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Cupcake Project





Updated: 2017-07-29T01:45:09.670-06:00

 



April Fool's Day Cupcakes Are a Fun Surprise Snack

2013-04-03T13:28:34.593-06:00

"Would you like a cupcake?"
"Of course!"



"Wait... what?"
"April Fools!"

Today's April Fool's Day cupcake is really a piece of toast cut in the shape of cupcake, smeared with chocolate almond butter and cream cheese, and topped with candied sunflower seeds.

The cupcake toast is healthy (when compared to the real thing) and is the perfect April Fool's Day after school snack.

Credit

This concept and all of the food styling was done by Brooke of Sucre Shop!  She's been sharing other cute snack idea on her Instagram feed.  Check them out!



Easter Egg Cupcake People

2013-03-27T20:38:42.909-06:00


When reader Christine Mitchell made my Easter cupcakes baked in real egg shells, she filled the shells too high with batter.  The cupcakes overflowed out of the eggs instead of resting neatly inside the egg shell (as shown below).


Instead of tossing the eggs, she created a new Easter sensation - Easter egg cupcake people!


Although the "hair" was a mistake, Christine is now going to overfill the egg shells on purpose.  She wrote in her email to me that her friends made them "and they didn't put enough batter in and there was no spill over. They were so disappointed they are going to make them again tomorrow."

How To Make Your Own Easter Egg Cupcake People

To make your own Easter egg cupcake people:
  1. Follow the instructions in my post on baking cupcakes inside of real eggs.  However, add more batter to each egg shell than the recipe calls for to make the cupcake overflow.
  2. Draw smiley faces on top of the eggs.  You can use Sharpies (the ink should not penetrate the egg shell) or, if that makes you nervous, food safe markers.
Photo Credit

The photo of the Easter egg cupcake people is from Christine.  Thanks so much to Christine for sharing her adorable idea and photo!



Easter Egg Cookies

2013-03-19T14:34:15.362-06:00

Flat Easter egg cookies are fairly common and can be striking and adorable (the Easter egg cookies over at I Am Baker are a prime example).  But, not all of us have the artistic talent, time, or patience to create such intricate cookies.  To make my Easter egg cookies, you need only enough skill to form dough into a shape somewhat resembling an egg.  Trust me, you can do this.  What makes my Eater egg cookies cute is the colored foil they are wrapped in - reminiscent of the ever-so-popular chocolate Easter eggs. Let's forgot about the cute factor for a minute and focus on the taste of these Easter egg cookies.  They are nutty (I used hazelnuts, but you can choose from any of your favorite nuts) and loaded with coffee flavor.  They taste a bit like biscotti dunked in coffee, but with the texture of Christmas snowball cookies or the similar Mexican wedding cookies.  In fact, I may repeat the Easter egg cookie recipe again as a ball come Christmas-time.  Easter Egg Cookies Recipe I based my Easter egg cookie recipe off of the nut ball recipe from The Passion Fruit.  My adapted recipe is below.Yield: 18 Easter Egg CookiesIngredients:1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature1/3 cup brown sugar1 teaspoon vanilla2 cups flour1/2 teaspoon salt2 teaspoons instant coffee2 cups finely chopped toasted hazelnuts (or any other chopped nuts)powdered sugar, to taste Special Supplies:Colored foil candy wrappers in whatever colors you like (you can buy them at kitchen specialty shops or online)Directions:Preheat oven to 375 F. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix butter, sugar, and vanilla until fluffy.Mix in flour, salt, and coffee. Stir in hazelnuts. Shape dough into eggs.  I suggest having an egg on hand as a model.  You could also use an egg serving tray like the one in the photo to test the eggs for size (they will not rise in the oven). Freeze the cookie dough eggs for 20 minutes to help them hold their shape.Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet or Silpat for 12 minutes. Once cool to the touch, roll in powdered sugar.  If you lift them off of the cookie sheet too soon, they may crumble in your hands.Wrap in colored foil.[...]



Ginger Coconut Macaroons for Passover

2013-03-20T14:56:08.007-06:00

Every year at our potluck Passover, my cousins are responsible for bringing the coconut macaroons.  The whole family (except me) raves about these particular macaroons - purchased from a neighborhood bakery.  Sure, the bakery macaroons are better than the ones from the can that I grew up eating, but I knew I could do better.  This year, I told my mom (our Passover host) that I'd like to take care of all of the Passover desserts - including the coconut macaroons.I'm excited to be responsible for our Passover desserts - I'll be making macaroons (detailed in a bit), flourless chocolate brownies with raspberry sorbet, and lemon cheesecake (I know - no cupcakes - crazy!).  While I'm excited to bake, making any change to our traditional family meals is always met with resistance.   I fear that if my macaroons are not spectacular, there will be under-the-table grumbles about the missing bakery macaroons.  I decided to make three macaroon flavors: ginger coconut macaroons, dark chocolate-dipped vanilla bean macaroons, and chocolate cayenne macaroons (not too spicy so Grandma will still enjoy them). The photos in this post are from my test run of ginger coconut macaroons.  I used Alice Medrich's macaroon recipe from Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies as shared on Food 52, but adapted it to add candied ginger, giving the coconut macaroons an added zing.  What makes Alice's recipe special is the use of coconut flakes (I got mine compliments of King Arthur Flour).  Coconut flakes taste like coconut should taste - much more true to the flavor of the fruit than the commonly found bags of shredded sweetened coconut.  The flakes also give the macaroons more texture than your average coconut macaroon.  Also, while any finely chopped candied ginger would work well for this variation, I used King Arthur Flour's ginger that already comes finely chopped - making the whole process so easy!Ginger Coconut Macaroons Recipe Since my recipe adaptation of Alice Medrich's macaroons was so minor, I'm not going to share the recipe here.  Instead, I'll encourage you to purchase Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies or to head to Food 52 for the recipe.  For my adaptation, simply add 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of finely chopped candied ginger to the batter (double that if you are a huge ginger fan).My Other Two Passover Macaroon RecipesFor my dark chocolate dipped vanilla bean macaroons, I plan to follow the same recipe and I'll use vanilla bean paste instead of vanilla.  Once the macaroons are cool, I'll dip them in tempered dark chocolate.I haven't yet decided which recipe I'll use for my chocolate macaroons.  If you have a favorite chocolate macaroon recipe, please leave it in the comments.Another Macaroon Recipe I Plan to TryAlthough it's not on my menu this year, if I hold my title as family macaroon maker, I'd love to try Smitten Kitchen's raspberry coconut macaroons next year.  They are such a pretty spring color! Speaking of Smitten Kitchen (a.k.a. Deb), I met her at a book signing at Left Bank Books a few weeks ago.  I'm the ginger in the photo above (no correlation to me using ginger in these macaroons) and Deb is the one with the print skirt standing behind me.  She was a total sweetheart.If you haven't picked up a copy of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook yet, you might just need to do that right now.[...]



