Tuesday, September 29, 2009

When life gives you lemons...


So I was supposed to make Red Velvet Cupcakes today. "Supposed to" being the operative phrase... What actually came out of my kitchen was something entirely different and, in my humble opinion, much better. My creation became what can only be described as the richest marriage between three fantastic flavors: Peanut butter, chocolate and cream cheese. Since this was an accident-turned-triumph, my recipe is the best summation of my efforts in order to save my cupcakes from the waste bin. I am a firm believer in creativity in the kitchen, so feel free to expand on this recipe in whatever way you feel - just remember to taste as you go!


Kasey's Peanut Butter Chocolate Cupcake Bombs with Cream Cheese Icing

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon unsweetened dutch-processed cocoa powder
10 drops red food coloring
1 tablespoon yellow food coloring
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour (I'm a fan of King Arthur's line)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
2 large dollops smooth organic peanut butter (non-organic is fine, but I'm a peanut butter snob)
6 oz unsweetened or bittersweet chocolate (in bar form, then put through the food processor until you have very small chunks)
1 quantity Cream Cheese Frosting (follows recipe... I would never leave you stranded here)

a 12-hole cupcake pan, lined with paper cases

MAKES 12

1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

2. Put your butter and your sugar in a large standing mixer with the paddle attachment (or you can use a hand-held electric mixer... but your arm will get tired really quickly). Beat on medium speed until it's light and fluffy and well mixed. Then, crank 'er up to high speed and slowly add your egg, beating until everything is well mixed.

3. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, mix your cocoa, both food colorings and vanilla to make a thick, dark paste. Add this paste to your butter mixture and beat thoroughly until evenly combined and colored throughout (you'll need to scrape the sides of the bowl a few times while you do this). Turn the mixer down to low speed and slowly pour in half the milk (too fast and you'll get a HUGE mess... like I did). Beat until well mixed, then add half your flour and beat until everything is well incorporated. Repeat this process until all the milk and flour have been added. Scrape the sides again with your spatula to ensure all the ingredients were mixed in. Turn the mixer back up to high speed and beat until you have a smooth, even batter. Turn the mixer down low again and add the salt, baking soda, vinegar and peanut butter. Stir in the chocolate with your spatula. You're ready to put your batter into the cups now!

4. Using a spoon and your rubber spatula, spoon the batter into the paper cases until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the cake bounces back when touched. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Let the cupcakes cool slightly in the pan before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. When your cupcakes are completely cool (no cheating! It'll melt the frosting!), you can ice them with your cream cheese frosting.



Cream Cheese Frosting


2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 oz. cream cheese, cold

Makes enough to frost 12 cupcakes

1. Beat the confectioners' sugar and the butter together with your newly-cleaned electric mixer (a great something to do while your cupcakes have been cooling...) using your paddle attachment again on medium-slow speed. Do this until it's as incorporated as it can be. Add the cream cheese in one giant blob and beat until completely mixed in. Then crank that baby up to medium-high speed and leave it to beat the tar out of your frosting for about 5 minutes, no more no less. Too long and you will actually liquefy your frosting!

2. Using a pastry spreader, plop on about a tablespoons' worth of frosting onto the top of the cupcake, using a "patting" motion to ensure the frosting sticks. Turn the cupcake in your hand clockwise 360 degrees, dig a small lip into the frosting with your knife, then quickly twist it back the opposite way and pull up, creating a swirl. Do this with all your cupcakes (because I know the temptation is to eat the frosting before finishing this step... control yourselves), then choose the prettiest one to eat. Voila!


Saturday, September 5, 2009

I don't make lemonade - I make lemon BARS


A Lemon Bar Recipe

After deliberating on what scrumptious confection to make yesterday, I decided to end the summer with the most refreshing of baked goods - the lemon bar. Drowning in tartness and flecked with powdered sugar, the lemon bar is the quintessential summer treat to hot days and steamy nights (apart from a great beer). Here is my favorite lemon bar recipe; I hope it'll become yours too.

Lemon Buttermilk Bars

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup, plus 2/3 cup granulated sugar or baker's sugar
2/3 cup, plus 2 tablespoons flour
1/8 tsp salt
2 eggs
zest and juice of two lemons
1/2 cup buttermilk
powdered sugar for dusting

*makes 8 bars*

1. Mix the dough and bake the crust.
With your rack in the middle of your oven, preheat the sucker to 350 degrees, then butter the entire inside of your 8 by 8 inch baking pan. Set it aside. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat together the butter and 1/4 cup granulated sugar on medium speed until creamy. Add the 2/3 cup flour and the salt and mix on low speed now just until blended (too much and you'll get a manhole cover for a crust - think light and fluffy). Spoon the dough into the pan and press evenly into the bottom and up 1/2 inch all the way around. Bake until crust is golden, 15-18 minutes.

2. Make the filling.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl with an electric mixer (I had to wash the first bowl and use the same Kitchen Aid standing mixer), beat the eggs on medium speed and then add the remaining 2/3 cup granulated sugar until blended. Add your last 2 tablespoons flour, lemon zest and juice, and the buttermilk and beat until smooth. Pour filling evenly over the baked crust. **it will look like lemon soup - this is NORMAL**

3. Bake the filling.
Bake until the top of the filling is set and barely browned at the edges, 20-25 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Cut into 8 bars, dust with powdered sugar shaken through a sieve, and serve. You can also drizzle freshly pureed raspberries with sugar on top as well... if you're into that kind of thing.

Happy eating,
Kasey