Sunday, August 30, 2009
Specifically, I'm talking about the raw food diet. Arguably less of a diet than a lifestyle, "raw foodists" consume only uncooked, unprocessed, often all organic foods. While raw diet foods can be warmed to a temperature of less than 104 degrees, the idea is that all foods are served uncooked to preserve the highest possible level of naturally occurring nutrients and to keep digestive enzymes intact. Having read that last sentence, like me you're probably wondering how BAKED goods could possibly fall within the realm of options under a diet that does not allow food to be cooked. But two new books, Raw for Dessert by Jennifer Cornbleet and Ani's Raw Food Desserts by Ani Phyo, tell us that incorporating simple, healthy, delicious and raw desserts into our diet is simple! Cookies, brownies, even cheesecakes!
I'm still skeptical.
While I'm all for retaining nutrients and think it's unfortunate that so much nutritional value can be lost in the cooking and preservation process, I'm just not convinced that vitamins and minerals are usually what we're concerned with while we're downing that brownie sundae. Additionally, what you gain in nutrition you may lose in value. In order to warm your "baked" goods into anything resembling a cookie, brownie, etc. you'll need a food dehydrator. Cost? Anywhere from $50-$200 depending on the level you select. Also, in order to substitute for items like milk and eggs, most raw dessert recipes call for uncommon and expensive ingredients like agave nectar, carob powder, or cacao butter. However, some of the raw dessert blogs I've come across in my research look downright delicious so I'm trying to keep an open mind on this one, but I'll probably just stick to sorbet next time I'm looking for a raw dessert.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Flipping through the tome of Martha Stewart Cupcakes I'd received for my birthday, eagerly deciding which recipe I should pick to take the plunge into the 175 (Yes, 175) recipes, I happened to stumble across one for Roasted Banana Cupcakes with Honey-Cinnamon Frosting. Bingo! At first I thought "Roasted Banana" was simply the name of the recipe but, reading on, Martha does in fact call for you to actually roast the fruit. Don't worry, there are no spits or fire pits involved, simply placing unpeeled bananas into a 400 degree oven to enhance the flavors. Similarly to roasting almonds or hazelnuts (which, admittedly, I often skip in recipes) you'd be surprised how much a shot of heat really increases the taste.
Lately I'm also a really big fan of nontraditional frosting combinations, and I think that cinnamon-honey does a lot more for this cupcake than a typical vanilla or even cream cheese would. Because the cake recipe itself doesn't call for any spices, the cinnamon in the frosting makes it just slightly reminiscent of banana bread but in a modern way. Also because banana is a more neutral flavor, this would also be a good candidate for a filled cupcake (I just bought a Wilton #230 Bismarck Tip, stay tuned!) maybe with an apple cinnamon, or chocolate hazelnut filling, or something of that nature. I'm so glad I gave these cupcakes a whirl and I know they will definitely be on my recipe rotation from now on for whenever I have those pesky brown bananas hanging around.
Roasted Banana Cupcakes
3 ripe bananas, plus 1-2 more for garnish
2 cups cake flour, sifted
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners. Place 3 whole unpeeled bananas on a baking sheet and roast 15 minutes (the peels will darken). Meanwhile, sift together cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Remove bananas from oven and let cool before peeling. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
2. With a mixer on med-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. Add roasted bananas, and beat to combine. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of sour cream, and beating until just combined after each. Beat in vanilla.
3. In another mixing bowl, with mixer on medium speed, whisk egg shites to soft peaks; fold one-third whites into batter to lighten. Gently fold in remaining whites in two batches.
4. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a tester in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely before frosting, thinly slice remaining bananas and place atop cupcakes just before serving, if desired. Cupcakes can be stored up to 3 days at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.
Honey Cinnamon Frosting
2/12 cups powdered sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 Tbs honey
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat all ingredients until smooth. Use immediately, or refrigerate up to 5 days in an airtight container. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat until smooth.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
I blame Cupcake Avenger. After months of reading about my friend and fellow blogger's love for/obsession with baking (and sampling her wares with reckless abandon), I've officially caught the cupcake bug. They're all I can think about. I lust after them at lunchtime, and dream about Sunday brunch at DC cupcake hotspots. So when I was planning a weekend in Chicago, my first question, naturally, was, "who has the best cupcakes in the city?" With help from Hilary and the gals at @explorechicago I tracked down two locations with websites that made me drool.
First up was Molly's Cupcakes. Located in Chicago's trendy Lincoln Park neighborhood, Molly's is sweet tooth heaven. In addition to regular, center-filled, and build-your-own cupcakes, there are cookies, bars (it's a Midwest thing), and homemade ice cream. Oh, and cheesecake. It took me at least 15 minutes to decide on a center-filled mixed berry cupcake. The blueberry cake, purple frosting and raspberry blueberry filling tasted like an extra decadent blueberry muffin, and although the frosting had an almost unappealing, slimy consistency, I still couldn't get enough. The fun neighborhood and outdoor patio added to Molly's charm.
Tanya Brothen is a Minnesota native who began her travel blog, Parisian Spring, after moving to Paris while completing her Master's Degree in International Affairs. She is currently planning her next international excursion to Brussels, Belgium as a Presidential Management Fellow for the U.S. Department of State.