Thursday, November 17, 2011

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

Our family's Thanksgiving always consisted of the typical turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, vegetables, but then there was dessert; pecan pies, pumpkin pies, apple pies, and even lemon meringue. (Obviously baking runs in my blood)  Although not as traditional as the pies, the flavor of these cupcakes scream Fall, and would make a great addition to my family's dessert buffet.
The cake was very light and moist, tasting a little like a spicy cinnamony carrot cake. (The apple flavor went missing.) The frosting, a delicious and ridiculously smooth buttercream, with a perfect caramel flavor that wasn't too rich or too sweet. I was so pleased with the texture of the frosting that I am thinking about trying it in other flavors as well. As for the reviews, it was unanimous everyone LOVED them, even that super picky co-worker who complains about everything, yeah that one, he ate two. (:

Caramel Apple Cupcakes
Adapted from Baked
Makes a boatload of cupcakes (about 45)

Apple Cake:
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground clove
1 ½ cups unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
2 ½ cups sugar
2 large eggs
4 cups applesauce (I used 1/2 regular & 1/2 cinnamon)

Caramel Butter Cream:
1 ½ cups sugar
⅓ cup flour
1 ½ cups milk
⅓ cup heavy cream
1 ½ cups unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
⅓ cup plus 2 tablespoon Smuckers Caramel Sauce at room temperature (Mrs Richardson's would probably be better)

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Prepare cupcake pan with paper liners.
Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves together into a large bowl. Set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy, about 4 minutes. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and beat until combined.
Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three parts, alternating with the applesauce, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl, then mix on low speed for a few more seconds.
Divide the batter into cupcake pan. Turn the oven temperature down to 350 and bake 20-30 minutes,  until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let sit until cool enough to touch. Remove cupcakes from baking pan and let cool completely.

Caramel Buttercream:
In a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool. Reduce speed to low and add the butter and vanilla. Mix until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.
Add ⅓ cup of the caramel and continue mixing until combined. If the frosting is too soft, put the bowl in the refrigerator to chill slightly, then beat again until it is the proper consistency. If the frosting is to firm, set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is the proper consistency.

Frost cooled cupcakes and drizzle with the remaining caramel. Place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to firm before serving.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Peanut Butter Cookies With Chocolate Chunks

My daughter loves to bake, and begs me at least once a week to bake cookies or cakes. Many times I have to tell her no. It's not because I am a mean mom who doesn't want her daughter to improve her baking skills.  It's because I am a mean mom who doesn't like her to text while she bakes, not paying attention to directions, wasting ingredients, and then leaving a mess in the kitchen for me or her father to clean. (She hears this in the Charlie Brown teacher voice "WaWa Wa WaWa".) 
On one of her many second chance she made Peanut Butter Cookies With Chocolate Chunks, and they turned out amazing. (It's shocking what giving your full attention can do) (:  These cookies were crisp on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside with little bits of melty chocolate chunks hiding in each bite. Not only did her cookies come out delicious she also cleaned up after herself, which earned her another day of baking (:

Peanut Butter Cookies With Chocolate Chunks
From Baked
1 ¾ cup flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup smooth peanut butter
6oz  milk chocolate chunks (I used semisweet)
Sift flour, baking soda and salt together. Set aside.
In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the peanut butter and vanilla, beating until just incorporated.

Add half of the flour mixture into the butter mixture and mix for 15 seconds. Add the remaining flour, mixing until incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chunks. Cover, and let rest in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
Preheat oven to 375. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Using a small cookie scoop (about 1 tbs), spoon batter onto lined cookie sheet leaving a few inches between cookies. Press the cookie down slightly into a tall disk. Bake in the preheated oven 10-13 minutes, until golden brown.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Occupy Kitchen

When I hear occupy I hear it as occu-PIE, and it makes me want to go to the kitchen and make a pie. So with 2 months of the news reminding me to make a pie, I finally decided on a Peanut Butter Pie.
I have made several Peanut Butter Pies in the past, the first Peanut Butter Pie I made was good, but the best one I have made was from Sweet Serendipity (Humble Pie). This recipe was pretty good, but I think if I mix this recipe's chocolate bottom cookie crust and the Sweet Serendipity filling,  I would have the PERFECT Peanut Butter Pie. Until then...

