Healthy baking (A.K.A. Hell froze over)
Oh God. I can’t believe I’m saying this out loud, but the following post documents my attempt at baking low cholesterol, high protein, non-dairy and *gasp* gluten free/low carb cupcakes. Even the thought goes entirely against my principles. (Disclosure: Due to my own health issues, I am technically not supposed to eat a lot of the sweet goodies that come out of my kitchen, but I make them anyway using flour, sugar, fat, eggs and milk, just the way my grandma bakes as a proper old school baker should.) The only reason I’m not vomiting in my mouth as I type this is because… apparently I’m a sorceress and I did not just spend the day creating a cardboard-styrofoam hybrid in my oven. My experiment actually tasted… good.
The inspiration to try my hand with this… obnoxiously healthy baking came from several places. One was from Vin and his friend, who happens to work at a company that specializes in edible protein supplement things (clearly I’m not familiar with such healthy stuff) and was awesome enough to trade a case of the liquid stuff in exchange for cupcakes. Another source of motivation was that I met up with a friend who works @ a great gym chain in the city (I bartered cupcakes for a massage) and she said I’d make a bank here if I were able to make a tasty high protein cupcake. And the last, we just had a crazy delicious fatty carb loaded high protein dinner for my sister’s birthday… so my insides need to recover while I continue on this high protein kick. Haha Plus, I got the extra boost of confidence from my sister. I brought her some leftover cupcakes the week before, and over dinner she was like, “We decided that you make THE best cupcakes… they’re way better than all the other bakeries here in the city.” I was totally amused because she was a bit tipsy when she said it, but her boyfriend nodded in agreement. Mind you, these cupcakes were 5-6 days old and they were STILL tasty. So if decent-tasting healthy cupcakes could be done, I might as well try to do it.
I bought some overpriced gluten free (hereafter known as “GF”) flour that smelled as grainy as it tasted. I can’t describe it any other way. (Magical Cup 4 cup flour, it was not!) Then I made three different batches of high-protein, gluten free batter ranging from varying degrees of healthiness, all containing “vanilla crème”-flavored liquid protein and GF flour.
The contents of the batches are as follows:
1) Butter, eggs (both yolks and whites), regular sugar
2) Vegetable oil, egg whites, agave, more protein powder
3) Natural applesauce, a tiny bit of coconut oil, agave, protein powder
Cornstarch and baking powder were also added to all batches b/c they were GF and b/c I felt like it.
So it went from higher fat/cholesterol, some dairy/sugar to no egg/dairy/added sugar/basically vegan/WTF am I doing. After deciding what ingredients I’d use for each batch and measuring them all out, it was kind of overwhelming and foreign for me to have these weird liquids and powders and agave prepped for baking. I kind of paced around the kitchen and procrastinated b/c I wasn’t quite mentally ready to go to the Dark Side and “bake healthy.” =)
Aside from the use of the weird GF flour and liquid protein drink, the rest of the ingredients for batch number 1 were as if I was baking a regular cake. (Figured I’d start off with the least traumatizing ingredients to lessen the shock.) The batter consistency was a bit grainy and not as smooth as regular batter and that really bugged me. The first batch of mini cupcakes baked in 5-6 super fast minutes @ “325” (oven temp read 400). The cakes baked the same, and after letting them cool for a bit, I split one cupcake in half and tried it. It was a teeny bit dry and grainy, and the protein shake flavor was kinda prominent; b/c of the texture, I kept thinking it was more cornbread than cupcake as I slowly chewed and processed the bite in my mouth.