Hummingbird Upside-Down Cupcakes

2013-03-14T16:24:00.936-06:00


My hummingbird cupcakes with pineapple almond butter cream cheese frosting are among my  favorite cupcakes.  But, not everyone has almond flour, walnut oil, and golden syrup lying around (some of the key ingredients in that cupcake recipe).  This hummingbird upside-down cupcake recipe presents a simpler alternative with the same show-stopper flavor combination of pineapple, pecan, and banana. 

These hummingbird upside-down cupcakes take the best elements of hummingbird cupcakes and pineapple-upside down cake and marry them to create a new dessert that still feels like home.  Rather than standing alone (as in the traditional pineapple upside-down cupcake), the pineapple in these cupcakes is joined by the hummingbird cake’s banana and pecan.  The cupcake itself is a basic brown sugar spice cake with an added touch of cardamom – a nod to a classic spice found in hummingbird cakes. 

To get the recipe, head to Paula Deen's website (I'm a regular guest contributor there).



Hazelnut Coffee Cupcakes

2013-03-11T20:30:55.744-06:00

Nutella is so in vogue that it's hard to think of doing anything with hazelnuts other than mixing them with chocolate.  It's easy to forget that Hazelnut (I prefer to call her Hazel) and Coffee are coffeehouse soul sisters.  They love their guy pal, Chocolate, but sometimes they need some bestie time.  I'm here to help.I've created hazelnut coffee cupcakes with vanilla mascarpone frosting that closely mimic the aroma and flavor of a mug of hazelnut coffee.  As you eat, your "mmmm" may transition to a soft acoustic coffee shop soundtrack.  Just go with it!Hazelnut Coffee Cupcake RecipeYield: 12 cupcakesCupcake Ingredients: 1 cup hazelnuts 2 teaspoons vegetable oil1 cup sugar1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder1/2 teaspoon baking soda1/2 teaspoon salt1 teaspoon instant coffee (use 2 teaspoons if you prefer stronger coffee)1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature2 large eggs 2/3 cup whole milkFrosting Ingredients: 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature8 ounces mascarpone cheese1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract1 cup powdered sugarCupcake Directions:Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread hazelnuts onto a cookie sheet.Bake for ten minutes.Once the hazelnuts are cool enough to touch, roll around in your hands or in a towel to remove the dark brown skins.  Some of the skins will stick on the nuts and that's OK.Food process the hazelnuts with vegetable oil until they form a thick paste. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix together sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, instant coffee, and butter until fully combined.Mix in hazelnut paste.Mix in eggs, one at a time. Mix in milk.Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full.Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Frosting Directions:In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whip butter until light and fluffy.Mix in mascarpone and vanilla.Mix in powdered sugar a little bit at a time.Spread or pipe on cooled cupcakes.Optionally top with finely chopped toasted hazelnuts.Refrigerate until ready to serve.[...]



Intensely Thai Cupcakes

2013-03-08T09:04:00.935-06:00

There is nothing mild about these Thai-inspired cupcakes.  As soon as you are within grabbing length of these cupcakes, the unexpected aroma of fish sauce caramel buttercream hits you.  Once you place the scent, let it take you to your last Thai meal.  You'll recognize the smells from the tom kha soup you or your neighbor enjoyed.  A peel of the wrapper reinforces the setting.  The cake practically breathes coconut milk, lemon grass, and kaffir lime.   Bite into the featherweight Thai-inspired cupcake and you'll see that the smell translates flawlessly to taste.  Each bite is filled with a flavor intensity typically reserved only for hard candies.  As such, I recommend baking these Thai-inspired cupcakes as minis and treating them as Thai cupcake candy - quick snack shots of Thai-inspired sweet goodness.Thai-Inspired Cupcake RecipeYield: 60 mini cupcakesCupcake Ingredients:3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature3 kaffir lime leaves1 teaspoon ground dried lemongrass1 1/2 cups sugar3 eggs2 1/2 cups cake flour3/4 teaspoon baking soda2 teaspoons baking powder3/4 teaspoon salt13 1/2 ounces coconut milkFish Sauce Caramel Ingredients:6 tablespoons unsalted butter1 cup brown sugar1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon fish sauce1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon heavy whipping creamFish Sauce Caramel Buttercream Ingredients: 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature4 cups powdered sugarfish sauce caramel from aboveCupcake Directions: In a small saucepan, melt the butter on medium heat until just melted.   Add the kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass. Continue heating the mixture for about 5 minutes on low heat.  Remove from the heat and allow to stand for another 5 minutes. Remove kaffir lime leaves.Let the butter cool to room temperature before using it in the cupcake batter.Preheat oven to 350 F.  In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix infused butter with sugar until fully combined.Mix in eggs one at a time.Mix in cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.Mix in coconut milk.Fill mini cupcake liners 3/4 full with batter. Bake for 14 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.Fish Sauce Caramel Directions: Melt butter in a small saucepan on medium heat.Add brown sugar and stir continuously until just boiling.Add fish sauce and stir well.Stir in heavy whipping cream until just combined.Remove from heat.Cool to room temperature.Fish Sauce Caramel Buttercream Frosting Directions: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy (about three minutes on high speed).Mix in powdered sugar a little bit at a time until fully combined.Mix in fish sauce caramel until fully combined.Spread or pipe on cooled cupcakes.[...]



