Friday, 7 June 2013

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

Oh, I meant it, all right. When I first tasted the brown sugar icing that adorns my spice cake, I was instantly reminded of chocolate chip cookie dough. And where there's icing, there's cake. It became my mission, and now I'm happy to say: mission accomplished.

This gorgeous chocolate is the star of these cupcakes.
Say hello to the most decadent cupcakes a vegan could reasonably ask for. We're talking about a brown sugar and vanilla cake flecked with chocolate shavings. We're talking about light, fluffy coconut cream. And we're definitely talking about chunks of raw cookie dough chock full of 70% dark chocolate. It really doesn't get much better than this.

Oh yeah, and did I mention they're delicious frozen, on a hot summer's day?

Now, I'm not going to lie: they're not everyday fare, because they're terribly rich. But if you're having a bunch of friends over who think that vegan dessert is pineapple, it will be very satisfying indeed to pull these out. (My omnivore, doesn't-even-eat-sweets roommate even came back for another.)

Chickpea flour is an awesome egg replacement in cakes.
The very first step, before anything else, is to stick a can of coconut cream (full-fat coconut milk) upside-down in the fridge, preferably the night before, but definitely a minimum of 6 hours before you plan to assemble the completed cupcakes.

So let's start out with the cake. I used a basic white cake recipe that I've been using for years, only I made it...err...brown. I replaced the white sugar with brown and used chickpea flour as an egg replacement--which, by the way, is my new favourite replacement. It doesn't taste like anything once baked (don't taste it raw, because it's foul). As an added bonus, if you're cooking vegan and gluten-free, chickpea flour is a gluten-free flour, so you can use it as a flour and an egg replacement all at once. (Whoa.) And it definitely beats flaxseed on an aesthetic level because it blends right in without leaving flecks, meaning flaxseed is no longer my top choice. There, I said it.

So basically, the thing to remember when you're trying to replicate chocolate chip cookie dough is that the main flavours are the molasses in the brown sugar and the vanilla extract. The chocolate part is easy. The tougher bit is making sure you've got the right balance of molasses and vanilla.If you don't have brown sugar, just use 1/2 tablespoon of blackstrap molasses per cup of golden cane sugar. (Since we're vegan, we're probably using less refined sugar anyway, but if you're using sugar that's totally white, go for a whole tablespoon of molasses.)

So I started by mixing my dry ingredients together, including the chickpea flour (it will do its thing once everything is mixed together). I set this aside, and then beat up my oil, sugars and vanilla.

Once I had a nice, fluffy sugar mixture, I added the water and flour mixture alternately and beat it until it was really well-blended. I could say that I beat the batter for 2 minutes like the recipes always tell you, but I respect you way too much to lie blatantly.

After the flour was worked in thoroughly, I put in my chocolate. Now, I chopped it super fine. You might even say that I practically powdered it. That's because I wanted the chocolate to really distribute evenly through the cupcakes, rather than creating such a prominent flavour in specific parts. You know when you bite into something and you get a big mouthful of chocolate? Awesome as that is, the star is not meant to be the cake; that's the cookie dough chunk!

I blended the chocolate in and once I had my batter ready, I put it in paper-lined muffin tins. I got 24 out of this recipe, to give you an idea of how full to fill them. Basically, I filled them about 2/3 to 3/4 full, at the very most, because I wanted to keep them small and cute. If they're overflowing and doing the muffin top thing, you probably filled them a little too full! (To be fair, a couple of mine did overflow a little!)

I baked them around 20 minutes, though it really depends on the oven, I find. Basically, test them with a toothpick and make sure it's coming out clean...except for the melted chocolate that you might end up with!

And how adorable are these polka-dotted muffin cups?!

Once my cupcakes were finished, it was time to move on to the cookie dough chunks. I would recommend leaving the coconut cream to the end, as it doesn't need to stand for any amount of time once it's whipped. On the other hand, you're going to want to stick the cookie dough chunks in the freezer for a while before you assemble the cupcakes.

The cookie dough is surprisingly simple to veganize. I mean, you don't need eggs, because you're not baking it, so you can just forgo that bit. The main ingredients are flour for thickening, brown sugar for flavour, Earth Balance for consistency and vanilla to round out the taste. That's about it. You don't even need baking soda. We're not baking them! It's that simple!

I basically made the dough as though I was actually making cookies, which meant starting by mixing the oil, sugar and vanilla. After that came the flour (and I added a tad of salt). If the dough ends up way too thick, you can always add a little water, but I found mine was just right. Once you're happy with the consistency, mix in the chocolate chunks. Here, I totally encourage you to have larger pieces of chocolate! Who doesn't want to bite into a chunk of chocolate in the cookie dough?!

