Monday, May 21, 2012

No Moaning Allowed

I just have to say from experience that hearing guttural moaning while at work is just… disturbing.  Even if you are well aware of where the sound is emanating from and the reason for it, it is just not something that is ok.

One of our VPs is retiring, and although I wasn’t able to take on the task of providing lunch for the group attending, I did volunteer to do some cupcakes.  I wanted to come up with something special but not terribly labor intensive.  I came up with two options:  Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cupcakes and Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Amaretto Buttercream.

The chocolate cupcakes featured a fresh strawberry gelée inside the cupcake, and a strawberry cream cheese frosting.  And these are what caused the majority of the commotion.  They were made using my go-to recipe for chocolate cupcakes, which are unbelievably moist and delicate.  Once baked, I carved a cone shape out of the center, cut off the bottom portion of the ‘cone’ and then replaced the cap back on the cupcake once I had filled the void with the gelée.  Don’t worry if they turn out a little ugly.  That’s what the frosting is for.  J  You will definitely need to pipe frosting onto these, though, rather than trying to frost them with a knife.  They’re just too delicate and would fall apart.

For the amaretto cupcakes, I used a vanilla bean cupcake recipe, topped them with a buttercream spiked with a little amaretto, and studded the tops with an almond brittle.

Ok, now you know all of my secrets.  Go forth and elicit your own moaning.

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cupcakes

 2 sticks of butter (room temp)
2 1/2 c sugar
4 large eggs
1 3/4 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 c cocoa powder
1 c milk
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°.  Line cupcake tin with liners (this will make about 24 regular sized cupcakes).

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter for several minutes light and whipped.  Add the sugar and beat on medium speed for 2 or 3 minutes until sugar is fully incorporated into the butter and the mixture is fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Stir in the vanilla.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder.  Add the dry ingredients a third at a time to the butter mixture, alternating with a third of the milk.

Scoop batter into lined cupcake tins about halfway.  Bake for 22-25 minutes, or until tester comes out clean.  Allow to cool completely.

* * *

Strawberry Gelée

1 cup strawberry purée
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
2 Tbs cold water
1/2 envelope unflavored powdered gelatin
1/2 cup diced, fresh strawberries

Heat purée and sugar in a small saucepan just until it begins to bubble, stirring to dissolve sugar. Stir in lemon juice and remove from heat.

Put water in a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin on top. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Add fruit purée mixture to the bowl and stir until gelatin is completely dissolved.

Stir in diced strawberries and chill until set.

* * *

Strawberry Cream Cheese Buttercream

1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
¼ cup strawberry jelly (I used freezer jam I had on hand)

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until well combined.  Add the jelly and beat until incorporated.  Slowly add the sugar, about ¼ a cup at a time, and mix until frosting is creamy.  Frosting can be made ahead of time and chilled.  Bring to room temp if piping.

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

2 cups flour
1 c sugar
3/4 c milk
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 egg, at room temperature
1 vanilla bean
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise.  In a small saucepan, heat the milk and vanilla bean together until the milk begins to steam. Remove from heat and let cool for about 1 hour, then remove the vanilla bean. Scrape out the seeds from the vanilla bean and add them back to the milk. Discard the remaining bean pod. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°.

In a medium bowl, sift together the salt, flour and baking powder.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well. Alternately add the flour and milk mixture until well combined. Divide batter into about 18 lined or greased cupcake tins. Bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

* * * 

Amaretto Buttercream

2 sticks butter, room temperature
½ tsp salt
½ cup cocoa powder
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 – 3 Tbs milk
2 tsp Amaretto liqueur

Beat the butter with a mixer until light and fluffy.  Add salt and cocoa powder, and slowly stir to combine.  Add the confectioners’ sugar a small amount at a time, mixing in between additions and adding the milk, about a Tablespoon at a time once the mixture starts to stiffen.  Stir in the Amaretto.

* * *

Almond Brickle

1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup sugar
½ tsp salt
¼ cup water

In a skillet over medium heat, toast the almonds just until they begin to turn golden.  Remove to a bowl.  Add the remaining ingredients to the pan, turn the heat up to medium high, and allow the mixture to come to a boil.  Allow the sugar to cook, only swirling the pan on occasion, until it turns an amber color.  Add the almonds.  Pour hot mixture onto a greased cookie sheet and allow to cool completely.  When it is completely cooled, break into small pieces.

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