Fish Sauce Caramels with Kaffir Lime and Lemongrass

2013-03-07T23:27:37.564-06:00

 Portland, Oregon is known for its foodie culture.  When Jonathan and I were there this summer for the International Food Blogger Conference, we had our pick of fabulous restaurants to choose from.  So, guess what we had for lunch?  Ice cream!  The tasting menu at Salt & Straw was irresistible!  Just look at their menu and you'll see what I mean.  My favorite of all of the flavors that I tried was a collaboration between Salt & Straw and Boke Bowl - a fish sauce caramel ice cream with lemongrass and kaffir lime.Fish sauce caramel is a flavor combination that I had never envisioned (although I wasn't too far off with my miso caramel).  The salt and umami of the fish sauce creates an elevated version of salted caramel that blew my mind - big time.  It is now March and I'm still thinking about that ice cream.As part of my chocolatier for a day at Kakao Chocolate, I was encouraged to bring some ingredients and create my own product.  Guess what I brought!  You got it: fish sauce, kaffir lime leaves, and lemongrass.Together with Jenny from Kakao, we developed these fish sauce kaffir lime caramels half dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled with lemongrass.  They taste like basic/always-enjoyable caramels at first, but as they sit in your mouth, the Thai flavor of the fish sauce kicks in.  The kaffir lime and lemongrass flavors come last to complete the Thai ensemble.  The caramels weren't quite as good as the ice cream (I'll be striving for that perfection for years), but they were pretty special and would be a fitting conclusion to a modern Thai dinner.  About the Key IngredientsIf you haven't done much Thai cooking, you probably have never purchased fish sauce, lemongrass, or kaffir lime leaves.  You may be able to find fish sauce and lemongrass at your regular grocery store, but you'll likely have to head to an Asian market to find kaffir lime leaves.  Once you have them, don't let the extra ingredients go to waste - try your hand at Thai cooking.Fish Sauce Caramels RecipeAlthough I don't usually give recipes in grams, that's how it's done at Kakao (and by pretty much all professionals), so that's how I've written this post.  If you don't already own a kitchen scale, I highly recommend you buy one.  They're inexpensive, and once you own a kitchen scale, you'll never know how you lived without one.  You'll also need a candy thermometer.  I've been telling you for ages how much I love my Maverick thermometer (it beeps when it reaches the temperature you set so you don't need to hover over it watching the temperature rise).  I was excited to see that they use the same thermometer at Kakao! Yield: 50 caramelsIngredients:240 grams coconut milk240 grams heavy whipping cream6 kaffir lime leaves340 grams sugar285 grams light corn syrup10 grams fish sauce (I love the flavor so much that I wish I'd added more.  If I made these again, I might double the amount.)20 grams unsalted buttertempered dark chocolate, to tastedried lemongrass, to tasteDirections: In a saucepan on medium heat, heat coconut milk, heavy whipping cream, and kaffir lime leaves until the liquid just begins to boil.Remove from heat, cover, and let rest for twenty minutes.Remove the kaffir lime leaves and discard. Mix in the sugar and corn syrup and return to medium heat, stirring periodically.When the temperature on a candy thermometer reads 218 F, add the fish sauce.Continue heating and stirring periodically until it reaches 239 F.Remove from heat and stir in butter until it is completely melted.Pour into brownie pans lined with parchment paper or silicone pans. Wait for caramels to cool (about thirty minutes) and then carefully cut into squares using a sharp knife (or if you have $250 to spare, you could use a caramel cutter).Melt chocolate, being sure to[...]



Amazing 30 Second Chocolate Leaves

2013-03-01T08:22:21.577-06:00

One of the best tricks that I learned during my day as a chocolatier at Kakao Chocolate was how to make these chocolate leaves in just thirty seconds.Start by pouring a long blob of tempered chocolate onto parchment paper.Use a very well cleaned hair comb or a special cake decorating comb to drag lines on both sides of the chocolate.  I tried this at home with a fork and it didn't work as well since the tines are too close together.Finger paint the outline of the leaf.Fold the parchment paper up a little to create a slight curve in the leaf.Cool in the refrigerator, peel the chocolate leaf off the parchment paper, eat, or use to decorate![...]



How to Temper Chocolate Like a Pro (You'll Be Surprised By How Easy It Is)

2013-03-02T20:36:32.779-06:00

It doesn't matter if chocolate is tempered when using it in cake batter.  But, for chocolate decorations (like my 30 second chocolate leaves), ganache that shines, properly textured truffles, and gorgeous chocolate-dipped fruits and caramels, it's essential to know how to temper chocolate.  If you just melt chocolate any which way, it doesn't harden with the proper almost-reflective surface and the smooth crisp break of a chocolate that's been tempered correctly. The chocolate could end up rubbery and fugdey or simply lack luster.I recently had an opportunity to learn how to temper chocolate from the pros at Kakao Chocolate.  I got to be a chocolatier for a day - this meant that, in addition to being trained by a professional chocolatier, I got to eat all of the chocolate that I wanted all day long - hello, sugar high!Here I am dipping truffles with Jenny from Kakao Chocolate. (Don't they have the cheeriest work space?!)  Jenny taught me that if she isn't using the expensive tempering machine shown above (these machines run for almost $2000), she uses the Partial Melt Method.  I took out my notebook.  The Partial Melt Method sounded fancy.How to Temper Chocolate Using the Partial Melt MethodStep 1:  Put your chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. (Did she say microwave?)Important:  Although my chocolate may look like chocolate chips, it is not.  These are Callebaut chocolate discs. Chocolate chips will not temper well.  Giver's Log (the blog of a chocolate maker) explains that "chocolate chips are not designed to melt, in fact, they’re designed to not melt (so they can hold their shape in your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe)."  The chocolate discs are designed for melting.  You could also purchase a block of tempered chocolate that you would then need to chop into small pieces yourself.Here are a few other tips about which chocolate to use:Don't get unsweetened chocolate (sometimes labeled baking chocolate); if you've ever tasted that chocolate on it's own, you'll know why - it's only meant to be eaten after being mixed with sugar in baked goods.You can also melt chocolate bars, but be careful of which brand you buy.  If you see ingredients like vegetable oil, coconut oil, even artificial chocolate flavoring, don't buy it.  Jenny warns that you should "be wary of chocolate labeled 'compound chocolate,'  or 'chocolate coating'... the texture and taste is totally different from the real deal." Step 2:  Microwave in short bursts, stirring vigorously between bursts.  When about about 75% of the chocolate is melted, the final stir will melt the remaining chocolate.  Mixing the unmelted chocolate into the melted chocolate (rather than microwaving until it's all melted) is key to a proper temper so don't overlook this step. It also helps if you have a candy thermometer.  To not damage the chocolate, it's recommended that chocolate never go over 122 F for dark, semisweet, and bittersweet and 105 F for milk and white chocolate. Once over these temperatures, the chocolate will become thick, have a grainy texture, and might even burn.The exact amount of time the chocolate needs to be in the microwave will depend on your particular microwave.  In the shop, Jenny taught me to initially microwave for a minute at half power, then microwave for thirty more seconds at half power for the next interval (she only needed the two bursts) - that worked for me at home as well.Step 3:  Wait until the chocolate cools to 90 F for dark, bittersweet, and semisweet or 86 F for milk and white chocolate before using it.  Your patience will be rewarded.  If you use the chocolate while it is too hot, it won't hold a shape. For more technical details on tempering chocolate, check out the fabu[...]



This Can Happen When You Have a Toddler Who Loves Dumplings

2013-02-20T21:31:41.125-06:00

My three year old, Myles, doesn't just request dumplings.  After reading "Yum Yum Dim Sum", he now requests them by name. He charms restaurant servers when he orders shumai and har gow off the dim sum carts at our local Chinese restaurants on weekend mornings.  When Myles requested meat and cheese shumai for dinner one night, it sounded weird - but who am I to stop someone with a weird food idea?   We made homemade shumai together using leftover rib meat and mac n' cheese.  Then, I created a dessert course, cupcake shumai - of course!   This post has no specific recipe.  If you want to make shumai, buy shumai wrappers or make your own (I used wonton wrappers) and then follow the great instructions on Just Bento.  Fill the shumai with whatever sounds good to you!  If you do choose to fill them with baked and frosted cupcakes, you'll see that the frosting melts into the cupcake during the steaming process and yields ultra-rich, moist cupcake shumai!Indulge your kid's crazy ideas, but don't forget to have some of your own, too.  Just because something never has cheese doesn't mean that it can't; it might even be better that way.  Now's your chance to be the explorer who discovered it. Dream, dream, and dream some more.  Work with what you have, what you know, and what you love to see what you can create and who you can inspire in all aspects of your life.[...]



Moonshine and Sweet Tea Cupcakes

2013-02-17T23:38:45.360-06:00

What if, instead of moonshine, cupcakes were illegal?  Would you still bake them?  Would you race to deliver your cupcakes without getting caught.  "Oh no, officer, there's no need to check the trunk.  I was just headed to meet my husband and bring him some moonshine.  I would never get involved with something like cupcakes - heavens, no!"  Would NASCAR (a sport started due to moonshining)  be a largely female SUV-racing sport?  Thankfully, we'll never know.These days, legal moonshine exists.  As Medicinal Mixology points out, legal moonshine is a bit of a paradox: Moonshine is not a type of spirit (such as gin, tequila, or whiskey), but is defined as any spirit made at an illegal, unlicensed still.  In short, moonshine is liquor made by a person that doesn’t give the government the taxes it so loves to collect on liquor sales.  So really, the only thing that separates a distiller from a bootlegger is money paid to Uncle Sam.  However, some legal moonshine is made the exact same way that it's been made for generations (with taxes and government regulation being the only differences).  The history gives those brands enough legitimacy for me.  I made my moonshine and sweet tea cupcakes using Strawberry Midnight Moon (NASCAR superstar Junior Johnson's company), which uses real fruit and no artificial colors or flavors.The moonshine and sweet tea cupcakes have a strong tea flavor.  I figured out the secret to baking with tea a while back and I'm always happy for an excuse to use it.  The moonshine lends a light alcohol finish with slightly fruity notes from the strawberry.  Despite the fact that I chopped up all the moonshine-soaked strawberries from the Midnight Moon jar and added them to the cupcake batter, the strawberry flavor was not prominent.  It just adds to the sweetness.  These moonshine and sweet tea cupcakes are for anyone who has a little rebel and a little South in them.  Y'all are going to love these cupcakes!Moonshine and Sweet Tea CupcakesYield: 18 cupcakesTea Butter Ingredients:1 cup unsalted butter1/3 cup packed loose black tea leavesCupcake Ingredients: 1/2 cup (4 ounces) tea butter from above, room temperature1 1/2 cups sugar1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder1/2 teaspoon baking soda1/2 teaspoon salt2 large eggs1/2 cup Strawberry Midnight Moon (other brands/flavors of moonshine would also work)2/3 cup waterStrawberries from inside the jar of Midnight Moon, chopped finely (If you aren't using Strawberry Midnight Moon, you could leave this step off or make your moonshine strawberries by soaking 9 strawberries in moonshine overnight.) Tea Buttercream Ingredients:Remaining tea butter from above, room temperature1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature2 cups powdered sugarTea Butter Directions:In a small saucepan, melt the butter on medium heat until just melted.   Add the tea leaves. Continue heating the mixture for about 5 minutes on low heat.  Remove from the heat and allow to stand for another 5 minutes or until the butter is discernibly tinted by the tea leaves.  Pour the mixture through a fine sieve, pressing hard on the tea leaves and then discarding them.  You will undoubtedly end up with some butter that you can't get off of the leaves.  I encourage you to press as hard as you can, but not to obsess about lost butter - it's for a good cause and you don't need a full cup of butter for this recipe.Let the butter cool to room temperature before using it in the cake and frosting.Cupcake Directions:Preheat oven to 350 F.In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat tea butter and sugar until light and fluffy.Mix in flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.[...]



NASCAR Cupcakes - Salt and Vinegar Pork Rind Cupcakes with a Beer Glaze

2013-02-11T00:01:38.743-06:00

This NASCAR cupcake is for Nanette Biddle Taylor who posted the following on the Cupcake Project Facebook Page last week: Might I suggest some type of NASCAR-themed cupcake in honor of the start of the racing season at Daytona in less than 10 days??? I'm having withdrawals and can't wait for Daytona.After seeing Nanette's request, I polled the Cupcake Project Facebook Community to see what types of food you thought best represented NASCAR.  Beer was the clear winner!  I've been around that track before.  If you want a beer cupcake, check out my beer cheese cupcakes, Hefeweizen (wheat beer) cupcakes, or my cupcakes with a built-in cup for beer.  Another popular food on the list was hot dogs; if you want to make a hot dog cupcake for NASCAR, I've got a recipe for that as well.  So, I was forced to race toward another popular suggestion - pork rinds! Pork rinds are a definite part of NASCAR culture - so much so that NASCAR celeb Junior Johnson created his own line of pork rinds (I haven't tried them, but apparently they are quite good).Oddly, I'm not the first person to make a pork rind cupcake.  It's been done before for people on low-carb diets.  These recipes call for grinding up pork rinds and using that as flour (hey - that makes the cupcakes gluten-free too!).  I wanted my pork rind cupcakes to have more of a normal cupcake rise, so I used regular all-purpose flour plus ground pork rinds in my cupcakes.Since pork rinds are often salt and vinegar flavored, I decided to use that flavor profile for my pork rind cupcakes.  I couldn't quite get the idea of NASCAR and beer out of my mind, so I topped these cupcakes with a beer glaze. Umm, Yuck?"Yuck" is a strong word.  I'd use the word "different" to describe these NASCAR cupcakes. If you've ever had salt and vinegar potato chips (or pork rinds), you know that the flavor takes some getting used to.  When faced with that combination in a cupcake, it's a whole new learning curve for your palate.  The pork rinds make these cupcakes a little greasy (not surprising and not necessarily a bad thing) and lend an intense bacon-like flavor (picture your salt and vinegar chips dunked in bacon dip).  Don't think of these cupcakes as a dessert - think of them as pork rinds in cupcake form and see if the taste drives you to seconds.NASCAR Cupcake RecipeYield: 10 cupcakes Cupcake Ingredients:1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature1 cup sugar1 1/2 cups finely ground pork rinds (They all come salted and that's what you want.  I didn't add additional salt to the recipe.  Don't use the flavored ones.)3/4 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 2 large eggs1/4 cup white vinegar Glaze Ingredients:1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons powdered sugar1 tablespoon cheap beer (go ahead and drink the rest)Black sanding sugar10 miniature NASCAR cars, optional Cupcake Directions: Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix butter and sugar until light and fluffy.Mix in pork rinds, flour, and baking soda.Mix in eggs, one at a time.Mix in vinegar and let the batter sit for ten minutes.  The batter will get a little bit foamy from the vinegar/baking soda reaction.Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full.Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.Glaze Directions: In a small bowl, thoroughly mix powdered sugar and beer.  The end result should be a thick liquid.  Spread on cooled cupcakes.Let the glaze sit for a minute so it becomes tacky.  Then, spread sanding sugar over the glaze.Optionally, top with cars.  Do not eat the cars. Moonshine While researching Junior Johnson due to his pork rinds, I learned that he has a brand of moonshine[...]



