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.)

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