Monday, May 16, 2011

The most boring-sounding baked goods in the world (let’s call them "mini carrot cakes", shall we?)

I was doing the hard sell on a Tupperware container of these at the end of our roller derby bout on Saturday night and, while they were appreciated by the considerable vegan contingent, I did have flashbacks to St Mary’s primary school shared lunches in the 1980s. There was always one poor kid whose mum forbade Coke and Fanta, only allowed carob in the house and sent the kids off with sultana and carrot sandwiches when everyone else was bringing fairy bread and yo yos to the class break-ups. It’s hard to make “carrot, sultana and bran muffins – oh, and they’re vegan” sound enticing to normal people who think a bacon sandwich is a good way to start the day. BUT – and this is a big but – these muffins are pretty damn good. The bran and carrots make them really moist – they’re more squigey than cakey inside – and they get a lovely crust which makes them really morish. Apart from a tuna sandwich at 6pm, half a dozen of them sustained me all day long and well into the bout afterparty. I'd go as far as saying they contributed to the Steam Rollers' impressive win over the Ultraviolent Femmes, but more on that later. They weren’t half bad the day after, either – making a nice change from usual ‘healthy’ muffins which transform into cardboard projectiles within 24 hours.

(Obviously I was too busy preparing for the Steam Rollers' bout on Saturday to photograph my baked goods... I think we can all agree Carrot Top pumping iron is a much more inspiring visual than anything I could have created in the kitchen, right?)

I found this recipe via the usual route I use when deciding on a whim (at 9pm on a weeknight, of course) to do some baking. Google ‘vegan bran carrot muffins’, give preference to anything Australian (hey – it’s annoying having to convert to celcius and metric) and then discount all the ones posted by bloggers who sound like recovering anorexics. Umm yeah no – apple sauce is not a legit alternative to oil for keeping cakes moist, OK? Anyway, the recipe I based mine on was apparently based on two by vegan demigod Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Enough said.

The first time I made them I grated the carrots with the big grater but they were a little too julienne for your standard cupcake dimensions. Second time around I used a smaller grater (the one that still give you some curl on your grated parmesan) and could probably have squeezed out some carrot juice but that would have required me to use the sieve which was currently holding all the dry ingredients, so I didn’t. Unlike standard muffins, which will almost double in size during cooking, these don’t expand too much from batter to finished product, so you’ll want to fill your muffin tins about 80 per cent full to get a nice shape. If you were totally desperate to blag these as cakes rather than a semi-legitimate healthy breakfast alternative you could probably even ice them with some lemon icing (I’m talking about the basic ‘icing sugar+milk+lemon zest+tiny bit of melted butter’ icing, don’t start going crazy with that butter frosting shiz because that’s just getting ridiculous). Or, if you’re of the bacon sandwich persuasion, just eat the iced cakes for breakfast. They’re vegan – you’re already kicking goals.

Vegan carrot, sultana and bran muffins
1 ½ cups wholemeal flour (I used one with added wheat and barley flakes, linseed and sunflower seeds; once all the flour was sifted I chucked all the crunchy bits into the bowl too)

2 tsps baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

2 tsps cinnamon

2 tsps powdered ginger

¾ cup bran (I crushed up bran flakes cereal because I couldn’t be bothered buying bran specially for this)
1 cup rice/soy milk
⅓ cup vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla extract (didn’t have it, didn’t matter)

⅓ cup brown (‘light muscovado’) sugar dissolved into ½ cup hot water
2 cups grated carrot

½ cup sultanas

1) Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius, grease your muffin tin.
2) Sift flour, baking powder and soda, and spices; add bran and make a well in the middle.
3) Mix wet ingredients together, and add to the dry ingredients. Mix till just combined (remember: over-mixing is the best way to turn fluffy muffins into rubber tennis ball), then add carrots and sultanas.
4) Bake for 20 minutes or until sultanas are burning on the top. (Normally I’d say do the skewer test – if it comes out clean, they’re ready – but it didn’t work too well with these because they were still a bit gooey fresh out of the oven but firmed up nicely after 30 mins.)

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