White Chocolate Amaretto Cupcakes

2013-02-07T15:33:36.005-06:00


For my Valentine's Day contribution to Paula Deen's website, their editor suggested that I create a cupcake using white chocolate.  These white chocolate amaretto cupcakes did the trick!  The cupcakes contain both melted white chocolate and white chocolate chips for a double punch of white chocolate.  The amaretto adds a sultry almond flavor – enough to enjoy, but not strong enough to leave you with a lingering taste of alcohol.

Although you can make these white chocolate amaretto cupcakes using store-bought white chocolate, it would be extra fun to make them using homemade white chocolate (it only takes five minutes to make!). 

For the white chocolate amaretto cupcake recipe, head to Paula Deen's website!



Gumbo Mardi Gras Cupcakes Now Exist

2013-01-31T14:47:51.774-06:00

I was alone in the kitchen when these gumbo Mardi Gras cupcakes came out of the oven.  Although I had loaded them with big chunks of smoked andouille sausage and prepared them using a roux (the traditional method for making gumbo), I wasn't sure what to expect.  Like you, I'd never tried a gumbo cupcake.  Would the cupcake taste vaguely spicy, or perhaps like a cupcake version of pigs in the blanket?What I tasted as I popped a warm gumbo cupcake bite into my mouth blew my mind.  I tasted gumbo!  "These cupcakes actually taste like gumbo!"  I exclaimed aloud to no one but the masked ghosts of Mardi Gras past, present, and future who were giving me quizzical sidelong glances.I served up these Mardi Gras gumbo cupcakes to several friends (trying to contain my excitement, lest they think me bonkers for proclaiming that the taste was so similar to the Cajun classic). To my relief and joy, they all agreed with me! One of my friends even went so far as to say that my cupcakes tasted like the gumbo made by one of the best chefs in town - huge happy dance time!Are these gumbo cupcakes wacky? Oh, yeah!  Are they worth making for Mardi Gras?  You betcha!  Laissez les bons temps rouler! Everything You Need to Know About Mardi Gras Gumbo CupcakesI put a shrimp on top of the cupcake.  It's a nice touch, I think, but there is no fish in the cupcake.  If you want to try a version with fish in the cupcake, go for it!Some gumbo has okra, some doesn't.  I made my gumbo cupcakes sans okra.  I may be the only cupcake baker on the planet who opted against using okra in a cupcake recipe because she already has a recipe for okra cupcakes.There's sugar in these cupcakes, but they are definitely savory.  It really confuses people if you try to call them dessert.  I'd suggest serving them as an appetizer.Serve the cupcakes warm.  They are much better that way.  You can reheat them in the microwave (in ten second bursts).The glaze works well on the cupcakes and makes them look more like cupcakes, but it's totally superfluous.  The cupcakes are just as good without the glaze.Did I mention that these cupcakes taste just like gumbo?!?!Gumbo Mardi Gras Cupcakes RecipeYield: 12 cupcakesRoux Ingredients: 1/2 cup vegetable oil1 cup all-purpose flourCupcake Ingredients:roux (from above)3/4 cup sugar3/4 cup all-purpose flour1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder1/2 teaspoon baking soda1 teaspoon file powder1/4 teaspoon onion powder1 teaspoon ground paprika3/4 teaspoon ground cumin1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper1/2 teaspoon garlic powder2 large eggs3/4 cup chicken broth2 teaspoons tomato paste6 ounces andouille sausage, cooked and roughly choppedGlaze Ingredients: 1/2 cup powdered sugar2 teaspoons chicken broth1/4 teaspoon file powder12 grilled shrimp, optional Roux Directions:I used the oven method for the roux because I clearly prefer baking to cooking.  This roux will come out much thicker than a traditional roux.  This is intentional.Preheat oven to 350 F.Place oil and flour in an oven-safe skillet.Bake for ninety minutes, stirring every twenty minutes.  The end result should be thick and medium brown.Remove from oven and cool to room temperature before using in this cupcake recipe.Cupcake Directions: Preheat oven to 350 F.In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix roux, sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and spices.Mix in eggs, one at a time.Mix in chicken broth.Mix in tomato paste.Fold in sausage.Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full.Bake for 20 minutes or until cupcakes bounce back when lightly touched.Glaze Directions: Mix all ingredients.Spread over warm cupcakes.  (If not serving [...]



One Bowl Pine Nut Cupcakes with Raspberry Cream Cheese Frosting

2013-03-11T21:12:19.106-06:00

I go crazy with elaborate projects sometimes (see my Homemade Lucky Charms for a prime example).  But, it's always nice to have a few one bowl recipes on hand to quickly whip together.  Despite the gourmet sound of a pine nut cupcake, these pine nut cupcakes fall into the dump and mix category of cupcakes.  Remember, easy doesn't mean any less tasty!These pine nut cupcakes taste nutty and familiar, yet unexpected (pine nut is hardly a staple cupcake flavor). They have an occasional crunch from the whole pine nuts mixed into the batter and the tart, sweet finish of raspberry cream cheese frosting.  If you don't want to splurge on pine nuts, you can make this recipe using any nuts and nut butter. Pine Nut Cupcake Recipe Yield: 16 cupcakesCupcake Ingredients: 1 cup sugar1 3/4 cups cake flour, not self-rising1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder1/2 teaspoon baking soda1/2 teaspoon salt1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature2/3 cup pine nut butter (see my instructions on how to make pine nut butter)2 large eggs 2/3 cup whole milk1/2 cup pine nutsFrosting Ingredients: 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature1/4 teaspoon salt 2 cups powdered sugar3 tablespoons raspberry jam Pine nuts, to tasteCupcake Directions:Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix together sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and butter until fully combined.Mix in pine nut butter. Mix in eggs, one at a time. Mix in milk.Fold in pine nuts.Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full.Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Frosting Directions:In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix cream cheese, butter, and salt until light and fluffy (about three minutes on high speed).Mix in powdered sugar a little bit at a time.Mix in raspberry jam.Spread or pipe on cooled cupcakes.Top with a few pine nuts.[...]



Sophisticated Yet Homey Pine Nut Raspberry Bars

2013-01-23T23:37:41.904-06:00


Peanut butter and jelly is such an iconic American duo that before my three year old had even tried it, he was singing PB&J songs in his parent/child music class.  But really, people, must we stick with peanut butter?  Give other nuts a chance!  I suggest pine nuts.