No-Bake Peanut Butter Pie
Adapted from Baked
Makes a 9" pie

Cookie Crust:
16 Oreo Cookies
4 tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Chocolate bottom:
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
½ tsp light corn syrup

Peanut butter filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
¾ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1½ cups heavy cream

Easy hot fudge sauce:
Milk chocolate
Dark chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup corn syrup

Cookie crust:
Preheat oven to 350. Process the cookies in a food processor until fine powder. Sprinkle the butter over the crumbs and pulse to incorporate.
Sprinkle the mixture into a 9-inch pie plate, pressing it up the sides and onto the bottom. You can use the bottom of a measuring cup to even out the crust. Bake until the crust is fragrant and looks set, 10-15 minutes. When it’s done place in the refrigerator until chilled.

Chocolate bottom:
Melt chocolate chips in a microwave on 50% power. Add the corn syrup and stir to combine. Use a spatula to spread the chocolate in a thin layer on the bottom of the chilled pie crust.
Put the crust back in the refrigerator while you make the peanut butter filling.

Peanut butter filling:
Put the cream cheese, peanut butter, vanilla, and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until well combined and completely smooth. Set aside.  In a clean bowl, use the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment to whip the cream until soft peaks form. Remove the bowl from the mixer and, with a rubber spatula, gently fold the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture until the mixture is uniform in color. Pour the mixture into the prepared crust and freeze for at least 4 hours. Once the pie is frozen, you can cover it with aluminum foil and freeze for up to 3 days.

Easy hot fudge sauce:
Place both the chocolates in a medium heatproof bowl and set aside.
In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a simmer over medium heat. Add the corn syrup and stir to combine. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Let sit for 2 minutes. Whisk the chocolate, starting in the middle, until completely smooth. Sauce can be refrigerated for 3 days.

Serve a small slice of pie with 3 tablespoons of warm fudge sauce poured directly over the top of the pie. The fudge sauce is key, without it it's just too peanut buttery.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Better Than New York Waffles & Dinges

I'm back at it, trying to recreate some of the memorable treats I had while in New York, and in this case trying to make it better.
My experience at Waffles and Dinges in New York didn't go quite as I had hoped. The idea was great, fresh waffle with ice cream and chocolate sauce, just like the breakfast my dad made for me as a kid.

The problem with the Waffles and Dinges, at least from the cart at Central Park, was that they were hard as rocks, and had little flavor. I was hoping to find a recipe for a delicious Belgian waffle that would be softer than the original brick that I tried and tastier as well.
The recipe I decided to try was a recipe from the founder of Waffles and Dignes, which was a basic Belgian yeast batter. The outcome was a tasty waffle that was now too soft and chewy.

I didn't want to waste the batter, so even though I didn't care for the waffles, I continued making the entire batch. When I finished pulling the last waffle out of the waffle iron I had an idea...toast them in the toaster. That was just the answer, a few seconds in the toaster made the waffles perfect, slightly crunchy on the outside and moist and chewy on the inside.

And as if these waffles weren't sweet enough I tried making them again using an idea from a recipe my friend emailed me, Liege Waffles, using pearl sugar in the batter. (Actually I couldn't find pearl sugar. Ikea use to carry it but now when I need it they don't, so I used sugar cubes.) Adding the "pearl sugar" not only adds sweetness to the waffles, it also adds little bits of crunch, from the sugar crystallizing in the waffle iron. Even without the ice cream and chocolate sauce, these waffles are the best waffles I have long as I toast them before serving :)

