These cookies started out as a desire to make gluten-free thumbprint cookies. After looking around I found that almond flour was a popular choice for thumbprint cookies, usually with a jam center. But after checking out a few examples I realized they would probably flatten out at altitude and not look very thumbprint-y. So I morphed a few recipes together, added chocolate chips (of course) and came up with these.
The original recipe that I started with had too much sugar for my liking, and excess sugar is bad at altitude. So, I removed some sugar. I also used less baking powder for high altitude, and added milk to counteract the dryness. The next change was to substitute vegan margarine for the shortening because I prefer the taste. Then I decorated the cookies with chocolate chips because all the best cookies have chocolate in them somewhere.
Almond Cookies with Chocolate Chips loosely adapted from SarahBakesGFFree
1 3/4 cups almond flour
1/4 cup vegan sugar
1/4 cup tapioca starch
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup vegan margarine
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 TBS almond milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
chocolate chips for decoration
Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a bowl, whisk together almond flour, sugar, tapioca starch, baking powder and salt. Mix vegan margarine, maple syrup, almond milk and vanilla in a stand mixer. Add in flour mixture and mix until combined. Place tablespoon-sized balls of cookie dough onto cookie sheet. Flatten with palm of hand. Top with a few chocolate chips and gently press into cookie dough.
Bake cookies 15 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. Cool for 5 minutes on cookie sheet sitting on a cooling rack. Remove cookies from pan and place on cooling rack to finish cooling. Store in an airtight container. Makes 24 cookies.
I wanted to celebrate Earth Day in style, so a special cupcake had to be created. I’d seen cupcakes baked in terra cotta pots but that seemed too complicated. So I got a few small decorative pots at a craft store and decorated away.
To start I needed a firm cupcake to hold up to the decorations. I found a dense cupcake recipe and used the Neat egg as a sturdy egg replacer. (It also gave me a chance to try the Neat egg.) Then I added water and flour for high altitude. Next, I reduced baking soda for altitude and reduced sugar knowing the toppings would be extra sweet. The last step was to get creative with the decorations. I hope you like my homage to Mother Earth.
Earth Day Cupcakes adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking cupcakes
1/2 cup Navitas unsweetened cacao powder
1 cup + 1/2 TBS boiling water Neat egg substitute for 1 egg
1 cup + 7 TBS all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegan margarine, softened
1 cup + 3 TBS organic sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract frosting
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup vegan margarine
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
2 1/2 cups organic powdered sugar, sifted
3 TBS chocolate almond milk
1.5 tsp vanilla extract decorations
crushed chocolate cookies
For Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350F and line a 12-cupcake pan with paper liners. In a small bowl combine cocoa and boiling water. Stir well and set aside to cool. In another small bowl prepare the Neat egg replacer according to package instructions. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer beat together the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the Neat egg and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes. With the mixer set on low, add the flour mixture alternately with the cocoa mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. After the last flour is mixed in, beat for 1 minute until smooth.
Divide the batter evenly among the 12 liners. Bake 22-24 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely.
For Frosting: Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined and fluffy. Add the cocoa powder and beat for 1 minute. Add the powdered sugar, alternating with milk, and beat until fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat until incorporated.For Decorations: Place a flat layer of chocolate frosting on a cupcake. Put the crushed chocolate cookies on a plate and dip the cupcake in until frosting is covered. Insert a basil sprig and a gummy worm into the cupcake and put in terra cotta pot.
Image courtesy of Cooking Cinderella at flickr.com
Many years ago, when I first ventured into “specialty” baking, I was given the gift of classes on cake decorating. At the time I was baking mostly cookies and brownies and wasn’t sure what I would do with the knowledge, but I knew I would have fun. I learned how to use frosting to make a basket-weave, flowers and leaves. It was pretty but didn’t seem very useful for a home baker. Until I learned some tricks.
I learned to stand a tipped decorating bag in a tall glass while you are filling it – it’s like an extra hand when yours are already busy. Another idea was to use icing as glue to cement the cake to a board so it won’t move in transport. I found out that a turning stand makes it easier to decorate a cake. A great tip was to flip the top layer of a layer cake over so you have a flat surface to frost. But my favorite trick was the crumb coat.
A crumb coat will make the surface of your meticulously decorated cake look beautiful. To crumb coat a cake you take some of your icing and thin it with water. It should be thinner than usual but not enough to tear the cake as you apply it. Spread this icing to make a thin layer on the entire exposed cake surface.
“Don’t worry if there are crumbs in the icing, this is expected. The icing layer is so thin that you will see the cake and crumbs. Smooth the icing as best as you can and let it dry. The crumb coat needs to be dry to the touch before you put the final layer of icing on. Once the crumb coat is completely dry, you are ready to continue icing and decorating.”
The crumb coat creates a barrier to hold crumbs down so your final icing will be smooth and crumb-free. This is especially important if you are frosting a chocolate cake with white icing. Even with white icing on a white cake you don’t want to have cake bits floating around in your decorations. It may seem like it takes unnecessary extra time, but it is so worth it. It helps make any cake into the perfect cake.