I think it’s safe to say that most of us simply cannot just sit down in a coffee shop and enjoy a latte or “cuppa” without some edible, and often sugary, counterpart in hand.
The two most popular coffee acquaintances, for me at least, are anything that resembles a muffin and some kind of coffee cake. Well, really any cake if I were telling the truth.
The best place in town for me to enjoy said latte and muffin-or-cake snickety-snack is Mud Pie Vegan Bakery and Coffeehouse, located in one of my favorite midtown areas, the 39th Street West District within the Volker neighborhood. Mud Pie is Kansas City’s first, and still only, 100 percent vegan bakery and coffee shop.
Although I am in no way an ethical or even dietary vegan, I greatly enjoy eating from that category of food, and appreciate that people have options these days when going out to eat or relaxing and conversing over a caffeinated drink and baked treat. I am also a bit sensitive to some dairy and appreciate having other nondairy milk choices besides soy, such as coconut and cashew.
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Being a pastry chef, passionate baker and recipe developer who happens to specialize in vegan and gluten-free baking has made me something of a baked-goods food snob, especially in the vegan/g-free food arena. I humbly enjoy being a patron of other bakeries, coffee shops and restaurants, but I often find that I am underwhelmed by the quality of certain specialty bakery items.
I dislike being critical of any business, especially local businesses. I sincerely wish for all folks to succeed profitably and bring into existence their culinary fantasies. It’s just that I’ve eaten one too many horribly dry gluten-free cupcakes and odd-textured vegan muffins, and these experiences have led me to be slightly discerning in where I choose to spend my hard-earned money.
That being said, I love when I am surprised by something I’ve eaten that inspires me to go home and immediately re-create it. I had this very experience a few days ago at Mud Pie.
I showed up midweek, midafternoon, with laptop and mobile Groupon in hand, ready to get caffeine-wasted and sugar-high. In fact I was preparing to get some recipes edited and typed up for my cookbook at work. I opted for a lemony-blueberry muffin that was peering at me seductively through the display case. On a secondary impulse, I also ended up taking home a lonely-looking vanilla-coconut mini-bundt.
I ultimately decided to tear into my chosen muffin only after finishing my cashew-milk latte and getting midway through my recipe edits, but not before snapping some characteristic iPhone pictures and posting them to my Instagram account. People need to see what I’m eating. It’s essential.
I wasn’t expecting my blueberry snack to taste unsatisfactory by any means. But my mouth was more than pleased with the texture of an actual muffin. Sometimes, oftentimes, vegan muffins can leave one with a bit of a gummy-mouth feel. People who have been vegan for any extended amount of time often overlook or simply no longer notice this particular texture. I, however, do not allow it escape me. But this time the textural observation was a pleasant one, both for my taste buds and my brain. The subtle hints of lemon also left me wanting more, and more is what I awarded myself later that evening.
Much like how Mud Pie provides me with options outside the mainstream coffee-house-and-bakery norm, I also pride myself on being able to provide my unique clientele with such options. I thoroughly enjoy spending an entire day off from work, going back through old recipes I’ve developed or saved, and seeing how I can make them gluten-free and/or vegan. It’s even more impressive to my own ego when I’m able to make the revised recipe every bit as delicious and desirable as the original creation.
However, this time I was not able to fully satisfy my critical self with a vegan version of my oldest and best blueberry muffin recipe, which my brother once claimed was better than any coffee-shop muffin. The revision yielded a pretty good vegan muffin that even converted to being sans gluten, but the texture was not as astonishing as I had hoped. So I regrouped, restarted and developed something completely different.
This time, instead of trying to replace an egg, I just decided I’d create something that didn’t require one in the first place, neither for structure nor texture. Vinegar happens to be a highly effective egg replacement when used with the correct leavening, and it makes baked goods super fluffy. Fluffy is good. Fluffy muffins are even better.
I’ll be completely honest in saying that these muffins really should be called breakfast cakes. They are so moist, and I just couldn’t bring myself to take out any of the liquid to make them firmer or “chewier.” So call them cakes, or call them muffins. I won’t judge. They’ll be yours to create, to enjoy and to rename if you wish.
I have made this muffin recipe to be less sweet than a typical breakfast pastry, as I wanted to leave room for a sweeter, tangy and lemony glaze. (I told you earlier I was left wanting more.) Gluten-free and vegan options have been provided, as I’ve already professed my love for having such, but you may certainly use wheat flour and all the dairy your heart desires if you so choose.
No matter what you decide upon, you will not need an egg, which I consider a blessing and relief given the astounding recent increase in egg prices. I also hear that blueberries are quite affordable this time of year.
Lemon-Glazed Blueberry Muffin Breakfast Cakes
Makes about 8 jumbo muffins or 14 to 16 regular muffins
(Gluten-free and vegan options provided.)
2 cups flour (If making gluten-free, substitute 1 1/3 cup brown rice flour, 1/3 cup potato and 1/3 cup tapioca starch and 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum)
3/4 cup sugar (I use coconut sugar, but any sugar is fine)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup milk (If making vegan, use nondairy milk of choice)
1/3 cup oil (I use melted coconut oil)
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of two lemons
12 ounces blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon softened butter (If making vegan, use nondairy margarine such as Earth Balance)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare muffin pan with cooking spray or cupcake liners. (I strongly recommend using cupcake liners if you opt to make the gluten-free version. I did experience a slight bit of sticking to my pan, even well-sprayed.)
Whisk first five ingredients (all of the gluten-free ingredients if using that option) together in a large mixing bowl; set aside. In a smaller mixing bowl, whisk together the milk, oil, vinegar, vanilla and lemon zest. Add the wet mixture to the large mixing bowl and stir ingredients together by hand until no flour streaks are visible. (If making the gluten-free version, please use an electric hand mixer or stand mixer on medium speed for about 60 seconds to make sure the xanthan gum gets evenly distributed.)
Fold in the blueberries. Portion the muffin batter into prepared muffin pan. (I use a 2-ounce scoop to get even portion sizes. Jumbo muffins get two scoops per serving, and regular muffins get one scoop.) Bake muffins until the centers are firm and cooked through. I made jumbo muffins, and it took about 25 to 30 minutes to cook. Smaller muffins will require less time. Cooking times can vary by oven.
Once muffins are finished baking, allow them to cool in the pans for at least 15 minutes. Once firm enough to handle, transfer the muffins to a cooling rack. Make the lemon glaze by mixing together the powdered sugar, lemon juice and softened butter. It’s easier to do this with an electric hand mixer. If you prefer a thinner glaze, simply add more lemon juice, a teaspoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency.
Once the muffins are completely cooled, you can spoon your glaze on top, using the back of the spoon to spread the glaze around. If your glaze is thinner, simply spoon it on top and in the center of the muffins, and allow it to drizzle down the sides. Alternately, if you just can’t be bothered to make the glaze, simply sprinkle some coarse sugar on top of the muffin batter prior to baking to create a gorgeous and professional-looking crust. (You’ll want to get a fork for these babies, because they’re going to be moist)
Trish Minton is the pastry chef and baker for Pierpont’s inside Union Station. Although she has a passion and love for all things baked and sugary, she particularly loves catering to clients who need and desire desserts in the world of gluten-free and vegan.