Pine nuts are near and dear to my heart.  I grew up with the maiden name of Pine (if you are reading this now and suddenly realize that you know me, holla!).  I have vivid memories of running down my high school's freshly mowed field hockey field, taped up hockey stick in hand, with my coach screaming after me, "Come on, Pine Nut, hustle!" 

To make these pine nut raspberry bars, I used Ina Garten's peanut butter and jelly bar recipe, but replaced the peanut butter with my homemade pine nut butter.  I've seen her peanut butter and jelly bar recipe all over the web - and with reason.  The peanut butter and jelly bars are clearly dessert, but they have the flavor and even the mouth-feel (squishy and liable to stick to the roof of your mouth) as the classic sandwich.  These pine nut raspberry bars are the slightly more grown-up version of Ina Garten's dessert - familiar enough to be homey, but just unique enough to be sophisticated.  If you love the taste of pine nuts, these bars should go on your must-make list.

I didn't include the recipe in this post since I only made one slight change from Ina Garten's recipe.  You can find the recipe on the Barefoot Contessa site.  Simply replace the peanut butter with homemade pine nut butter and the chopped peanuts on top with whole pine nuts.



Pining For Toasted Pine Nut Butter - Nut Allergy Safe

2013-01-28T21:52:26.008-06:00

Pine nut butter on toast (or anything you would spread peanut butter on) is a simple special treat for someone in your life with (or without) nut allergies.  Pine nuts, as it turns out, are not nuts - they are seeds!  Therefore, pine nuts do not need to be avoided by people with nut allergies.  Hooray!  And, because pine nuts are so soft, they are incredibly easy to turn into nut butter - just whizz the toasted pine nuts and a touch of vegetable oil a few quick times in a food processor. 


Toasted pine nut butter tastes like nut butter (peanut, almond, or whatever kind you are used to), but with a toasted pine nut aftertaste.  It goes particularly well with raspberry jam.  You'll see over the course of the week how I've used that flavor combination to create a more sophisticated twist on peanut butter and jelly bar cookies and cupcakes.

Toasted pine nut butter is not meant to be an everyday thing - the high cost of pine nuts doesn't make that a very economical choice.  But, splurge occasionally for an indulgent and healthy treat!

Toasted Pine Nut Butter Recipe

Yield: 1 cup toasted pine nut butter

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Directions:
  1. Heat up a skillet on medium-low heat.
  2. Add pine nuts to the hot skillet and stir frequently until slightly toasted, about five minutes.
  3. Food process pine nuts with oil until you have a fairly smooth nut butter with just a few chunks.
  4. Store in the refrigerator. 



Turn Your World Upside-Down with Dulce De Leche Flan

2013-01-18T09:45:07.591-06:00

For me, love has always been like flan.  I'm a believer in love at first sight, but in practice love has always come slowly and smoothly - friendship transitioning to butterflies and then to that first kiss.  To appreciate flan, you need to take the time to melt it a little, get it out of its shell, and lastly to turn its world upside-down.  Only then will you be treated to its true beauty: a hidden caramel layer that now shines front and center, stealing your heart.If you've taken the long road to love, share your story in the comments.  It would be fun for us all to read some heartwarming tales.  And, consider preparing this dulce de leche flan for your significant other (it's not as tough as you might think - I walk you through it all below).  By switching the sugar in the custard to dulce de leche, adding a touch of orange zest, and using goat's milk instead of cow's milk (this one is optional), the dulce de leche flan ends up being more decadent than a traditional flan, and it has a tang that nicely complements the sweetness.Dulce de Leche Flan RecipeMy dulce de leche flan recipe is an ever-so-slight adaptation of a dulce de leche flan recipe from The Cookie Shop.  Yield: 8 small baking molds or ramekins of dulce de leche flan (I used heart shaped mini metal baking molds from World Market.)Ingredients:2/3 cup sugar (this is just for the caramel part, the custard only uses dulce de leche)2 1/2 cups dulce de leche (choose from stove top cow's milk dulce de leche, cheater crock pot dulce de leche, or cajeta, Mexican goat's milk dulce de leche)1 cup goat's milk or cow's milk6 egg yolks1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch1 teaspoon orange zest Directions:Preheat the oven to 350 F. The baking molds or ramekins will need to bake in a water bath.  Find a baking dish or two able to hold all of your molds.  Fill the baking dish(es) with an inch or so of water and put them in the oven to let the water heat up.  The bottoms of the flan molds need to be lined with caramel in its simplest form, melted sugar.  When you flip the flans out of the molds, the caramel will drizzle down the sides and onto the plate, as shown above.  To make the caramel, put the sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan on medium heat and stir until it's all melted and light amber in color.This step requires you to move quickly.  The goal is to coat the bottom of each mold with caramel.  The challenge is that as soon as the caramel hits the molds, it hardens.  So, you'll need to pour enough caramel to coat the bottom of a mold and then swirl the caramel around the mold almost in the same motion.   The original recipe only called for 1/3 cup of sugar, but my recipe calls for double that.  If you aren't able to swirl fast enough to coat the the whole bottom, you've got enough extra caramel to do a second spoonful.  This whole thing doesn't have to be perfect, just get most of the bottom of each mold covered.Now comes the easy part.  Mix all of the remaining ingredients in a blender until well combined.Divide the mixture between the caramel-lined molds.Carefully place the molds into the preheated water-filled baking pans.Bake for forty minutes or until a toothpick inserted into one comes out clean.  Tip: If your oven doesn't heat evenly, be sure to carefully rotate the pans midway through baking.Remove from oven and bring to room temperature.Remove molds from water bath, dry off the bottoms, and refrigerate at least six hours or overnight.When ready to serve, you'll need to unmold t[...]



Dulce De Leche Frosting - How to Fix a Cupcake Mishap

2013-01-15T22:59:08.174-06:00

After perfecting a cupcake recipe, don't top it with this dulce de leche buttercream frosting.  Your tasters will be so frosting-focused that they won't notice the cake you worked so hard on.  Save this sweet, salty, smooth dulce de leche buttercream frosting to top a cupcake gone bad - one that's too dry, ugly looking, or one where the batter overflowed in the oven.  With a simple swirl, your cupcake will be redeemed.  Isn't cupcake magic fun?

Dulce de Leche Buttercream Frosting Recipe


Yield: Enough buttercream for a medium-sized swirl on 12 cupcakes
  1. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat butter on high speed for three minutes, until light and fluffy.
  2. Mix in powdered sugar and salt until fully combined.
  3. Mix in dulce de leche.
  4. Spread or pipe on cooled cupcakes.



