You may have noticed I don't really share recipes from cookbooks. In fact, I rarely cook or bake from cookbooks. I'm stubborn, independent, mildly ADD, and far too much of a free-spirit to be corralled by someone else's recipe.
However, this does not mean I don't OWN cookbooks. In fact, I have tidy and ever-growing collection of cookbooks arranged neatly in a bookcase. Quite often, I find myself paging through the books, stopping to read tips here and there, spotting a surprising ingredient or (my favorite part) carefully pouring over the author's introduction chapter. But do I actually make the recipes?
The point is, when I discovered Dom's Random Recipes challenge hosted on his wonderful Belleau Kitchen blog, I found myself torn in two directions. On the one hand, I instantly recoiled from the notion of picking a recipe at random from a cookbook and adhering to written instructions. On the other hand, Dom's challenge is the perfect excuse to cage my free spirit and put my collection of cookbooks to the work they were meant for.
Two months later, I have finally plucked up enough courage to face down my stubborn resistance and join the Random Recipes challenge for the first time. I really didn't get to pick the cookbook because thanks to Choclette from the Chocolate Log Blog, Dom instructed us to select the 17th cookbook on our book shelf. But I really should be thanking Choclette because I was randomly re-introduced to Good For You Cakes, a cookbook I picked up at a thrift store some time back and promptly forgot about.
This is a small book but it packs a multitude of recipes thanks to a complete lack of pictures. I found a kindred spirit in the intro chapter of the cookbook - the author embraces baking from scratch rather than opening a box of cake mix and she attempts to work healthful ingredients into all of her recipes. Like the molasses cupcakes I'm about to share.
I am also submitting this recipe to Caroline and Ros' AlphaBakes baking challenge alternately hosted by the Caroline Makes blog and The More Than Occasional Baker blog (Caroline is the host this month). The concept of the challenge is quite simple - the hosts randomly select a letter of the alphabet and everyone bakes something prominently featuring the selected letter. The challenge is open to everyone and it's great fun to see what others come up with, so be sure to check out AlphaBakes and send in your submission.
Originally I had no idea what I was going to bake for AlphaBakes because the selected letter "M" this month wasn't inspiring much creativity on my part. The only "M" word bouncing around my head was "macarons" - and I was NOT going to attempt those fussy little cookies no matter how delicious the outcome. So I was utterly relieved when my finger landed on the Molasses Cupcakes recipe for Dom's Random Recipes challenge. I finally had my "M" word - and I never would have thought to use molasses!
To be frank, I'm thrilled to have rediscovered Good For You Cakes cookbook - it's a gem with so many health-inspired baked goodies and I really do recommend picking up a copy if you can find one. If you're interested, try this Amazon link as a few copies pop up for sale now and then.
Despite my affinity for the cookbook, I am NOT thrilled with these cupcakes. I found the molasses too overpowering, the yeast an odd complication, and the texture to crumbly and dry. To be fair, I didn't follow the author's recipe to the letter - I was missing a few ingredients (like whole wheat pastry flour, nutritional yeast and cider) and I added my own special ingredient (chopped crystalized ginger). So I am inclined to give this recipe another chance once I stock up on some of the more esoteric ingredients.
Below is the recipe I used including my changes (however I don't recommend you follow this version). For the original recipe, you'll need to buy the book (recommended anyway - even if you don't plan to make these cupcakes).
Prep Time: 2 hr Bake Time: 20 min Oven Temp: 350℉
- 2 cups apple juice
- 1/4 cup apple brandy (or Calvados)
- 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup full-flavor unsulphured molasses
- 1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup wheat germ
- 1/4 cup finely chopped crystalized ginger
- 1 lemon, zest of
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 1 large egg
- Lightly grease one non-stick muffin pan
- Bring apple juice, brandy and cider vinegar to the boil in a small pot over high heat and reduce by half (you should end up with 1 cup remaining); cool until just warmer than room temperature
- In a medium sized bowl, whisk together warm apple juice reduction, yeast, 1 Tablespoon of molasses and 1 cup of flour. Let rest for 20-30 minutes until the sponge starts to bubble
- Toss crystalized ginger with reserved remaining flour, then add all remaining ingredients to the sponge and beat with a whisk until well combined
- Scoop batter into prepared muffin pan and let rise in a warm place until batter has risen to the lip of the muffin pan cups (about 1 hour)
- About 15 minutes before batter has finished rising, preheat oven to 350℉. Bake cupcakes for 15-20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean