Posts tagged Read It All Up
Posts tagged Read It All Up
Read It All Up®: Secretly Healthy Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
As Nathaniel & Juliet would sing, “It’s the final countdown…”
All week I have been using my colleagues at work as guinea pigs. They tasted, they described, they compared and contrasted. They weighed the issues: kids have to like them, they can’t be too messy, they need to appeal to the widest variety of tastes, and they need to feel like treats. The verdict: Tuesday’s Secretly Healthy Chocolate Cupcakes. The only decision I had left to make was about frosting.
To be completely honest, I came home utterly exhausted and uncharacteristically disinterested in spending the evening in the kitchen, but I knew I had to find some enthusiasm and excitement anyway. I didn’t want to be baking the way Tita cooks in Like Water For Chocolate, with my emotions seeping into the food. I mustered up some joy and focused on my mission. Healthy cupcakes! Happy ones!
I’m still pretty amazed at how a delicious chocolate cupcake recipe can include THIS:
Just like last night, I whisked together the dry ingredients. This time I added a full teaspoon of espresso powder to amp up the chocolate flavor a little.
Then I got to use my tiny one-egg whisk again, for one egg.
I combined the rest of the ingredients: the egg (this time not accidentally separating it), yogurt instead of applesauce, vanilla, and zucchini.
Ew! I just can’t believe how unappetizing this looks. At least by now I know how it turns out. Before it starts to look good, it looks like this:
And then it gets worse, and looks like this:
Gross, right? But then it turns into this:
And this time, I took my cue from the Secretly Healthy Chocolate Cake recipe on the same site and added some mini chocolate chips. I didn’t add a lot; just shy of a quarter cup. I spooned the batter evenly into 12 muffin cups and popped the tray into the oven.
Then I turned my attention to frosting.
Now I’ve tried healthy frosting. Honey, yogurt, applesauce…none of it ever adds up to frosting. I didn’t want to go full-on buttercream and negate everything I’d done with the zucchini & yogurt, so I opted for a simple cream cheese frosting that would be easy to work with but still taste sweet and treat-like. The bottom line is that for good frosting, you really need powdered sugar.
Also, good frosting has LOTS of powdered sugar. I started with just under two cups and ended up adding a little more before I was done. Mostly I spent my time just watching the mixer go around and scraping the edges of the bowl. Butter, light cream cheese, and powdered sugar all turned into this:
Yes! Frosting! Real frosting!
I tasted, I celebrated, and put it nto an airtight container. Kept it in the fridge overnight, took it out early in the morning, and frosted all the cupcakes before I left for work. Added 5 butterscotch chips to the top of each one, while Nathaniel & Juliet wistfully watched.
"Are those for us?"
"No, not this time. Sorry."
(And should I mention that I’m watching Chopped right now, as I type, and one of the ingredients is cream cheese frosting? It’s destiny.)
The cupcakes were good to go. I packed them up.
And then it was out of my hands. I delivered them to Carol at Grand Central and hoped for the best. I sent the cupcakes off to a day of Read It All Up® with The Bake Shop Ghost.
To be continued…
Read It All Up® Test Night 3: Secretly Healthy Chocolate Cupcakes with Greek Yogurt Frosting
Tonight was the last night of true experimentation. Whatever I make tomorrow goes to the kids at St. Philip’s Academy for Read It All Up®, and that’s that. But tonight I went back to the site where I found the extremely delicious recipe for Secretly Healthy Chocolate Cake, and used her cupcake recipe this time. Unfortunately the peanut butter frosting is a no-no at St. Philip’s, so I had to look at other sources for the frosting. More on that later.
This time, Juliet was already in bed, and Nathaniel was around to help. He was also fresh from the shower, and shirtless.
(Both kids were shirtless when I got home from work tonight, as a matter of fact, and Juliet was standing on display in our front window happily waving at me on my way in.)
I used whole wheat white flour instead of mixing white and wheat, and Nathaniel asked if he could be the one to dump it into the bowl. Of course!
Then he dumped in the brown sugar.
He thought it was pretty hilarious that it didn’t fall out of the measuring cup when he turned it over.
He added the baking powder.
But then it was time for him to go to bed and I was on my own. I added baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and then the cocoa powder. The directions included cinnamon but the ingredients list didn’t, so I winged it and put in a teaspoon. I added just under half a teaspoon of espresso powder, too.
Then in a separate bowl, I added zucchini to yogurt (instead of applesauce), vanilla, and an egg white. That was fine until I took a second look at the recipe and realized that it didn’t actually specify an egg white, so I took out a second egg and this time just used the yolk. D’oh.
I whisked. Also, I spilled.
