I had a particularly tough problem last week. As far as problems go it was a pretty mild one on the Problemo Meter. For most people getting hold of dessert is really the least of their problems and I can attest to that. For someone undergoing cancer treatment however, and on a special diet, just the right dessert at the right time can make their day.
The friend that I've been cooking for is having treatment for thyroid cancer and as a part of that treatment, has to follow a special restricted diet for about a month. He's normally a vegetarian and that's no problem as the diet the doctors have him on is a vegan diet... so far so good. It's a vegan diet however without soy, beans, spinach or any food high in iodine.
Almond milk is okay as a substitute for soy, but almond milk must be home-made from scratch. Coconut milk is fine, but not shredded coconut. You get the idea. The normal things that one usually uses in place of dairy are out since a lot of vegan substitutes include soy products. It can get tricky. I've been supplying him with all sorts of vegan Indian food since that's a lot of what we eat around here anyway. I'm not a vegan, but it just happens that a lot of the dishes I serve are vegan. The one thing that really stumped me however was dessert. What goes at the end of one of these meals?
And don't say an apple, or plain fruit. This guy is an athlete, an avid cyclist and he's not going to settle for fruit when they've taken his soy away. I made sorbet and he liked that but he was wanting pastry something awful. As Alan explained to me, "when a man wants cake....he wants cake dammit!" Alan suggested I make cupcakes for our friend, and when I asked him how he'd like that he said, I'd read his mind. Men, go figure. It turns out that cupcakes were the perfect dessert. He could pack a few with him when he visited his wife at the hospital, or when running errands. On a limited diet there would always be a bit of sweetness portable and close at hand.
So I made some chocolate cupcakes. And he loved them and ate them all. Then he wanted more, something different this time. Now I have a zillion vegetarian and vegan recipes but when it comes to stuff like cupcakes I'm a real one trick pony. After chocolate... I got nothin'.
So I did what anybody in need of anything would do. I went to Twitter and I asked if anyone had anything that would fit what I was looking for. Within minutes I had a response from The Duo Dishes,
Two great chefs from Los Angeles who had just what I was looking for, Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes.
Their recipe called for vegan "cream cheese" frosting which I was unable to make because all of the non dairy cream cheese I found contained soy. I decided I'd bypass the non-cream cheese and make a simple non-buttercream frosting with the Non Hydrogenated Organic Palm Shortening I was given to try buy my friends at Tropical Traditions.
The cupcakes were super easy to make and you can have a dozen of them ready to pop into your mouth in about an hour.
Here's what to do:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Fill a cupcake pan with cupcake papers.
In a measuring cup mix together:
1 cup of coconut milk
1 tsp of cider vinegar
In a large bowl mix together:
1 and 1/4 cups of flour
2 Tbs of cornstarch
1 tsp of cinnamon
3/4 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp of baking soda
1/2 tsp of kosher salt
In another bowl mix together:
1/3 cup of vegetable oil
3/4 cup of sugar
1 Tbs of vanilla extract
The zest of 1 orange
In a large bowl mix:
1 cup of Tropical Traditions Organic Palm shortening
1 and 1/2 cup of powdered sugar
1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
Whip it together with an electric or hand mixer until you have a thick "buttercream" style frosting. If you need to add a bit more powdered sugar for stiffing that's fine. I like my frosting less sweet so I use just enough to give it texture.
Now it's time to frost those cupcakes.
Sprinkle them with a few finely chopped fresh pistachios.
Serve them up.
Of course before these cupcakes could be delivered they had to be checked out by Alan, you know, to make sure they were up to snuff. I handed one to him... naturally he was worried about the whole "veganess" of them. He took a bite, I reached out to break off a piece, he pushed my hand away. I knew I had a winner.
I want to thank The Duo Dishes for such a killer recipe which I know is going to be a permanent fixture at our house, and my friend Paula Wolfert for lending me her Sassafrass La Cloche Bread Baker to help supply the non-iodine, artisanal bread I've been baking. Our friend has about 10 more days of the vegan/non soy diet before he can return to his regular vegetarian fare. I'm going to need a few more desserts, so if anyone out there can do me a solid and steer me in the direction of a few more treats it would be appreciated.
Coming up next, potatoes and lentils join together to deliver a great protein hit. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori