When you're cooking, it's all about a dash of this and a splash of that. But baking is another matter, an exact science. In this series, we're going behind the bakery case and into the kitchens of some of Phoenix's finest purveyors of sweets (and some savories). Fresh out of culinary school, Chow Bella contributor Mabel Suen will work with local chefs to learn their tricks for making perfect pastries, baked goods and desserts. Stay tuned for findings once the flour settles.
The Baked Good: The Vegan Vanilla Cupcake The Chefs: Sisters Amanda and Corianne Sizemore The Place: Treehouse Bakery
Let's get one thing straight. Co-owners Corianne and Amanda Sizemore of the vegan-centric Treehouse Bakery aren't vegans.
Regardless of this surprising fact, the two sisters still choose to bake vegan -- even at home -- preferring the flavor and texture of vegan baked goods made with all-natural and organic ingredients to conventionally prepared ones.
A door chime clattered as I walked into their quiet shop, decorated with the kind of pleasing pink stripes that are so picturesque for small boutique bakeries. A recurring kawaii cupcake character giggled a wide grin everywhere from TB's outdoor sandwich board and business cards to the windows and walls.
In the kitchen, the sisters both wore feminine aprons decorated with more cute, pastel colored cupcakes. They took turns working on cake batters and green ninja Angry Birds made out of fondant for a birthday cake.
"It makes me really happy to make things for people who normally don't get to have things like this," says Corianne. "One time, we baked for a kid with dairy allergies. He was seven-years-old and never had a birthday cake because his mom didn't know how to bake."
Three years ago, Corianne started making "uncheesecakes" for a friend who had given up animal products and was having a hard time finding fulfilling things to eat. Many kitchen experiments and farmers' markets successes later, along with the establishment of a storefront this past April, the TB line of products has grown to include vegan cupcakes, cookies, pop tarts, muffins and pies.
To the Sizemores, the perfect vegan vanilla cupcake has a softer, lighter texture that is a little more fragile than a traditional cupcake. They are fluffy, moist without being soggy, and just sweet enough to satisfy cravings without inducing sugar comas.
The color of a good vegan cupcake is a pale golden shade and has a distinct flavor, unmasked by standard baking fats. Read on for their advice on how to achieve this qualities, and then try out the Treehouse Bakery vanilla cupcake recipe they've been gracious enough to offer up for the vegan or dairy intolerant friend in your life. Who knows? You might end up favoring it, too.
Terminology: Earth Balance is a great butter substitute. Flax seed is a common egg replacement and has the benefit of actually being good for you, too. Other common ingredients in vegan baking include vegetable shortening and almond milk, which often gets soured to resemble buttermilk with apple cider vinegar.
Technique/s: Sifting flour is essential to texture and will keep you from having lumps in the final product. Depending on temperature or humidity, flour can be very clumpy.
If you're making a conventional cake, you cream butter and sugar; whereas, vegan cupcakes are best assembled completely by hand, like so:
Tips & tricks: Read the recipe through before you start - twice! Use a measuring cup to pour batter into liners.
Troubleshooting: If batter gets overmixed, the product will fall and the texture will be tougher. It's a lot easier to overmix in a mixer than by hand. Exercise patience when preparing frostings. If you hurry it, it won't come out nearly as nice. Just let it go until it's been properly incorporated and aerated.
Recommended reads: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World
Try this at home:
Vanilla Cupcakes from Treehouse Bakery Makes 1 dozen
1 c almond milk 1 tsp apple cider vinegar 1.25 c all purpose flour ½ tsp baking soda ¾ tsp baking powder 1 tbsp arrowroot powder ¼ tsp sea salt ¾ c sugar 1/3 c canola oil 2 tsp vanilla extract 1/8 tsp almond extract
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Whisk milk and vinegar together. Let stand a few minutes. In a medium bowl, combine sugar, oil, extracts, and milk mixture. Whisk until frothy. In a smaller bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, arrowroot, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, whisk together until well combined. Pour batter into a lined cupcake pan, fill cavities ¾ full. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes.
See what else the The Baker's Lab has examined: Anatomy of a Brownie with Eileen Spitalny of Fairytale Brownies Anatomy of a Scone with Candy Lesher of Baci d'Amore