Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Walnut Cupcakes with Apple Filling and Caramel Glaze

These had a middling effect on me. The idea spawned from leftover apple compote I'd made; it was too delicious to let go to waste, but too tempting to leave for myself. I'd been looking through Cupcake Bakeshop and was wowed by what I saw. When I came to her Walnut Cupcakes topped with Rose White Chocolate Mousse and Baklava, I said "Hold the phone!" (while wiping away the drool), "I should totally make walnut cupcakes for my apple compote!"

Chockylit, you are a culinary genius, but that cupcake recipe made the funkiest batter I have ever encountered. For a while there the texture resembled nothing so much as tar. Now, this should not be taken as a critique against the recipe, for dear god were those cupcakes good. I just have to add the note that if you hit a point in the recipe where the batter's so thick you can't stir, don't panic: you're doing it right.

That said, the combination of soft, mildly-sweet walnuts and buttery, caramelized apples was just gorgeous. Had I stopped there I would have been thrilled. But no! This cook stirred the pot one too many times.

To add the filling to the cupcakes, you have to cut a cone out of the top, dollop a bit of compote in the hole, slice the tip off the cone, and put the top back on. This leaves you with a whole lot of cupcake tips (yum!) and a bunch of mangled cupcake tops. I knew this in advance, and had intended on making a mild caramel buttercream to go on top. However, I started late, finished later, and by the time I was considering making a frosting it was 10pm and my kitchen was full of dirty dishes. And this was where I strayed.

Never, ever, EVER use a frosting recipe that says "5 minute" or "never fail" or calls for a ton and a half of powdered sugar. Unless this is your intent, you will end up with frosting that carves holes in your teeth with each bite. Any other flavor will be mercilessly beaten into obscurity. My four hour endeavor for delicate-and-delicious flavors was utterly trumped by the frosting's predominating flavor of SUGAR. Anything would have been better, but I was loving the walnut-apple-caramel idea without the energy to do it correctly.

So. Sorry guys, no recipe for you. I'm holding out until I can do it right, and not give you mediocre results. If you hate me now I'll understand, but remember that I linked the Baklava Cupcake recipe above and try to forgive me. In fact, you should take it upon yourself to make it just so you can flaunt in my face how good it is. I'll believe you. And I'll drool.

UPDATE: I've had a few requests since, so I'll relent and give you some of the recipe. The cupcake base is here, and I didn't change anything about it: just keep my notes from above in mind. The filling is a caramelized apple compote that is just oh-dear-god awesome -- recipe below. Now, regarding the frosting. Here is the recipe I actually used but as noted, I don't recommend it. This is more along the lines of what I intended: light, fluffy, mildly caramel. Oh well, next time!

Apple Compote (from The Los Angeles Times):
* 6 tbsps butter, cut in 1-inch pieces
* 1/2 vanilla bean, cut lengthwise and scraped of seeds (I just used 1 tsp vanilla extract)
* 3 large or 4 medium Fuji apples, peeled, cored and cut into eighths
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 1/4 cup (light) brown sugar, packed
* 2 tbsps heavy cream
* 2 tbsps lemon juice

In a large skillet over a medium flame add the butter, vanilla bean and seeds, cook until the butter turns golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add the apples, letting them caramelize on one side, then turn, about 5 minutes total.

Sprinkle the sugar and brown sugar over the apples and cook, turning occasionally to caramelize and soften the fruit, about 10 minutes. Add the heavy cream and continue to cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Remove the vanilla bean and put the apple mixture in a food processor, add lemon juice and pulse until smooth. Cool over ice, 45 minutes to 1 hour. (This can be made and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1 week.)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Yes, yes it is.

Someone has a sense of humor, and I think I love them for it. This is one of the ugliest fruits I have ever seen -- when it is ripe it looks moldy -- but dang is it good. It's milder than a grapefruit, more comforting than a tangerine, juicier than an orange. The peel is disconcerting in that it is barely attached to the fruit within, but hey, that just makes for easier peeling. In short, between an awesome name and an awesome flavor, I'm going to have to indulge in a few more of these!

Just your normal sugar cookie

Bear with me here: this was my first attempt at making sugar cookies. I know, I know, it's the staple of the cookie-diet but for my entire childhood I left that to my middle brother. For some inexplicable reason, there were a couple things I was much more comfortable having my brother make for me. Sugar cookies was one of them. Bacon was the other.

Ok, I was just lazy. But dang he made good sugar cookies/bacon! Anyhow, I figured it was time to try my hand at them. I had lemons I wanted to use though, so these are special sugar cookies. Lemon zested and glazed, you've got a chewy cookie with a tangy bite that fades into comforting sugar. Mmmmm.

But see, I shouldn't be allowed to blog. This talk of sugar cookies and bacon has me pondering a combo. I'm not crazy: it's a fad! Or if I'm crazy I'm in good company.

* 1 cup unsalted butter
* 1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
* 2 large eggs
* 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
* 3 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
* 3/4 tsp. salt
* 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
* Zest of 2 lemons
* 1-2 cup powdered sugar
* Lemon juice (sorry I can't be more precise)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs, vanilla and lemon zest. Mix together the flour, salt and baking powder. Fold the flour into the butter mixture.

Roll dough into a log and wrap in wax paper; refrigerate at least 1 hour. Slice into 1/4 inch slices and arrange on an ungreased cookie sheet (they will not expand much.) Bake 10-12 minutes, until very lightly golden. Remove and cool completely before adding glaze.

For glaze: combine powdered sugar and lemon juice (a tbsp at a time) until you have a thick almost-paste that falls slowly from the fork (you can test this within your mixing bowl.) Drizzle over cooled cookies.