18 May 2009

Even Better Than at the Bakery -- Bakin' Gluten-Free, Vegan Babycakes at Home

From May 2009 photos

This lovely bit of dessert is a gluten-free vegan cupcake straight from the pages of the brand, spankin' new cookbook from Babycakes Bakery by Erin McKenna, Babycakes.

From May 2009 photos

I've never had such light and rich gluten-free cake in my life. Fresh out of the oven (OK, about 20 minutes out of the oven) the above cupcake was fantastic. It had a nutty flavor, most likely from the coconut oil, and a perfectly cakey texture.

The gluten-free flour used in the cupcakes was garbanzo-fava bean flour. I had never used it in baking, but was very satisfied with the results. The one thing that is a mystery to me is why they should be stored in the refrigerator. Doesn't putting baked goods in the refrigerator dry them out?

Notes on the frosting: It was a little sour for my liking. I probably would only use 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice next time. Also, I don't use vanilla extract, which is why you see the vanilla seeds in my foods. In the photo above, I used the frosting prior to it's full setting, so it would be more of a glaze than a thick frosting because I wanted to really taste the cupcake. However, I plan to use it thickly on cupcakes later in the week. I'd really like to make it a filling and frosting because I enjoy surprises. ;)

The publisher was kind enough to allow me to republish the recipes for the cupcakes and frosting, so please go try these. They're worth the effort.

Vanilla Cupcakes from Babycakes

Makes 24 cupcakes (my yield was 12 large cupcakes and 34 mini cupcakes)

2 cups garbanzo-fava bean flour
1 cup potato starch
1/2 cup arrowroot
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup coconut oil
1 1/3 cups agave nectar
3/4 cup homemade applesauce (in the book on page 78) or store-bought unsweetened applesauce
3 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 cup hot water
Vanilla frosting (recipe follows)

Directions: (in my style, not theirs, although the language is theirs completely)

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 standard 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, potato starch, arrowroot, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, and salt.
3. Add the oil, agave nectar, applesauce, vanilla, and lemon zest to the dry ingredients and combine.
4. Stir in the hot water and mix until the batter is smooth.
5. Pour 1/3 cup batter into each prepared cup, almost filling it. Bake the cupcakes on the center rack for 22 minutes rotating the tins 180 degrees after 15 minutes (It took mine 27 minutes, and my oven temperature is accurate.) The finished cupcakes will be golden brown and will bounce back when pressure is applied gently to the center.
6. Let the cupcakes stand in the tins for 20 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack and cool completely.
7. Using a frosting knife, gently spread 1 tablespoon vanilla frosting over each cupcake. Store the cupcakes in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Vanilla Frosting/Vanilla Sauce

Frosts 24 cupcakes.


1 1/2 cups unsweetened soy milk
3/4 cup dry soy milk powder (I used Better Than Milk.)
1 tablespoon coconut flour
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups coconut oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


1. In a blender or a food processor, combine the soy milk, soy powder, coconut flour, agave nectar and vanilla.
2. Blend the ingredients for 2 minutes.
3. With the machine running, slowly add the oil and lemon juice, alternating between the two until both are fully incorporated.
4. Pour the mixture into an airtight container and refrigerate for 6 hours or up to 1 month. (If you plan to use it as a sauce, store the miture at room temperature for up to 1 week.)

The preceding recipes are courtesy of Babycakes, by Erin McKenna and published by the wonderful Clarkson Potter/Publishers in New York.

Please let me know how yours turn out!

16 May 2009

You Know You've Made It When...

You end up in Forbes magazine.

I'll be reviewing the new Babycakes cookbook as well very soon. Have been a big fan of the bakery for years, so I was especially happy to see the new book.(The links all lead to pages on my Here and There blog that show Babycakes baked goods.) Stay tuned!

11 May 2009

Product Review: Agave-nectar Sweetened Krazy Ketchup

From May 2009 photos

It seems I have become the unofficial taste tester for agave nectar sweetened ketchups. It's not a bad gig. It just means I have to keep ketchup-worthy items in the fridge or freezer. Or, I could surreptitiously carry a sample-sized container of the stuff with me to the diner down the street and order a plate of fries to try with it. Oh yeah, and try not to attract attention as I pull my camera out of my purse to shoot photos of the fries and said ketchup. Hmmmm.

The star of this post isn't your typical tomato-paste, sweetener, and spices ketchup. Check out the ingredients:

Organic tomato puree (organic tomato paste, water, salt), organic agave nectar, organic butternut squash puree, organic carrot puree, organic sweet potato puree, organic spices, and citric acid.

I love that Laila and Erin, the founders of Krazy Ketchup used all organic squash, sweet potato, and carrot puree in their ketchup. It's really tasty stuff. I hope the stores start carrying it around here because it presents a fun way to get your kids to eat vegetables they might otherwise scoff at on their plates.

