Kind of healthy cupcakes…or something.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m finishing my last few credits this summer– actually, this week is my last for two of my three classes. So I’ve been hammering away at final projects and re-writes since my last post, and I also started my internship at Time Out Chicago. So, pretty much I never eat or sleep. I just bake and do homework and study and work for free. But you don’t make the dean’s list for two semesters in a row with a 4.0 GPA by not working yourself into various cases of diarrhea and hair loss, right? Oh, and did I mention that Columbia e-mailed to let me know I can come pick up the poster they had up of me for Manifest? Yeah, that’s right. I’m so great my school made a poster bragging about me. So suck it, hair loss, because I rule at ruling. With a brain like this who needs hair?

And on that appetizing note, I bring you to my Nutrition final project. I have a feeling this will be slightly less popular than the zombie cookbook, The Joy of Cooking Humans, I wrote for my final in Zombies in Popular Media final, but it will probably be more popular than the article I wrote on the drastic increase in flour prices for my Trade Magazine Article Writing class. So that’s fair. And now without further ado, I bring you: How to Be a Skinny Pastry Chef –or- How to Ruin a Perfectly Good Cupcake by Natalie Slater. (The video was for class, I make a total ass out of myself and it’s long. If you make it all the way to the end- well, my apologies. If you get sick of my accent or my face, just read the stuff below the video.)

Ok, so cupcakes aren’t exactly nutritious, but they’re sweet and delicious and a lot less likely to get winged at your face if presented to me as dessert than say, an apple. But the bitchenist thing about baking from scratch, besides that you aren’t eating the Godzilla-knows-what that’s in cake mix, is that you can easily tweak your recipes to make them a little less terrible for you than they were originally. It’s like Log. Remember Log? “It’s better than bad, it’s good!” Except in this case, they’re better than bad, they’re not-so-bad, with a sprinkle of maybe good but probably not.

So, the first thing you can do to not-too-baddify your cupcakes is switch out a little all-purpose flour for some whole wheat flour. I use a 1:1 ratio because I’m scared of the way nutritious things taste. If you’re the kind of person who accepts trail mix as a snack food you might even be cool with using all whole wheat flour. You can also buy whole wheat pastry flour, but it’s not quite glutinous enough for cupcakes. (AKA crumbly cupcakes– boo.) Diets rich in whole grains can reduce the risk of heart disease and even some cancers. I prefer to get mine in cupcake-form. In the video I mention some other kinds of flours you can bake with, but who cares?

Now we move on to butter. Long time readers may recall the ode to butter I composed some time ago. I believe it went something like, “Butter butter butter butter butter butter, butter! Butter makes everything mother fucking delicious!” Having worked as a baker in Letizia’s Natural Buttery, I mean, Bakery, my love for the stick-o-fatness is embedded in my clogged-up soul. I used to go home smelling like butter, but I had the softest hands in the world, if not the fattest ass. But despite its piddley amounts of vitamins A and D, butter is pretty terrible for you. You can’t make a flaky pastry without it. Can’t. Fight me. You’ll lose. But, you can do without all the heart-murdering in your baking by using a good soy margarine. I like Earth Balance, it tastes like butter and it fares well in the oven. It’s not any lower in fat or calories, but it’s cholesterol free. You could also use 1/3 cup canola oil in place of 1/2 cup of butter. Canola oil is high in Omega-3 fatty acids and you can find non-hydrogenated versions like Spectrum pretty much everywhere. If you’re a super weirdo, you can use pureed fruit in place of butter. I’ve used apple sauce, but I read that prunes and plums will work as well. That’s going to slightly alter the flavor of your cakes, but if you make chocolate something-somethings you’ll barely notice. Finally, you can use yogurt, especially low- or non-fat versions to substitute half the butter a recipe calls for. Soy yogurt works just as well. What up, vegans?

Milk. Hm…well, despite hurting my poor, Mediterranean tummy when I eat ice cream, there isn’t a whole lot bad to say about milk. I bake with skim most of the time and I’ve never noticed a lack of richness to my cakes. If you’re vegan or just grossed out by stuff that is squeezed out of cows, which is understandable, perhaps you’d be more interested in rice, soy or almond milk. Just look for unsweetened versions so you can control the sugar content in your cupcakes.

