cans-of-beans vegetarian chilis.  This recipe is super-hearty, and doubles wonderfully to feed a small army.

With miso in my fridge for the first time since I can remember, I had to make a batch of the Bettah Chettah Biscuits from The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes by Kris Holechek.

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Crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside…it doesn’t get much better than that!

(Kinda seems like a fair trade-off for the snow, no?)