His vegan cupcakes are magic. No, better than magic. Because with magic, there’s always a trick up your sleeve, something you don’t always reveal. But my new friend Todd was willing, no, eager, to share and to teach. I promise you’d never ever know these were vegan cupcakes. No milk, no eggs, no butter. And no worries… we baked many a confection with plenty of animal solids. I’ll post more later, when my sugar coma has passed, and I’m finally off the elliptical. Okay, that was a lie. There is no elliptical. But I will write more later…
The recipe for the cupcakes is straight out of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, though be sure to use Valrhona cocoa powder–it’s high-quality, which is a must for something like these. For the ganache on top, he used vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips from Whole Foods, organic maple syrup, and organic soy milk. Seriously, these were outstanding.
Lately I’ve been wanting to learn to at least bake a few things really well–confections I could master, then bring to someone’s home for a special occasion. I want to learn to bake flourless chocolate souffle cupcakes, to bring Lucas and Abigail’s teachers for passover, a certain apple tart for Roshashonna, just to try a few things to warm the homes of my neighbors and friends. And there’s a certain calm that comes over me when I’m rolling dough, or pressing it into a tart pan with the heel of my hand. Then seeing the faces of my children light up, their eyes widening, "For me, mama?" I suppose it’s why we often bring baked goods when a new neighbor moves in. There’s a comfort to it.
When Todd offered to walk me through baking the Warm Mocha Tart from Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet, I actually started to clap and might have jumped. "I’m just so excited! Thank you." Confession: I’ve never been one to make my own pie crust. It scares me. I think it’s to do with the time I tried and I literally had to scrape it off my countertops… with a razor. But this wasn’t pie crust… it was shortbread. This, I could do.
Let me say now that I fancy myself a cook, not a baker. I’ve never wanted anything to do with a system that called for 2 Tbl. minus 1/8 of a tsp. Seriously? That’s way too precise for this ad lib girl. But I realized this weekend, when baking with an actual scientist, he was less precise than I’d ever been. As long as I can remember, my mother was always leveling off measuring cups of flour with the back of a steak knife. She was so exact. But, he we were measuring the flour inside the bag! Using the inside walls of the bag to level! Shit, I can do this! And I did.
As the filling (butter, sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, and heavy cream) came to a simmer on the stove top, I turned to his wife and said, "It smells like childhood in here. Like mothers and everything you wanted your home to smell like on a snow day." Totally. This is what you bake when you want your home to smell like sleigh rides. Last, I whisked in Medaglia d’Oro instant espresso powder and vanilla extract. Once the crust was ready, a large beaten egg was whisked into the chocolate (no tempering needed!), then he opened the over, and poured the filling into the crust, while it was still in the oven. That was the hardest part. You turn off the oven, but keep the tart inside for about ten to twelve minutes. This mocha tart might just be my favorite dessert, ever. And it’s not even hard. It is, without question, worth it. The crust is crisp perfection, as if passed over a bakery counter in Paris. I’m running out today to stock up on all the baking must-haves.