Posts Tagged With: cupcakes

The Speculatoor

I feel like that's a jaunty pretzel. IMG_9576

With the close of the month of May comes the beginning of every student’s favorite season: summer.  I neglected my blog through second semester (whoops) due to far too many other preoccupations (such as essays, readings, homework, and those dratted friends I love so much…) but scratchbatch is back in action for the summer !  🙂  As I’m bidding farewell to my school work for a small window of time (trading it in for francophone whippersnappers – oui, je suis “prof” en été), I figured a cupcake would be a nice transition piece.

As many of my fellow library-goers know, when I’m studying late at night…my weakness is chocolate covered pretzels and Speculoos spread. (If you don’t know what Speculoos is, you might want to check it out…this cupcake might as well be called the “Belgian Wonder” as it uses two ingredients Belgium seems to understand best: chocolate, and this spread made from spice cookies).  Sometimes together, sometimes apart.  But truly, those are my go-to nibble foods.  With a cappuccino.  Naturally, crunching away helps my productivity.  It does.  Really.  Kat knows exactly what I’m talking about. Meow.

In any case, what does this have to do with cupcakes ?  Given my love for this combination, I had the notion that perhaps these flavors would make a nice cupcake. (Baked and Wired, this is where you start paying attention – this cupcake is for YOU.  It says “Sell me !  I would be best friends with the Tessita and you know it !”  Cupcakes are rarely wrong about these things, so I suggest you listen up).  The Speculatoor consists of a moist vanilla cupcake filled with speculoos and pretzel topped with a thick, chocolate satin ganache. Yes, it tastes just like the real mccoy from this fabulous bakery.  No, I didn’t have to bribe the bakers…I just sort of made it up.  Every once in awhile you get lucky.

An easy cupcake to craft, it takes a bit of patience, but the end result is really quite decadent and delicious – worthy of D.C.

Vanilla Cupcakes:

1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup plain yogurt (or sour cream)
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
Dash of nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon

Directions : Preheat the oven to 350F and line one muffin tin – this recipe will make twelve cupcakes.  Double it for 24.

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In a small container, mix together the yogurt, milk and vanilla.  Whisk together to incorporate and set aside.  This will be added in tandem with the flour a little later.  Why ?  Because we want the milk to react with the baking powder at the right moment in time – just before heading into the oven for the optimum rising reaction.

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In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, spices, and baking powder.  Stir well to evenly incorporate the leavening agent.  Set aside.

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In yet another container, cream the butter until nice and light.  Add the sugar slowly, again beating until fluffy. From here, add the eggs and mix until smooth.  I might add that bringing all the ingredients to room temperature make the mixing process easier BUT FEAR NOT if you didn’t realize this was helpful: you can always wrap a warm towel around the mixing bowl and all will incorporate sans problème.

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To the butter mixture, add the flour and the yogurt combinations; start with the dry and alternate between the two.  Mix until uniform and then pour into cupcake pan, being careful not to overfill the tray.

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Cook for about 20 minutes or until the cake springs back when pressed.  Let cool before moving on to the next step.

Speculoos filling

3 heaping tablespoons of Trader Joe’s cookie butter
2 tbsp butter, softened
Some pretzels, crushed
A few turns of coarse salt
2 tbsp cream or milk
2 tbsp confectioners’ sugar

Directions : Place the speculoos and butter into a small container and whip.  The mixture should lighten slightly in color.

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Add the cream and the confectioners’ sugar, whipping again.  Add the salt. Take about 2/3 of the smooth mixture and transfer to another container.

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Into this, stir in the crumbled pretzel bits.  I like to taste along the way – I was looking for a center that would be sweet at the start, but upon chewing would yield a little burst of salt.  If you prefer just smooth and sweet, skip the pretzel step.

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When the cupcakes are cool, use your finger (or a 1/2 tsp) to create a little hole in the center of each cupcake.  Spoon in the crunchy speculoos-pretzel mixture.  Top with a little covering of the smooth speculoos concoction and set aside.

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Chocolate Satin Ganache

1/2 cup light cream (or half and half)
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar (I would use less but I like VERY.DARK.CHOCOLATE.)
3 tbsp butter, chopped
1/2 tsp vanilla

I think this is the best chocolate frosting I’ve ever made.  It is really easy to make and will definitely become a staple in my cookbook.

Directions : Pour the cream into a small saucepan and let come to a light boil. In another bowl, place the chopped chocolate.  I used Bakers unsweetened chocolate squares, 4 of them, but I think using a higher quality chocolate would yield an even better product.  That said, I wasn’t disappointed by my pantry’s standby.  The hot cream will melt the chocolate; whisk to combine.  Add the butter and mix together.  Again, the combined heat should be enough to melt the butter.  Whisk in the powdered sugar and vanilla last, stirring until just combined.  Let cool.  I placed mine in the freezer to cool faster…impatient little cook that I am.

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When cooled and thickened, break out your hand mixer (I have a trusty old Sunbeam) and whip until nice and spreadable.  The mixer might groan a bit but this step is crucial.

Spoon into a pastry bag and swirl onto the cupcakes !  I topped mine with chocolate drizzled pretzels, but there’s no need to be fancy about it.

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Enjoy with a cup of tea (or hot milk) !  Bon appétit 🙂

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Categories: English | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

I want s’more cupcakes !

I went on a little vacation a few weeks ago with the intention of devouring s’mores.  This is pretty much the only time I consider Hershey’s milk chocolate bars to be an acceptable ingredient for cooking (given that Hershey’s is pretty much made of wax, additives, vegetable oil and little cocoa butter.  It’s all lies, guys.  It’s alllll lies) as I really don’t like the texture or bizarre taste of this “chocolate.”  HOWEVER, all that aside, you really can’t have a legitimate s’more without Honey Maid graham crackers, Jet-Puff Marshmallows, and Hershey’s Milk Chocolate.

We get to an evening that would be perfecto for these treats only to discover –

We left the graham crackers at home.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO !  THIS CANNOT BE !

As a result, I decided to prepare some cupcakes the other day in order to satisfy my apparent need for these flavors.  I was driving home after a long, tiring day of work and my sister called me asking for something sweet.  Knowing we had these ingredients already on hand…I decided to mix these up.  They were really good and had a long shelf life – I made them on Wednesday and they were still good on today…as I gobbled up the last one for breakfast this morning (oh, so healthy…)  I hesitate to call them “S’mores Cupcakes” because I have a recipe for those and this is different…it’s a vanilla cupcake with marshmallow frosting and a little nest of chocolate waiting to surprise you underneath the fluffy goodness.

You just can’t go wrong.  🙂

For the cupcakes :

3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream (or plain yogurt – I used plain yogurt this go around)
2 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line the muffin tin with paper liners.  In a small mixing bowl, combine the milk, sour cream, and vanilla.  Let sit.  In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and baking soda.  I also love to add a few shakes of cinnamon to the flour.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy in a large mixing bowl.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Once smooth, add the flour mixture and the milk mixture at the same time, stirring only until the batter comes together – as usual, if you overmix, the cupcakes will become tough.

Fill the muffin tin and place in the oven, cooking for about 20ish minutes.

Use your nose to know when they are cooked – these cupcakes will not brown much and are very moist (due to the presence of the milk fats/yogurt) so pressing them with your finger will be enough to test their doneness.  Let cool on a cooling wrack until they reach at least room temperature.

For the chocolate “nest” :

Some chocolate
Some crushed graham crackers
Some butter
Some cream

I think you guys can figure out the proportions yourself…as I did just a handful of chocolate chips, a few tablespoons of butter, a splash of cream, and then probablyyyyyy 10 or so graham crackers (?)  The process is simple – melt the chocolate and the butter over the stovetop until smooth.

Add the graham crackers and then a little cream to keep things smooth.

Stir until the crumbles are coated with chocolate.  It should look like this :

Marshmallow frosting :

1/3 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 egg whites
Pinch of salt and cream of tartar

NOTE :  It is not necessary but it is rather handy to have a candy or frying thermometer on hand for this frosting – it is, however, possible to complete it without this tool.  You will simply need to watch the sugar and water mixture.  It will start out being very liquid and, after boiling for about 10 minutes, will turn glassy.  When you notice this change, lift the spoon out of the bowl and observe the syrup – if it pours off the spoon on a long, thin stream and, when poured into cold water, forms a thread, it is complete.

If you have a candy thermometer, boil the sugar and water until the soft ball stage, otherwise known as anywhere between 235 and 240F.