Cajeta - Mexican Goat Milk Dulce De Leche

2013-01-13T22:45:42.158-06:00

Today, my three year old told me that he had one hundred hugs for me.  Cajeta, Mexican goat milk dulce de leche, is like that.  It's not the kind of sweet that makes you want to gag (like a really bad pick-up line).  Rather, it's an innocent sweet - so heartwarming that you get chills as it sinks into your soul. Make your cajeta on a grey day, one where even getting out of your pajamas seems like a burden. Wafts of milky sugar will be your sunbeams and the rhythmic motion of your wooden spoon circling the pot will be the light breeze swaying your hammock. Why Cajeta? I've been serving up dulce de leche since I made dulce de leche for the first time back in 2008 (that first one looks a little sad and chunky, but the taste was good enough to get me hooked). I can't turn down any variety of dulce de leche, and I often employ the cheater method (a can of sweetened condensed milk in the crock pot).  Cajeta is my new favorite.  The goat milk needed for cajeta is a little harder to find than cow's milk but it's worth the hunt (the Whole Foods near my house carries both quart and half gallon cartons of it). It tastes like whole cow's milk, but can be a bit more tangy and slightly richer.  Like cow's milk, the taste varies depending on the goats' diets, so different brands can have different subtleties.  The flavor of the goat milk enhances dulce de leche in a way that I didn't think was possible.  I had no idea dulce de leche could get any better.I also added a splash of rum to my cajeta - totally optional, but wonderful if you love rum.What To Do With Cajeta If you don't eat all of the cajeta off of your spoon (I got my "Let's Spoon" spoons from my friend Brooke, owner of Sucre Shop), then I have some other ideas for you.  I've used dulce de leche in chocolate cupcakes, as frosting on banana cupcakes and mango cupcakes, and in a very special breakfast souffle.  I'll also share a couple of new ideas later this week.Cajeta RecipeI got the recipe for this cajeta from Coco Cooks.  I am reprinting it below with my own descriptions and notes. Yield: 4 half pint jars of cajetaIngredients:2 quarts goat milk1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste2 cups sugar1/2 teaspoon baking soda1 tablespoon water1/4 cup dark rum (optional) Directions:In a heavy-bottomed pot on medium-low heat, combine goat milk, vanilla bean paste, and sugar.  Simmer and stir periodically with a wooden spoon until sugar is dissolved - about ten minutes.  Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pot well so that no sugar sticks.  Tip:  Choose a pot that is larger than you think you'll need just in case the mixture starts to bubble up.  You don't want to clean burnt sugar off of the stove top. Dissolve baking soda in water and add to milk/sugar mixture.  This helps prevent lumps and aids in caramelizing. Simmer for an hour, stirring periodically. Add the rum and continue to simmer until the cajeta is thick enough that it sticks to the back of a spoon (another couple of hours), keeping in mind that after the mixture cools it will be slightly thicker.  At some point in the process, you might be tempted to speed things up by turning up the heat.  Resist the urge.  You've already invested a lot of time and turning up the heat will most likely cause you to have a burnt mess rather than cajeta.  As you have less and less liquid, the mixture will come to more of a boil and you'll need to stir more often.   For the last half hou[...]



Waldorf Salad Cupcakes

2013-01-10T12:37:17.251-06:00


When I told Jonathan that I was going to decorate a cupcake with grapes, he got a little scared.  You see, the last time that I decorated with grapes, I created grape man (just go look).  I assured him that this time, I'd keep it more normal and simply replace the iconic cherry on top with a grape.  Why grapes at all?  This is my cupcake version of Waldorf salad - a fruity salad created in the late 1800's at the Waldorf hotel in New York.

These Waldorf salad cupcakes have all the trappings of a Waldorf salad; there are no greens, of course, but the cupcakes contain apples, raisins, walnuts, lemon, and even mayonnaise.  If you are a mayonnaise hater, don’t worry - rather than making the cupcakes taste like a condiment, the mayonnaise simply adds moisture (after all, mayonnaise is made with eggs and oil – key cupcake ingredients).

The prominent flavor in these Waldorf salad cupcakes is tart lemon, making them taste as fresh and salady as a cupcake can.  If you close your eyes and try really hard, you might even convince yourself for a second that you are keeping that New Year's resolution to eat more salad.

For the Waldorf Salad cupcake recipe, head to Paula Deen's website.  I am a regular contributor to her site and this is my latest recipe there.

Do You Like the Idea of a Salad Cupcake?

I got the idea for a salad cupcake from The Baking Robot's Watergate Salad Cupcakes.  The Baking Robot has a ton of other fun and creative cupcakes worth checking out.  Have a look for more cupcake fun!



An Extreme Super Bowl Cupcake Makeover for Easter Eggs

2013-01-10T15:15:11.995-06:00

A couple of years ago, I introduced you to cupcakes baked in real egg shells. Cracking open an egg shell to reveal a cupcake inside is one of those rare food surprises that leaves even the most jaded of adults with a sense of childhood wonder and awe.  This year, I am turning the Easter cupcake phenomenon into a Super Bowl sensation.Skip the pastels and dye your egg to look like a football, hide a chocolate cupcake inside, and get ready for kickoff!  How to Make Super Bowl Football Cupcakes Baked in Real Egg ShellsI probably should have cleaned the brown dye off of my fingers pre-photo. ;)To make these Super Bowl Football Cupcakes baked in real egg shells, I used the same technique that I used with the Easter cupcakes baked in egg shells, only I used chocolate cupcake batter.  You can find all of the instructions and step-by-step photos in that post.After preparing the egg shells (removing the innards, soaking them in salt water, rinsing, and drying them off), you'll need to dye them to look like footballs.  Don't try to dye them before preparing them or the dye will wash off in the prep process (spoken from experience).  To make the eggs look like footballs, you'll need:a crayon brown food coloringwaterwhite vinegarFirst, draw the stitching on the egg using a crayon.  Ideally, you'd do this in white, but it's really hard to draw with a white crayon on a white egg and get lines that are remotely straight.  I opted for a light green crayon (grey would have been an even better choice).  When you submerge the egg in the dye, the dye won't stick to the wax and you'll be able to clearly see your lines.Next, it's time to dye the eggs.  In preparing to make these Super Bowl football dyed eggs, I did a lot of research on egg dying.  Most sites said something similar to Martha Stewart's guide: use 20 drops of food coloring, one cup of hot water, and one teaspoon of vinegar.  When I followed this technique, my white eggs ended up looking like brown eggs (I could have just bought those), not dark brown football eggs.  I turned to the Cupcake Project Facebook Community for advice.  Many of you suggested using more vinegar.  It worked! Tips for Creating Dark Brown EggsUse more than 20 drops of dye (start there, but add more until you get a color you like).Use more than 1 teaspoon of vinegar.  Start with a tablespoon and add more until you are happy with the result.Leave the egg shells in the dye for at least 3 minutes. I dipped some of mine for 5-10 minutes.  (This is a good activity to do while watching a favorite TV series that you've already seen - Dawson's Creek is my latest show of choice.)Dip the egg shell a second time if it's not dark enough after the first time.Don't FumbleThe hardest part of making football cupcake eggs is filling the football eggs with the correct amount of batter.  If you fumble by filling an egg shell with too little batter, the cupcake football ends up as a sad half of a ball.  But, if you overfill an egg shell, it overflows as it bakes onto the outside of the shell.  When you peel the cake off the shell, the color comes off as well (very upsetting after you spend all of that time dying it).  Shoot for halfway full or choose a recipe that doesn't rise very much - I'd love to try filling the eggshells with fudgey brownie batter!  Touchdown! I hope these are a touchdown at your Super Bowl party!  Leave me a [...]