At this point I tried to pretend it wasn’t a gloppy zucchini mixture, because I find the idea so unpleasant. Instead I pretended it was a cucumber yogurt sauce for Indian food or some sort of art project.
I poured it into the dry ingredients.
Once combined, however, it looked like chocolate batter, and that made me happy.
I poured it into the muffin cups.
While that was in the oven, I switched into frosting mode. I’d found a recipe today for Greek Yogurt Frosting, so I got out the Greek yogurt, powdered sugar, and vanilla.
Can I just tell you how boring sifting is? The powdered sugar took forever to sift and it reminded me of how boring it used to be to blow-dry my hair, which is why I stopped doing it years ago. It’s dull and repetitive and you can’t do other activities at the same time.
I finally got it done, and whisked it together.
Then, per the directions, I put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
The cupcakes came out of the oven, they cooled, I frosted, and added a few butterscotch chips for fun.
Sadly the butterscotch chips were the only fun thing about that frosting. The cupcakes? Delicious. The frosting? Too much of that yogurt twang. It’s better than yesterday’s, but it’s just not frosting. The word itself demands payoff in sweetness. Frosting isn’t supposed to be tart or dull or bitter, you know.
Tomorrow I make the real thing. Cream cheese, sugar, whatever. The cupcake will be healthy and the frosting will not, and all will be delicious, and hopefully worthy of a reading of The Bake Shop Ghost. I’m leaning towards the pumpkin cupcakes, and if I don’t do frosting, I might just sprinkle cinnamon & brown sugar on top and bake that up. Decisions, decisions.
Read It All Up® Test Night 2: Pumpkin Cupcakes with Chocolate Pumpkin Frosting
I think tomorrow’s recipe is going to be the big winner, but tonight’s was an interesting adventure all on its own. And this time I waited until after Juliet went to bed to get started, so while the baking wasn’t as cute as yesterday’s, it was a lot more precise.
This recipe came from a fitness website, which had this to say:
We collected our favorite guilt-free recipes, which cleverly use more nourishing options to replace the fattening elements in traditional cupcakes. But don’t be fooled by ingredients such as vitamin-loaded veggies and protein-rich grains—each treat still explodes with delectably sweet flavor.
Honey, vanilla, and pumpkin provide the sweetness in this one. Can you really make sweet delicious cupcakes without sugar?
The journey began with a cup of pumpkin.
Then, almond milk. I’ve never used almond milk before; in fact, I was so unfamiliar with it that I didn’t even know where to find it at the grocery store this weekend.
Then, egg whites.
Nathaniel wanted to know why they don’t call the yolks “egg yellows”, which made me wonder why the egg white is called the white when it’s transparent, but then I remembered what it looked like when it’s cooked. Nathaniel’s question makes a lot more sense.
After that, safflower oil, and then half a cup of honey. (That’s a lot of honey, honey.)
And this time, I remembered the vanilla. Definitely. With evidence.
I whisked it all together, and it took on a reasonably familiar, pumpkin batter kind of look.
Then I put the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon (I used 2 heaping teaspoons instead of 1 1/2), ginger, and cloves.
I added that to the first mixture.
I whisked it all together. The recipe said it should be thick but runny, which it most definitely was.
I poured it into the tray. The recipe said I’d get 16 cupcakes out of the deal, but I decided 12 big ones were better than 16 teeny ones.
While they were in the oven, I cleaned up, as it was starting to look like Cora Lee’s ghost from the book had been throwing things around my kitchen. There was flour & pumpkin all over the counter. Then I got the ingredients together for the frosting.
Shockingly, for frosting, there was no confectioners’ sugar. This was going to be interesting. I measured everything out into a small bowl.
Unlike my previous experience with frosting, this required whisking instead of using an electric mixer. The texture was perfect, effortlessly.
And then the cupcakes were ready! They looked great, and smelled even better.
Out of the pan, they looked even better.
I let them cool, and tasted the frosting. I didn’t like it.
Dave came by and he tasted it, and said it was VERY heavy on the chocolate, but good, but I like my frosting sweet instead of strong. I added about a teaspoon of confectioners’ sugar and a little more honey & vanilla. It helped, marginally, but I just didn’t like it. Still, I went ahead and frosted one of them.
My verdict: the cupcake is a win, the frosting is not. I’m thinking some cream cheese frosting would go a long way here, maybe with some cinnamon chips on top! And this recipe, while not as low in Weight Watchers points as my Pumpkin Muffins With Sugar On Top, is much healthier because it has no sugar and very little oil. For kids, this is ideal, as it’s got pumpkin, almond milk, honey, applesauce, cinnamon, and ginger, among other things.
