PUMPKIN CUPCAKES

It’s fall, ya’ll! This is my absolute favorite time of year. I really want to decorate my front porch with pumpkins and fall garlands, but as soon as we got mostly moved in, my house became a construction zone. I can’t decorate until it’s done, so I thought I would do some fall baking instead. These cupcakes are a great way to celebrate the impending cooler weather, but I love to make pumpkin muffins and bread any time of year. I saw this recipe for pumpkin cupcakes on Annie’s Eats, and thought it would be a great recipe to try. I loved these cupcakes and will definitely make them again. I topped them with my favorite cream cheese frosting and they were superb. The cake was very moist and light, with just the right amount of spice. Jason and the kids couldn’t stay out of them. These are perfect for Halloween, Thanksgiving, or anytime! The recipe makes about 3 dozen cupcakes, so if you want less, you can halve the recipe.

Pumpkin Cupcakes

2 2/3 c. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. salt
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
1 c. sugar
1 c. packed light brown sugar
1 c. canola or vegetable oil
4 lg. eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt.  Set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend together the pumpkin, granulated sugar, brown sugar and oil. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  With the mixture on low speed, add the flour mixture in two additions, mixing just until incorporated.

Fill the cupcake liners about three-quarters full.  Bake until the cupcakes are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 18-20 minutes.  Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the pans and let cool completely. Frost with cream cheese frosting and top with a light dusting of cinnamon, if desired.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1/2 c. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 lb. powdered sugar
2 to 3 Tbsp. cream

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and powdered  sugar. Beat again until light and fluffy. Mix in cream to attain the desired consistency.

Cupcake Source: adapted from Annie’s Eats, frosting is Katy’s Kitchen original

PROJECT PASTRY QUEEN: TEXAS BIG HAIRS ALMOND TARTS

This week’s Project Pastry Queen recipe was chosen by Joelen of What’s Cookin’ Chicago. I liked this recipe because it was easy to adjust to make smaller or larger portions. I halved the recipe and prepared it in a 6 inch springform pan because I didn’t need more than one tart. This was a great exercise in “using what you have” for me, because I made a lot of changes based on what was in my pantry. I used almonds instead of hazlenuts, almond extract instead of Frangelico, vanilla extract instead of vanilla bean, and I had to make my own powdered sugar, because I was out. (To make powdered sugar, place 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cornstarch in a blender, and blend until the sugar is powdered. So easy!)

This tart is very, very rich. I think it would be fun to experiment with different types of chocolate, because the bittersweet was a bit bitter. The marshmallow flavor in the meringue was a good balance for the bittersweet chocolate, though. Cut yourself a tiny sliver, and it will be plenty to satisfy a craving for something sweet. I posted my version of the full recipe below. for the original recipe, visit Joelen’s site.

 

Texas Big Hairs Almond Tarts

Crust:
1/3 c. almonds
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature + more for greasing pans
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. almond extract
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. flour

Ganache:
1 c. whipping cream
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Meringue:
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 c. sugar

To make the crust:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. With your fingers, butter four 4 3/8-inch, 1-cup capacity tartlet pans, using about 1 generous tablespoon softened unsalted butter total.

Arrange the almonds on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast them in the oven for 7-9 minutes, until golden brown and aromatic. (Alternatively, you can place them in a dry nonstick skillet and toast the hazelnuts on the stovetop.) Chop the almonds and set aside.

Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl at medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the almond extract and salt. Gradually add the flour and combine on low speed until just incorporated. Add the almonds and mix on low speed just until incorporated. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator, divide into 4 equal portions, and press into the prepared pans, making sure the dough comes up to the top edge of the pans. Bake 12-15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool for 30 minutes. (Don’t worry if the tart bottoms look wrinkly.) At this point, the crusts can be cooled and stored in airtight containers for up to 2 days.

To make the ganache:
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the cream, butter, salt and vanilla extract. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat. Put the chopped chocolate in a large bowl and pour the hot cream over it. Let stand for 5 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Spoon the ganache into the tart shells, dividing it evenly among them. Refrigerate the tarts at least 30 minutes, or until the ganache is set.

To make the meringue:
Set a the perfectly clean bowl of your mixer over a pot of simmering water. Pour in the egg whites and sugar. (Note: if there is a trace of fat in the bowl, the eggs won’t reach their proper volume.) Heat the egg whites and sugar while whisking constantly until the sugar melts and there are no visible grains in the meringue. Take a little meringue mixture and rub it between your fingers to make sure all the sugar grains have melted and dissolved. Remove the meringue from over the simmering water and whip it with a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment on low speed for 5 minutes; then increase the speed to high and whisk for 5 more minutes, until the meringue is stiff and shiny.

Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the broiler. Pile the meringue on top of the cooled tarts, being sure to seal each tart by spreading the meringue to the edge of the pan. Style the meringe with your fingers by plucking at it to tease the meringue into jagged spikes. (For those who don’t like the hands on approach, shape the meringue with the back of a spoon.)

Broil the tarts until the meringue turns golden brown. Watch the tarts carefully, as they can turn from browned to burned in a matter of seconds. (If you are using a kitchen torch, hold it 2-3 inches away from the meringue until it is browned all over.) The tarts should be served the day they are assembled.

*I halved the recipe and prepared one tart, using a 6-inch springform pan.

Source: The Pastry Queen, by Rebecca Rather

LEMON PIE

Lemon desserts say summer to me, and this is my absolute favorite. Something about the sour cream in this pie adds a little something special, and once I start eating, I can’t stop. I have to make this for a special occasion or for a time when we are having people over so it disappears quickly. Otherwise, I will be eating a slice every chance I get (for breakfast even). The filling is also very versatile. You can make this pie in a graham cracker crust, a traditional pie crust, or in mini philo or tart shells. Top with Dream Whip or homemade whipped cream and serve it cold. I promise, it will be a hit however you serve it.

Lemon Pie

I c. sugar

3 T. cornstarch

1 c. milk

3 egg yolks

1/4 c. butter

1/4 c. lemon juice

1 small carton sour cream

1 9 inch pie crust (graham cracker or regular, already baked)

Dream Whip or whipped cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, mix together cornstarch, sugar and milk. Over medium to medium high heat, cook mixture until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Beat egg yolks in a small bowl and pour in a small amount of custard mixture and mix well. Slowly pour egg yolks back into pan of custard while stirring. Return to heat and bring to a boil. Cook for an additional two minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add butter and lemon juice. Stir in sour cream and pour into pie shell. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Before serving, top with Dream Whip or whipped cream.

Source: Adapted from The Lady and Sons Just Desserts Cookbook by Paula Deen

KEY LIME PIE CUPCAKES

It was food day again at work last week and I wanted to take something other than the usual cinnamon rolls. I can always rely on Peabody for an interesting dessert item and these cupcakes did not disappoint. They taste just like key lime pie! They have a graham cracker crust topped wtih a moist cupcake with just a hint of lime flavor. Inside is a creamy marscapone cheese lime filling and they are topped with a buttercream frosting that’s also spiked with lime. I used a large star tip to pipe the tops of the cupcakes. Peabody dusts hers with graham cracker crumbs, but I didn’t since they had to travel to work. As I suspected, they ended up getting smashed on the way, but they were still quite a hit.

Key Lime Pie Cupcakes

Graham Cracker Crust:

¾  cups crushed graham cracker crumbs
1/8 cup granulated sugar
3-4 TBSP melted unsalted butter

Prepare two muffin pans with liners. In a food processor, blend together graham cracker crumbs and sugar. Add 3 TBSP melted butter. Pulse a few times. If it seems like it needs more butter add the remaining TBSP.
Distribute evenly among cupcake liners and press to form a shell using a spoon.

Lime Cake

2 ¼   cups cake flour
1 T. baking powder
½  tsp salt
½  cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
2 egg whites
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
½  cup milk
½ cup buttermilk
1 T. lime zest

Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl; set aside. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add egg whites, beating well after each addition. Add eggs, beating well after each addition. Add lime zest. Beat until blended. Combine milk, vanilla, and buttermilk in a small bowl together. Whisk until incorporated. With electric mixer at low speed, add flour mixture alternately with milk mixture, beating well after each addition. Pour batter evenly into each muffin cup on top of the graham cracker crust. Only fill cups about halfway full as they will rise quite a bit and will run together. Bake 20-22 minutes(for full size cupcakes) and 15 minutes(for mini) or until wooden toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean. Cool cupcakes in pan on wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan and allow to cool completely on rack.

Key Lime Pie Filling

8 oz mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup key lime juice
1 cup sweetened condensed milk

Place all ingredients in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low for 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium and blend for 2 minutes. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Key Lime Buttercream Frosting

1 cup  unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 lbs. powdered sugar
3 to 5 T. key lime juice
Milk, as needed to thin frosting

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add sugar and mix together until incorporated. Add key lime juice while continuing to beat. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes. Add milk as needed to until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. You can also use more lime juice if you want a more tart flavor. But remember you already have lime in the cupcake and the filling.

To assemble:

Take key lime pie filling and place into a pastry bag fitted with a small tip or in a ziploc bag with the corner cut off. Take tip and place into cupcake squeeze filling into cupcake  using the cone method. Frost cupcakes and sprinkle with crushed graham crackers, if desired.

Source: Culinary Concoctions by Peabody