Nutella Banana Pull-Apart Bread

2013-01-02T23:35:29.083-06:00

The nooks and crannies filled with Nutella and banana in these single-serving pull-apart breads invite exploration.  Like a child who can't resist the temptation to pull open and thumb through barely open drawers, your eyes begin spelunking at the first sight of the pull-apart bread.  Your fingers quickly follow suit, prying the plush bread open and releasing steam studded with smells of chocolate, hazelnut, banana, and brown-sugar sweetened bread.  Pull-apart bread is fluffy dinner rolls combined with croissants with a tactile satisfaction akin to cleanly splitting take-out Chinese food chopsticks.  Add in the no-fail combination of Nutella and banana and these may be my favorite recipe of 2013. Nutella Banana Pull-Apart Bread RecipeI based my Nutella banana pull-apart bread recipe off the recipe for Buttermilk Fantails which I found on Tracey's Culinary Adventures (originally from Gourmet, February 2009).  I adapted the recipe to make it significantly sweeter (so it's more desserty than a bread roll) and I also added the all-important Nutella and banana. Yield: 12 cupcake-sized pull-apart breadsIngredients:2 tablespoons active dry yeast1/4 cup warm water (105-115 F)1/4 cup light brown sugar3 cups all-purpose flour (plus a little extra for dusting the work surface)1 teaspoon salt3/4 cup buttermilk6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 1 teaspoon vegetable oil1/2 cup Nutella or other chocolate hazelnut spread (my favorite is made by Justin's Nut Butter)1 over-ripe banana, cut into tiny piecesDirections: In a medium-sized bowl, stir together yeast, water, and brown sugar and let stand for five minutes.  It should get foamy, but don't worry too much if it doesn't.  You aren't looking for giant foam, just a few bubbles.Mix in flour, salt, buttermilk, and butter.  Stir until the dough starts to come together.Lightly flour a clean surface (so the dough won't stick to it) and dump the dough ball onto that surface.  Knead it until the dough is smooth and elastic - about six minutes.  The dough is really easy to work with - you shouldn't have too many problems with it sticking.  Coat the mixing bowl with oil, put your dough ball into it, cover, and set in a warm place to rise until doubled in size (about two hours).Once the dough has risen, punch the dough down and split it in half.  Roll half of the dough into a 1/16" thick rectangle and cut into six even-ish strips. (You'll see from my photo below that I don't get caught up with perfection.)Spread Nutella on top of the first strip.  Then, top with banana pieces. Top with second strip and repeat step 7.Continue layering strips and banana slices until you reach the top strip.  Do not coat the top of the last strip in Nutella or bananas.Cut the layered dough into 6 sections of equal length.Turn each section onto its side and place into a depression in a greased cupcake tin.  It will not come to the top of the tin.  Don't worry; there's still lots of rising to be done. Repeat steps 6-11 with the second half of the dough.Set the cupcake tin in a warm place and let the dough rise for another hour.Preheat oven to 375 F.Bake for 20 minutes or until the bread just begins to brown.Serve warm. If You Like This, You Might Also Like... my chocolate banana monkey bread.Naturally Ella's cinnamon pull-apart fantails.Barbara Bakes' pumpkin fantail cinnamon rolls.[...]



Savory Hoppin' John Cupcakes for New Year's Day

2012-12-28T10:20:24.144-06:00

I didn't like these Hoppin' John cupcakes.  In fact, the mere smell of them turned my stomach.  The full 15 ounce can of black-eyed peas in the recipe produced a dense cupcake with an occasional bean bite - and maybe I should have gone with the popular opinion that chicken broth doesn't belong in a cupcake.Not everyone agreed with me. Some people liked (and I mean really liked) these cupcakes; I know - I was surprised, too.  I served these Hoppin' John cupcakes with salt and pepper buttercream at a Christmas dinner and they were a hit.  The hostess even insisted that I leave the leftover Hoppin' John cupcakes at her house, assuring me that they would all get eaten.  If I didn't know her better, I would have thought she was a total liar, liar, pants on fire.I think that the reason why others liked these cupcakes and I didn't was preconceptions.  At home, even though I knew what was in the cupcakes, I kept eating them for dessert and being disappointed.  At the Christmas dinner, we served the cupcakes alongside the main course.  People expected something savory and they were not let down.  As one taster gobbled his Hoppin' John cupcake up, he said they reminded him of spicy bread.Set aside preconceived notions and the world is a often a happier place.  It's a lesson that I learn over and over again.  And, it's especially relevant on New Year's Eve where expectations of glitter, gold, and magical kisses don't always turn out the way we hope.This New Year's Eve, I wish you a night of no preconceived notions - a go-with-the-flow evening full of simple surprises, giggles, friendship, love, or even satisfied solitude.Hoppin' John Cupcake RecipeYield: 12 cupcakesIngredients:1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature1 cup sugar1 large egg1 15 ounce can black-eyed peas, drained and mashed1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour1 teaspoon baking soda1/8 teaspoon ground clove1/2 teaspoon ground thyme1/8 teaspoon dried ground chipotle pepper1 cup chicken broth1/3 cup finely chopped cooked baconFrosting Ingredients: 1/2 cup butter, room temperature2 cups powdered sugar1/4 teaspoon salt3/4 teaspoon ground peppercorns1 teaspoon whole milk Cupcake Directions: Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix butter and sugar until light and fluffy.Add the egg and mix well.Mix in the mashed beans.In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, clove, thyme, and chipotle pepper.Add dry mixture to wet mixture and mix until just combined.Mix in chicken broth until just combined.Fold in bacon.Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full.Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out dry.Frosting Directions: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat butter on high speed until light and fluffy, about three minutes.Add powdered sugar a little bit at a time until fully combined.Mix in salt, peppercorns, and milk until fully combined.Spread or pipe onto cooled cupcakes.About the Penny On TopThere's a Southern tradition surrounding Hoppin' John where a penny is placed underneath each dish of Hoppin' John to increase one's chance for prosperity in the New Year (read more about this on History).   Instead of hiding the penny underneath my cupcakes, I put a chocolate penny on top of each cupcake.[...]