From May 2009 photos

Speaking of plates, as in all my ketchup taste tests, I'm using a tater-tot-like potato product to keep all the comparisons apple to apple. However, this time, I added a little horseradish to the ketchup in a separate, tiny ramekin to see if it would make a good spicy dip. In fact, the Krazy Ketchup does make a very good spicy dip/cocktail sauce. I can't wait to try this on other foods. I'd bet it would make an awesome barbeque sauce with some help from a few other choice ingredients.

From May 2009 photos

The texture is thick, but not pasty. It's a little on the sweet side, with notes of the squash and sweet potato. But you really have to be looking for it to determine exactly what the flavor is. Overall, I'd say this is very close to my favorite (Wholemato), but since it's targeted to kids, I can understand why it's a bit on the sweet side.

On the other hand, I'm sure that I've become sensitized to sweet foods because I've minimized my intake of sugars so much since I started using agave nectar a few years ago. But, you should decide for yourself. Try Krazy Ketchup and let me know what you think.

06 May 2009

The Agave Nectar Police

I'm taking a very brief break from writing a final paper due on Monday to update Altered Plates with a rant yet again about all the misinformation on agave nectar out there on the Web. This stuff whips me up into a frenzy for a variety of reasons, but I'll get to that later.

There's another article out on the Web that talks about agave nectar being the same as high-fructose corn syrup. It also says that high fructose equals triglycerides, which it doesn't. (I've been using agave nectar for years and have very healthy triglycerides, thank you very much.) People have been picking up this article and republishing it on their sites or linking to it from their sites.

It just burns me up that some people who have Web sites or blogs continue to take a single (misinformed) source and make it gospel. It saddens me further that some people have lost the ability to research information thoroughly. For instance, where are the studies that say agave nectar is in any way like high fructose corn syrup, which is processed in all kinds of ways to make it chemically more fructose-heavy. For that matter, where are the studies and research that say agave nectar is harmful?

And, when I say studies, I mean studies not sponsored by agave nectar producers or corn producers, or any food producer for that matter. I want to see large-scale, well-researched studies that show significant results. Yes, I understand that statistics can be manipulated to say all kinds of things, but reputable studies also include the raw data in their results, and those numbers tell the real story.

If people would just take responsibility for themselves and what they put into their bodies and stop blaming the ingredients they use (or don't use because they've only read one source of information that doesn't provide any substantive research to back up their assertions), this all would become a non-issue and I could stop being the agave nectar police.


OK, so why does this get under my skin so much? Well, John and I were talking about it this morning and it's clear that there are people who are just plain lazy. Not too long ago, when I was a working journalist, I would spend weeks researching material for articles. Part of that process included collecting all the opinions and facts on a topic that could be had, not just the ones that supported the hypothesis of the story. I welcome opposing opinions that are based on fact, especially those with supporting arguments that are sound. Bring 'em on.

However, this business of taking one source -- one misinformed source -- and recycling it on a page/site is worse than doing nothing at all with the information. It means that the information is seen as having value, and increasingly more people in those circles will do the same thing. Then, we have a trend based on false information that just causes more problems.

I really don't like being the agave nectar police, but sometimes you just have to stand for something or else you will fall for everything. I say that in the voice of my friend Jerome who died on Sunday. He probably would have enjoyed this because he was diabetic and tried agave nectar for the first time at my house during a lively breakfast of waffles and fake sausage and bacon.

I also don't enjoy using Altered Plates as a soap box, but this blog focuses on the use of agave nectar instead of other sweeteners, so it's on topic. But, I'd rather focus on the food. So, in memory of Jerome, who was a very good person, please do your part and stand for something. If you see someone's site spreading misinformation of any kind, leave a comment. They may not approve it, but at least you will have tried.

03 May 2009

Snappy Vegan, Gluten-Free Ginger Cookies

From May 2009 photos

The original recipe for these snappy vegan, gluten-free ginger cookies comes from Elena's Pantry. I did a little noodling to the original recipe, but in the future, I'll probably do a little more because they were a bit oily for my taste.

The original didn't list the yield, but I was able to get 36 2.5-inch round cookies. They are definitely best on the day they're made, after they have cooled. I brought them to John's cousin's on Friday evening, after I had made them that afternoon. At that point they were still snappy. The following morning, they weren't.

My guess is that the oil content is too high. I also didn't use yacon syrup, but just agave instead. Either way, I'll noodle a bit more with these to get them right because I like ginger snaps.

Here are my alterations:

1. Used regular almond flour instead of blanched almond flour (not sure what difference that would make).
2. Added 1 teaspoon Pensey's Cake Spice to the dry ingredients.
3. Substituted the yacon syrup for more agave nectar.
4. Spaced my cookies pretty far apart because they looked like they would spread (I was right, they did).
5. Between the final mixing and the scooping onto baking sheets, I refrigerated my batter for 30 minutes to try to help with the wetness.

I'm sure with a little coconut flour, these will turn out just fine.