NOTE :  Once the sugar and water have dissolved into one another, DO NOT STIR.  If you stir too much, you can agitate the sugar crystals and potentially create a “seed” – this will signal the sugar to begin crystallization and you will end up with rock candy…not really what we are looking for.  Just let it bubble away until you see that magical temperature.  Turn off the heat and prepare to pour.

Meanwhile, put the egg whites, salt, and cream of tarter in a large mixing bowl and whisk or beat until frothy.  The egg whites should be able to hold the bubbles well and keep VERY soft peaks.

Once the sugar and the eggs are ready to go, turn the mixer on full blast.  SLOWLY, pour the HOT, BOILING SUGAR into the egg whites in a LONG, THIN STREAM.  Be sure to add the sugar syrup very gradually and continue beating until the bowl is warm to the touch (rather than super hot, which it will be !).  The frosting should be bright white and shiny – just like marshmallow fluff.   Add vanilla and taste !

Note :  use this frosting right away – as it is egg white-based AND sugar based, it will dry out and become difficult to manipulate if you wait too long to use it.

Assembly :

Once the cupcakes are cool, use a spoon to place a small circle of chocolate crumble on the top of the cupcake – it should be the size of a silver dollar – leaving a border of clean cake.  On top of this, pipe (or spread) the marshmallow frosting in any design you like…I prefer to make big mounds of marshmallow (rather like the wigs presidents such as Washington used to wear…) as the frosting does dry out slightly and the more you add, the longer it stays smooth.

As a final step, I burned the marshmallow.  This is definitely optional however if you feel like getting fancy, grab a blow torch (yes, you can use a big one) or a lighter and hold it just close enough to the frosting to toast it like the marshmallow it is.  The kitchen is going to smell divine after this little adventure…

These paired particularly well with earl grey tea…or even just a glass of milk !

Bon appétit !

Categories: English | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tiramisu Cupcakes

Tiramisu.  Famous cake.  Fancy cake.  The cake that never really made sense to me (but I always just accepted it because my mother likes it).  I’m pretty sure my dad likes it, too.  Moi ?  I’m not sold.  I never understood what was so appetizing about cookies soaked in syrup with a little whipped cream – the texture was strange, the taste felt wrong, and the temperature never correct.  However, a little mouse showed me a beautiful photo of Tiramisu cupcakes, suggesting I make them sometime.  (Yeah. Right. Sure. I don’t like this dessert, remember ?)

But they seemed so cute.  And approachable.  And oddly…intriguing.  So I skimmed a multitude of blogs to compare recipes and ideas and techniques and put together my own recipe for this Italian sweet.  I made a few changes that are IMPORTANT :  There was no rum involved in this cake.  No cookies, either.  The cake batter is spicy – not just vanilla.  The result ?  A fantastic and surprisingly LIGHT cupcake that made for a perfect breakfast sweet with coffee, an equally good teatime accoutrement, and a delectable (and beautiful) after-dinner dessert.  The cake is not too sweet and has a nice bite from the nutmeg, which sings with the use of frangelico, a hazelnut liqueur, otherwise known as the reason why the rum is GONE.  A little tip : ice these cupcakes as you go – the whipped cream frosting will otherwise make the cupcakes soggy and potentially make a large mess.  Furthermore, if you ice those babies, you’ll have to store them in the fridge…which will dry them out.  Avoid this if possible.  This recipe makes enough for 18 cupcakes (give or take).

For the cake :

2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
2 tsp vanilla
6 eggs + 3 yolks
2 cups sugar
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Cocoa powder (for dusting)

Preheat oven to 325F.  Line 2 muffin tins with paper liners.  Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  Set aside.  Heat the milk and butter over the stovetop (on low heat – DO NOT LET BOIL) until melted.  Stir in vanilla extract.

Mix together the egg yolks and eggs with the sugar.

Be sure to beat these ingredients until the eggs go from a deep, golden yellow to a light, lemony color.  This stage is called the “ribbon stage” – you’re there when you lift up the whisk and the yolks drizzle off in a long, thin stream – like a ribbon.  Clever, no ?

Fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture in three batches. If the butter/milk combination is VERY HOT, mix about half the batter into the milk and then fold that mixture into the rest of the batter – this will prevent the eggs from cooking.  If the milk is at room temperature, you can simply add it slowly to the batter, stirring until JUST combined.

Pour the batter into the tins and cook for 20 minutes.

For the syrup :

2/3 cup STRONG coffee (or espresso)
5-8 tbsp Frangelico
1 tbsp sugar

Combine all ingredients over low heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Let cool.

For the frosting :

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
12 oz mascarpone cheese
1 cup confectioner’s sugar

(Before making the frosting, place the mixing bowl in the freezer to chill – this will help whip up the heavy cream.)

In a large bowl, whisk heavy cream until stiff and peaks form.  In another bowl, whisk together mascarpone and sugar until smooth.  Gently fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture until incorporated.

Assembly :

When the cupcakes have cooled, brush the tops with the coffee syrup.  I had a little runt cupcake that I used for testing for the syrup – I recommend sacrificing a cupcake (pick the ugly one) to sample.

Repeat this process until all of the syrup has been used.  Allow cupcakes to absorb liquid for several hours (eg 3.  But.  If you are impatient…it’s okay.  Nothing bad happens to those who nibble.)

Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with cocoa powder.  EAT !

Buon appetito !

Categories: English | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Lemon cupcakes with raspberry filling

I think the cupcake craze has finally hit me.  I know, it’s a litttttle late for that, but I’ve made three batches of cupcakes in the past…two weeks (?) and I’m having far too much fun in the kitchen.  Flour.  Everywhere.

Or in this case…lemon zest.

Being a slightly competitive person…I’m staging a mini-war with the fantastic Baked and Wired of Washington, D.C. in an effort to reduce the pain my wallet feels every time I crumble and purchase a cupcake.  My current favorite is a lemon cupcake with a raspberry filling and a lemon buttercream frosting.  After a few edits (lighter frosting, spicier filling, and a more lemony cupcake), here’s my new and improved version:

For the cake :

1 cup butter, softened
4 eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 cups granulated sugar
Zest and juice of 3 lemons
1 cup buttermilk (can be made with milk + 1 tbsp lemon juice OR distilled vinegar)

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line 2 muffin tins (24 cups total) with liners (or parchment paper).  In an electric mixer – or by hand – cream butter until smooth.  Add the sugar slowly until smooth, followed by the zest and lemon juice.  The batter will separate a bit – but when the flour is added, the it will stabilize.  Cream the mixture until light.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. In a bowl, mix the baking powder and the flour together.  Add the flour and the buttermilk at the same time, mixing until combined but not more to avoid a tough cake.  Pour into pans and bake for 20-25 minutes or until springy to the touch.

For the filling :

1/2 cup raspberry jam
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp ground ginger

Combine all ingredients and boil until well blended and thickened – using a thermometer might be beneficial.  I boiled until the thread stage.  Chill.

For the frosting :

4 egg whites
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp cream of tartar (optional)

Combine the water, sugar, lemon juice and zest together in a medium pan.  Stir to help the sugar dissolve and then boil until 238F or until the mixture thickens slightly and forms a thin, continuous stream when poured from a spoon.  It’s good to taste this to make sure it’s lemony enough (or sweet enough) for your tastes (but be careful, as boiling sugar is HOT).

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, whip the eggs whites and cream of tartar until they hold soft peaks.

Once the sugar syrup is ready, turn the mixer on high and pour the hot syrup over the meringues, being careful to add it in a thin, continuous stream.  The egg whites will be billowy and light – almost like a foam.  I added a few drops of yellow food dye to give it a light yellow tint.

Assembly :

Using your finger (or a spoon), make a little divot in the center of each cupcake.  This will be filled with the raspberry syrup.  There is no need to remove the centers – the cake is quite moist, so compacting it works just fine. Using a teaspoon, pour raspberry syrup into the crevice until filled.


Once this is complete, they are ready to be frosted.  I used a piping bag to frost mine, but it isn’t necessary.  Once can easily use a spatula, a spoon, or a knife to top off these delicious little cakes.  Once iced, I sprinkled a little lemon zest on top (But you don’t have to…it just looks pretty !).  And there you have it !  Watch out, Baked and wired !

When it’s cut in half, you can really see the filling – it’s just like jam…but better.  🙂 Bon appétit !

Categories: English | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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