So if we decide to go with this one, I’ll have to make cream cheese frosting and cinnamon chips, and although it won’t really be healthy, it will taste good.
So the answer to the question, can you make a delicious cupcake without sugar, is yes! But not frosting. Sugar is essential to the deliciousness of frosting, at least in my book. I think Cora Lee & Annie, of The Bake Shop Ghost, would agree.
Read It All Up® Test Night 1: Chocolate-Zucchini Muffins
This is going to be a week of experimentation.
My friend Carol and I have started up a non-profit called Read It All Up®, which is all about combining our mutual love for reading and food into a way to get kids to love reading at a very early age. You can see more on our web page, which is a placeholder until we get the full site up, and we’ve been working with this fantastic, innovative school in Newark to read and eat with the kids, try different things, and really get this project off the ground.
Our next event is on Thursday, and unfortunately I can’t go, so I’m sending cupcakes in my place. Healthy cupcakes. Hence the challenge.
One of the books being read this time is The Bake Shop Ghost, by Jacqueline K. Ogburn.
It’s a fun book about a ghost that haunts a bake shop, and in the course of the story, the bakery’s new owner makes recipe after recipe, trying to make something special to please the angry ghost.
Well, now it’s my turn. I need to come up with a cupcake that will feel like a treat, but be full of healthy ingredients to keep the school happy and show the kids that healthy food can be delicious. They already have the benefit of a teaching kitchen and a brilliant chef who runs it, so I don’t want to come in with mountains of butter and white sugar to wreck everything they’ve been learning.
But is there such a thing as a healthy cupcake? My mission is to find out, with only three nights in which to experiment. (My back-up, by the way, would be my Low Fat Chocolate Muffins, but they’re more about not being unhealthy than actually being good for you.)
Now on to the baking!
Maybe I’ve been watching too much Food Network Star — can you actually do such a thing? — but I threw in an extra challenge to trying a brand new recipe: Juliet wanted to help. But seriously, who could resist this:
Or this, which she insisted I take a picture of:
But the hard part was that I’d have to put her to bed in the middle of the process, so I decided to let her help with the dry ingredients, and then take on the rest myself.
She’s getting to be a pro at measuring the flour. We used whole wheat pastry flour.
When I asked her to look up at me while she was leveling off the top, she refused. “I gotta focus on this, Mommy,” she chided me. Fair enough.
She added baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and then I had her dump in the cocoa powder.
She whisked. She’s getting pretty good at it, plus I gave her one of my new, smaller whisks and it definitely fit her hand better.
She did a great job.
And then it was time for bed. Past time, in fact. Teeth were brushed, a story was read, and she was tucked in for the night.
The story, by the way, was an old favorite of mine from my own childhood: The King, The Mice And The Cheese.
My grandmother used to read it to us and it always made me hungry for cheese.
But back to the experiment.
Now that Juliet was tucked into bed, I started in on the other ingredients. Into a new bowl went a mashed banana, demerara sugar, milk, a cup of shredded zucchini, and applesauce. I was supposed to add half a cup of applesauce, but I decided to swap half of it for yogurt to see what happened. I think maybe I should have done the whole thing, but it’s hard to play with a recipe you’ve never tried before.
It looked just as unappealing as I expected, at this point, so with high hopes I added in the dry ingredients.
I mixed it together, then added just shy of a teaspoon of espresso powder to beef up the chocolate a little. The zucchini pieces made me nervous.
I put the batter into the pan, opting to spray the cups instead of using paper liners.
But then….something caught my eye.
It looks kind of lonely, doesn’t it? That’s because I THINK I forgot to put it in. I’m not sure. The whole putting-Juliet-to-bed-in-the-middle-of-baking thing threw me off and I still don’t know if I put it in or not. I think I forgot, so instead of scooping all the batter back into the bowl and risking overmixing and potentially doubling the vanilla, I compensated by adding 5 cinnamon chips to the top of each muffin, like I do to banana muffins.
I baked for 18 minutes. The kitchen smelled great. The muffins looked good, like they could actually sub for cupcakes during a reading of The Bake Shop Ghost.
Out of the pan, they looked even better.
Once cooled, I cut one open. Did the experiment work? Do we have a recipe worthy of The Bake Shop Ghost?
Well…no. Not this time.
It’s better than no muffins at all, and they’re getting eaten up happily, but they don’t come close in flavor to the Secretly Healthy Chocolate Cake I made yesterday, although the texture is fluffier, probably because of the yogurt. It’s not the vanilla, or the possible absence of it; it’s just clearly more about being healthy than being delicious. And that’s not a lot of fun.
So tomorrow, we try again, and I have higher hopes for the recipe I have on tap next. Batter up!