Waffles and Dinges
From Food & Wine

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup pearl sugar, or 24 sugar cubes quartered (Optional) 
Belgian Chocolate-Fudge Sauce:
1 cup heavy cream
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar 
In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water. In a large bowl, stir the flour with the salt. Whisk in the yeast mixture, milk, butter, egg yolks and vanilla until smooth.
In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold them into the batter and let stand for 20 minutes.
While you let the batter stand you can make the chocolate sauce. In a saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Let stand for 2 minutes, then stir until the chocolate is melted. Add the confectioners' sugar and whisk until smooth.
Preheat waffle iron. Pour batter into the iron and sprinkle with some of the "pearl sugar". Cook until the waffles are golden. Repeat with the remaining batter. Toast waffle in toaster for several seconds before serving with your choice of maple syrup or ice cream and chocolate sauce.

* In the original recipe they say to put the waffles in a 250 degree oven after they are done cooking in the waffle iron. When I tried this it did not help with their sad limp exterior, so I have skipped that step and replaced it with toasting them in the toaster.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Trick or Treat Macarons

These macarons were perfect for Halloween, because they were both a trick and a treat.
The macaron shells were definitely a treat because they came out perfect; smooth, nice feet, moist interior, and more importantly not hollow. The filling on the other was quite the trick. I made two different fillings, Dark Chocolate Caramel and Browned Butter Spice. The Browned Butter Spice Frosting was a little freaky tasting. I was hoping for a nice warm fall flavor but it turned out to be a weird mixture of sour and spice.

The Dark Chocolate Caramel filling was a mix of a trick and a treat. It had an amazing rich chocolate flavor followed by a hint of caramel, but the consistency was a nightmare. It was too thick to spread on the shell but so thin it oozed out of the cookies while they were sitting in the refrigerator, making a sticky mess.

With that said, the Dark Chocolate Caramel filling with the chocolate shell was so fudgy and delicious, that I would probably make them again.

Basic Macaron Shell
from Kitchen Musings

3 egg whites (aged in the refrigerator 1 day and then microwaved 10 seconds)
125g almond flour
225g powdered sugar
25g granulated sugar
pinch of cream of tartar
1/2 tsp powdered food coloring (optional)

Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Prepare pastry bag with a 1/2 inch plain tip.
Using a food processor, pulse almond flour and confectioner's sugar until combined.
In the bowl of a stand mixer whip the egg whites and cream of tartar on low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium high and beat 1 minute. Add granulated sugar and continue whipping until stiff peaks form, about 1 minute.
Gently fold 1/4 of the flour mixture along with the vanilla into the egg whites. Continue adding 1/4 and folding until all the flour is combined, making a thick batter. Fill the pastry bag with the mixture.
Pipe the batter into 1 1/2 inch mounds on the prepared baking sheets, spacing about 1 inch apart.
Let the macarons rest at room temperature for 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 310. Bake the macarons for 10-12 minutes.

*For chocolate shells add 2 tbs unsweetened cocoa to almond flour and confectioner's sugar during the processing step.

Browned Butter Spice Frosting
Adapted from 

2/3 cup butter 
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon five spice
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon apple cider
3 cups powdered sugar 

Cook butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, swirling pan occasionally, until deep golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.
Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer, place in refrigerator and chill until solidified.
Add remaining ingredients and beat until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes, occasionally scraping inside of bowl.

Dark Chocolate Caramel Filling

3/4 cup (180 grams) heavy cream
2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (4 grams) freshly squeezed and strained lemon juice (from 1/2 lemon)
4 ounces (120 grams) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon (3 grams) vanilla extract
Heat cream in a saucepan over medium heat until scalding, about 3 minutes. Set aside.
Heat the sugar and lemon juice in another medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar resembles wet sand. Cook until the syrup turns a clear amber color, and the edges begin to foam,  about 10 minutes. Stir only if the sugar does not melt evenly.
Remove from the heat and immediately pour in the cream to stop the cooking process. Be careful, the syrup will steam and may splatter. Whisk in the chocolate and vanilla, pour the caramel into a container, and let it cool at room temperature for 2 hours. Cover, then refrigerate for several hours.


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