Batch numero dos was low cholesterol/no dairy/no sugar/more protein. I think using the powder lessens the grossness of whatever the hell is in the liquid protein, and using the veggie oil increases the moisture in the cake. I was worried because the batter was really liquidy… like, pancake batter liquidy. I was worried these wouldn’t rise properly b/c of the lack of NORMAL, FATTENING, LACTOSE PROBLEM-INDUCING INGREDIENTS and I could only gauge the consistency of the batter by how thick it was, so this was a bit of a concern. I let the tray bake for a couple minutes longer and the minis turned out fine. The density wasn’t bad at all. Tastewise, it was pretty good. I admit, I didn’t hate it…
The last batch had no egg, a tiny teensy bit of the healthiest oil I could get my hands on (like, half a teaspoon’s worth of coconut oil), a little agave, and some added protein powder. I was kinda scared to even call it cake because it was (dare I say it???) practically vegan. I don’t want to say for a fact that it’s vegan and have someone get in my face b/c the contents of a protein shake may not be vegan. The batter tasted the best due to the applesauce that was dumped in for moisture and sweetness. It took the longest to bake and it came out a bit dense, but it didn’t taste as disgusting as I thought it would be. I’m mentally dry heaving at the thought because I actually tried a bite of a vegan cupcake once and it was absolutely disgusting. It was a legit vegan cupcake with some kind of mixture of yam/potato and tapioca and shortening abhorrence and fake sugar. The “frosting” (if you could even call it that) was just horrible and just coated my mouth. You know how cold oil will just stick to plastic and will be a bitch to wash off with just water? I was THIS close to wiping some grease-fighting dish liquid on my tongue to get rid of the flavor. Bleeeeech. The memory is traumatizing and I will never, ever willingly try a vegan cupcake that is not of my own doing ever, ever again. I thought I’d only make something like this under gunpoint and duress, but… I survived relatively unscathed.
Side note: I took a break to watch the “Breaking Bad” finale. Amazing. Loved it. I just can’t… wow. All I can say is: And THAT is why I don’t use Stevia. #bakingbad I guess this is where I should mention the science and calculations and say that I could have added more protein shake and powder to the batter since it yielded about 4 grams per cupcake, less for batch 1, and those numbers don’t scream “high protein” to me. Granted, I made tiny minis, so about 3.5 of these would equal a normal cupcake, and FYI: regular sized, standard batter cupcakes only have about 2 grams of protein each.
Going back to the experiments… A few hours after all the cakes had entirely cooled, I f*cked up the whole healthy thing by frosting the cupcakes with good ol’ fashioned buttercream. With real butter and sugar. I just couldn’t take it anymore. Hahaha Then again, putting my regular buttercream on the cupcakes could hide any of the grossness and made them all taste good. (On the plus side, butter and sugar are gluten free!) I don’t know if it was the frosting, but the grainy texture from #1 was gone; it was a tiny bit dry, but not terrible. Number 2 tasted like a regular cupcake and #3 was like a muffin with frosting on it. I swear, the whipped chocolate buttercream masked the graininess from the GF flour I first encountered before. Now if I ever had to make annoyingly healthy things for kids who need to bulk up, I think option #3 wouldn’t kill them.
I was really surprised these weren’t as abominable as I’d imagined. I made Vin try one of each a day later, and he said aside from them being a little bit dry, they weren’t gross. And I brought some to work 2 days after baking and coerced a coworker friend to eat them, and he said, “They’re not bad at all… actually, they’re pretty good and remind me of a Hostess cupcake.” He gave some to another coworker buddy, who had no idea they were GF protein cupcakes, and that guy said they were really good. Once he was told they were “healthy” cupcakes, he was like, “I’d eat those all the time instead of drinking protein shakes.” (Good to know they’re passable as real cupcakes!) Given how progressively dry they’ve become 3 days after I baked them, these things don’t keep well, which is a totally new concept for me since I KNOW my regular cupcakes are good a week later. I GUESS I’d make some more, given that I have to use the rest of this gluten free flour sh*t and can up the protein factor… but for now, I’m just going mash all these dried out minis to make protein-laden, gluten free cake balls. That sounds delicious. <– This is a SFW youtube video link, so be prepared if you click it. =)
P.S. Speaking of cake balls… to give this post some semblance of normalcy, here are some cake balls I whipped up as a charity raffle donation for The Dynasty Project. They’re made of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting with bits of chocolate cereal covered with white (purple-colored) chocolate with a milk chocolate drizzle. Whew! Delicious, diabetic-shock inducing sugar and fatty, creamy butter… oh, how I love you both. But if I had to “Sophie’s Choice” one or the other, I might have to sacrifice Sugar to keep Butter. =)