Eggs freak me out a little. I tend to go for hours at a time without talking- sitting on the El, in class, at Time Out, doing my homework- and while outwardly I’m accomplishing things, inwardly I’m thinking things like, “Eggs are chicken ovum. Why do people eat those? Who ate the first one? Was it raw? Did he eat it because he saw a snake eat one? I wonder if bears eat eggs. What if a bear laid an egg? It would be furry. Wait, why would it be furry?” But unless you’re vegan, you need eggs to bake most everything. They act as a binder and a leavening agent and they’re a lot more convenient than some of their replacements. One egg also contains 13 essential nutrients including high-quality protein, foliate, iron and zinc. In my class I learned that “essential” means your body can’t make it, you need to eat it. I thought it was like, “dude, Number of the Beast is an essential album for any true metaler.” But I was wrong. Eggs also contain about 213 mg cholesterol each, which is a lot, and it’s all in the yolk, which is the part I like. So instead of eggs you could try cholesterol-free egg product, which I’ve had luck with in baking. It still contains eggs, though. To go totally egg-free in your heartier baking Ener-G isn’t too bad. It’s basically ruined any cake I ever added it to, though. Instead try mashing 1/2 a banana to replace one egg. The Post Punk Kitchen has some more suggestions like using flax seed and what not. I would never do that. Cousin’s, the raw vegan Turkish joint down the street from me has forever ruined flaxseeds in my eyes and in my mouth.

The last thing I talk about in the video is sugar. Plain old sugar is cheap, it’s an item somewhat found in nature and it’s only 15 calories a teaspoon. It’s the most basic food on Earth. Eventually, everything you eat is turned into sugar by your body. Of course, it’s better to get it in harder-to-digest forms like fruit- fructose- but, the bottom line is, your body’s going to use it one way or another so shut up and eat it. If you have issues with sugar you should try a natural substitute like agave nectar, which digests similarly to fruit sugar, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, honey or even natural fruit juice. All of those are going to make your wet-to-dry ratio screwy, and I’m not good enough at math to figure that shit out for you so good luck.

In the video I made these low-fat chocolate cupcakes with raspberries. They’re OK if you don’t have a problem not eating frosting on your cupcake or if you’re someone who considers a banana after dinner a good dessert. Weirdo. I’m not overly into them but they were pretty good covered in my new favorite soy ice cream- Trader Joe’s Soy Creamy. Hello delicious, good bye ice cream belly ache. I’m just kind of being a dick because nutritious things irritate me. They’re good. You’ll like them. The drizzle and berries idea is from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, by the way. I would never think to do such a mean thing to cupcakes.

For the cupcakes you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup low- or non-fat yogurt
  • 2/3 cup skim milk
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 3 Tbs canola oil
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup extra dark Dutch-process cocoa
  • 2 Tbs cornstarch
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt

For the drizzle you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • a small amount of skim milk


Plus:

  • 1/2 cup all-natural raspberry preserves
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries

To make the cupcakes:
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, line a muffin pan with paper liners or grease the pans.
2. I a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, milk, applesauce, oil, sugar and vanilla. Sift in flours, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix.
3. Fill cups about 2/3 full and bake 22-24 minutes until tops spring back when lightly touched.
4. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely.

When the cupcakes are completely cool, spread a thin layer of fruit preserves on top, gently press berries into preserves and drizzle the tops.

Here’s a pile of variations you might want to try to make these more exciting:
Any kind of preserves and fruit will do, use interesting combinations or keep it simple. You could omit the drizzle on top, or use homemade chocolate syrup instead. Alter the flavor of the cupcakes by replacing 1/2

tsp of vanilla with another extract. This recipe is easily made vegan with the use of soy yogurt in place of dairy yogurt and soy milk instead of milk. If you choose to use agave nectar rather than sugar, use 2/3 as much agave as the amount of sugar the recipe calls for and decrease the liquid measurements by 25%. Bake the cupcakes at 325 becaus

e agave burns faster than sugar. If you’re comfortable with the flavor of whole wheat flour you could use 1 cup of that instead of mixing flours.

Let us never speak of such things again.