Once the dough is ready and the chocolate mixed in, it's time to shape it! I went for dividing the dough into two, because it was easier for me to cut into twelve from there (for a total of 24 chunks). But you could also cut into 3 and then slice into 8, etc. Though the end pieces aren't as pretty, FYI. You may want less logs so you have less end pieces!

Yes, it does taste as good as it looks. Trust me.
In any case, you're going to roll each log until it's about 1 inch in diameter. From there, do your best to kind of flatten the ends so that they're not so tapered and more even-looking. I sliced my logs into 12 even rounds, so you end up with small discs of cookie dough. I placed them on a dinner plate and covered them to put them in the freezer while I finished the other log.
Sadly, I don't have the straightest eye. That means cutting into quarters first...
...and then cutting each into thirds. The result? 12 little chunks of delicious dough.
Now these are the perfect size to be putting on the top of a cupcake for a burst of cookie dough yumminess!
I put them on a plate and covered them, then put them in the freezer. You pretty much want them nice and cold (even frozen) before pushing them into the icing, or else your finger will go right through them!
Once your cookie dough chunks are in the freezer, the last step is to make the coconut cream as the frosting. You're going to take your can of full-fat coconut milk out of the fridge, turn it right-side-up, and open it. You may (or may not) find that there's quite a bit of liquid on the top, and you'll want to pour that off.

With the coconut solids, you'll want to scoop them out into a bowl (chilled is even better, but I used mine at room temperature) and beat them with your electric mixer until they're starting to get really fluffy. Add the sugar really gradually and whip until it looks thick like whipped cream. It will taste a little like whipped cream, too!

Before you assemble the cupcakes, you want to make sure the cake is nice and cool. Definitely don't rush the process of letting the cake reach room temperature, because the coconut cream will melt quite easily. If you have to wait a bit, make sure you put the coconut cream in the fridge, or else you'll have coconut goop!

To assemble them, take a cupcake and put about a tablespoon-sized dollop of coconut cream on the top and push it a little towards the edges, not quite covering the whole top and keeping a fairly thick layer. Then take one of your chilled or frozen cookie dough chunks and gently push down until you feel it touch the top of the cake. If there's not enough cream to more or less cover up to the sides of the chunk, then try a little more cream on the next one. (They should really sink in!) Repeat this with all of your cupcakes and you're all done! Chill (or even freeze) them before you serve them. They're really nice chilly treats, even totally frozen!

Bon appetit!

They look adorable and taste even better.
Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes

2¾ cups flour
½ cup chickpea (garbanzo) flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup Earth Balance shortening or spread
1 cup packed whole brown sugar
¾ cup golden cane sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ cups water
35g dark chocolate, chopped finely
Coconut cream:
1 (14oz) can full-fat coconut milk
2 Tablespoons golden cane sugar

Cookie dough chunks:
1/4 cup Earth Balance spread
1/3 cup packed whole brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour
35g dark chocolate, chopped coarsely
Water (as needed)

Place your can of coconut milk in the fridge, upside-down, to chill for at least 6 hours (preferably overnight) until very cold.

Preheat the oven to 350°F and line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.

To make the cupcakes, mix together flours, baking powder and salt. In the large bowl of the electric mixer, blend the shortening, sugars and vanilla extract until beginning to get light and fluffy. Add the water and flour mixture alternately into the mixer bowl, beating only until blended after each addition. Finally, blend in the chopped chocolate.

Spoon batter evenly into the muffin cups and bake for 18-25 minutes, or until the cakes are starting to turn golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool while you prepare the cookie dough.

To make the cookie dough, mix together Earth Balance, sugar and vanilla extract. Blend in flour and salt, adding more water if the dough is too thick to stick together easily. Mix in chocolate.

Divide dough in half and roll out each half to a log about 1" in diameter. Flatten the ends a little so they're not so tapered. Cut each log into 12 slices. Place the slices on a plate, cover and put in the freezer while you prepare the coconut cream.

To make the coconut cream, take your can of milk out of the fridge and turn right-side-up. Open the can and pour off any excess liquid. Scoop the solids into a bold (preferably chilled) and beat with electric mixer, adding sugar gradually, until the cream is thick like whipped cream. If you don't use it right away, make sure to keep the cream in the fridge!

To assemble the cupcakes, use a tablespoon or so of coconut cream on the top of each cupcake, spreading it towards the edge but making sure there is still a thick mound. (It should be about as thick as a slice of cookie dough.) Press one cookie dough chunk into the top of each cupcake. Chill before serving.


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