Saturday, October 27, 2012

Gluten-Free, Vegan Marbled Sweet Potato Muffins: A Halloween Treat

I've been waiting for the perfect opportunity to share this recipe with you.  Moist, slightly sweet, seasonally spiced to warm the palate and soul, with a festive marble swirl of orange and dark brown.  And with Halloween lurking just around the corner, what better time than now?

I won't pretend that these cute little muffins would make good treats for the costumed kiddos knocking at your door.  Not that they wouldn't enjoy them, but the high probability of them being smushed to the consistency of cat-food amidst the lollipops, candy bars, and caramel apples could make them impractical.  But serving them at a party, bringing a batch or two to the office, or baking them in the morning to have the aroma rouse your family or roommates better than any alarm clock and draw them to the kitchen - they could be awesome for that.

A treat that could easily trick any gluten-free or vegan naysayer into asking for seconds.

Marbled Spiced Sweet Potato Muffins with Currants
Gluten-Free & Vegan / inspired by a recipe for Pumpkin Cupcakes by Karina Allrich, aka The Gluten-Free Goddess

Active Prep Time: 10 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 30 minutes
Baking Time: 20-25 minutes for mini-muffins; 35-45 minutes for regular-sized muffins
Yield: 4 dozen mini muffins or 1 dozen regular-sized muffins

2 heaping tablespoons ground flax
6 tablespoons water
1/2 c (4 oz) + 2 tablespoons (1 oz) unsweetened coconut milk beverage
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons black currants
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

1 c (4 oz) sorghum flour
1/2 c (2 oz) arrowroot starch
6 tablespoons (1 1/2 oz) coconut flour
1 1/2 teaspoons GF baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 c (2 oz) almond flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons shawarma spice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 c (9 oz) unsweetened sweet potato puree
1 c (4 oz) coconut sugar
3 tablespoons (2 1/2 oz) maple syrup
6 tablespoons (3 oz) oil
4 teaspoons GF vanilla extract

For marble:
2 tablespoons ground carob
2 tablespoons water or non-dairy milk

1.  Combine flax with water and add vinegar to the 1/2 cup coconut milk beverage to make your two 'eggs' and buttermilk, respectively.  Add orange juice to currants to rehydrate.  Set these three aside while you prep your dry and wet mixtures.
2.  Sift sorghum, arrowroot, coconut flour, and leavening together into a small mixing bowl.  Add almond flour, salt, and spices and mix well.
3.  Whisk together sweet potato, sugar, maple syrup, oil, and vanilla extract.  I've used melted coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, and a combination of the two, and all have worked well.  Feel free to use what you have on hand.
4.  Fold 'eggs' into wet mixture first, and then add buttermilk and mix to combine.
5.  Add the dry mixture to wet mixture a third at a time.  Mix well, but be careful to avoid overmixing.  The batter will be quite thick and on the drier side.
6.  Separate 1/3 of the batter to the small mixing bowl and add carob and water or non-dairy milk.  Mix until uniform in color (a deep and rich dark brown).  If you would prefer to use cocoa, keep the amount the same, but I would recommend using sweetened cocoa powder or adding a little more sugar to the recipe.
7.  Drain currants and fold into the sweet potato batter.  Add the final two tablespoons coconut milk beverage and mix to just combine.
8.  Prepare your muffin tin(s) with cupcake liners.  Alternate the batters, with the carob batter accenting the sweet potato batter, and fill the liners nearly to the top.  Using a butter knife, gently zigzag the blade through the intersection of the batters to create the marble.  Lightly tap the muffin tin on the countertop to eliminate air bubbles.
9.  Once the muffins are prepped, you will want to let them rest for about 30 minutes.  You may have concerns about the leavening, but I can tell you from from trying it every which way that this way works best.  Allowing the flours and starches to hydrate allows them to hold on to steam from the moisture vaporizing once in the oven, giving you the best rise.  The results of baking them right away or letting them rest for an hour or more, while still delicious, were not nearly as nice aesthetically.
10.  After about 20 minutes, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Once at temp, bake for 20-25 minutes for mini-muffins or 35-45 minutes for regular sized muffins.  You are looking for a firm crust on top that rebounds gently given slight pressure.  The batter is so moist that it's quite forgiving, so when in doubt, allow it to go a bit longer.
11.  Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.  If not eating right away (kudos in advance for the willpower), store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Mixing to just combine.

Carob and currants added, ready to face off.

I bet you could get away with filling them a touch higher.

In a word, yum.

The first time I made this cake, it was for an impromptu dinner gathering amongst friends from work.  I made it as a loaf and served it warm from the oven a la mode with coconut ice cream.  I knew it was a success when people would disappear from the conversation only to be found cutting themselves another piece.  One of the best compliments.

While I'm featuring this recipe for Halloween, it can fit seamlessly into any Thanksgiving or Holiday dessert spread with its subtle spice, striking beauty, and satisfying complexity of flavors.   You could make it again and again and I can assure you people won't complain - particularly the canaries in your crowd.   The rich, maltiness of the carob paired with the hearty sweetness of sweet potato, plumped currants as exclamation points on an undercurrent of aromatic Mediterranean spice - divine.  And not only good to taste, but good for the body as well.  And when the two meet like that, as they often do on The Canary Files, who can complain?

Why I've nicknamed this, "Tiger Cake."  Rawr.

A wonderful example of how gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan baked goods can be equally, if not more, delicious given attention to detail and the addition of love.

P.S. - Huge thanks to Karina Allrich for the inspiration for this recipe.  She truly is a Gluten-Free Goddess, and her photos, her words and wisdom, and each of her recipes are profoundly beautiful.  Please do yourself a favor and visit her blog.  A feast for the senses.

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