Monday, October 3, 2011

Caramel Apple Cupcakes!

By: Christine
There are a bunch of things that I love about the fall season and almost all of these things have something to do with food. I love pumpkin muffins, pumpkin coffee, apple donuts, apple cider, Jill's delicious pumpkin blondies, apple pie....and lots more! I also love going apple picking in the fall. Jill and I wrote this blog entry  last year about the tradition of apple picking and this past weekend was when we all gathered together in New Hampshire, with family and friends to do the annual apple pick!

I wanted to make something that I hadn't made before, but something that went with the theme of the day; apples! I decided to make two different variations of caramel apple cupcakes.
I started looking at different recipes online for an apple cupcake and after finding a few options, I wasn't seeing exactly what I wanted. I was walking through the grocery store and stumbled upon this boxed cake mix and I knew that it was exactly what I needed! Now some people may think that using a boxed cake mix is "cheating," but I don't agree. I have used box mixes as bases in some of my favorite cupcakes, and people are shocked to hear that its from a box. I like to add things to the boxed mix that make it my own and sometimes its just easier and less time consuming to use a boxed mix.
I started out making the cake batter. This batter had tiny chunks of apple inside and speckles of nutmeg and cinnamon.
The mix came with a packet of caramel topping mix and after adding some water and butter to the mix, I made a thick and delicious caramel topping. I added the topping to the top of the cupcakes before placing them in the oven to bake.
After baking the cupcakes for about 18 minutes, they were done, and they smelled amazing!
I wanted to make two different types of toppings for these cupcakes. For the first type, I melted a bunch of caramel candies with about a tablespoon of heavy cream and made a sticky caramel apple type of topping. I spooned this onto the cupcake and spread it around evenly, then I rolled the edges of the cupcake in peacans, chocolate chips, and colorful sprinkles!
The second type of frosting that I used was a cream cheese based frosting. I added some apple pie spice into the frosting to match the taste of the cupcake. I added fun toppings to these cupcakes too!
 This was a fun cupcake to make, and although it came from a boxed mix, it was moist, delicious and enjoyed by everyone at apple picking!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fun With My Kitchen Torch: Crème brûlée and Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

By: Jill
I received my kitchen torch as a gift a few years ago and I actually use it much more than I originally thought! Two things that I've made using the kitchen torch are crème brûlée and lemon meringue cupcakes.

The first time I made crème brûlée, I wanted a recipe that didn't require special ingredients that I did not have in my pantry and was also simple enough that it couldn't go terribly wrong! I decided to use this recipe from Ina Garten because I've really liked her recipes in the past and find that her instructions are easy to follow.

Crème brûlée starts with egg yolks (and one whole egg) and sugar that is beaten until just combined.

Meanwhile, 3 cups of heavy cream are scoured on the stove (I actually used one cup of half an half and 2 cups of heavy cream).

This recipe called for a tablespoon of Gran Marnier to add a slight orange flavor.

The recipe made enough for 6 portions.

They were cooked in water bath for 40 minutes, cooled to room temperature, and then refrigerated.

Right before I served them, I sprinkled them with sugar and then used my kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar.

It was delicious!

My dad loves lemon meringue, so for his birthday I decided to make lemon meringue cupcakes using this recipe from Martha Stewart.

I used freshly grated lemon zest for the cupcake base.

I've made my own lemon curd in the past, but I've found that the right brand can taste just as good and save you time!

Each cupcake was topped with lemon curd.

The meringue frosting was made over the stove top and was easier to make than I thought!

After piping the frosting onto each cupcake, I used my kitchen torch to toast the meringue for an authentic lemon meringue pie flavor.

I use my kitchen torch for numerous other recipe including s'more cupcakes and to create cheese crusts on savory dips. It is a worthwhile kitchen tool for me.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Amazing Brownie Pan!

By: Christine
I had seen a lot of infomercials advertising an "amazing brownie pan" that was supposed to make baking brownies easier. I was curious as to how this pan actually worked. I happened to find one of these pans at the Christmas Tree Shop and I knew I had to get it and test it out!
This pan comes with three pieces, the pan, removable bottom, and the dividing grid.
I decided to make on of my favorite brownies; s'mores brownies!

I started out with graham crackers that I crushed into crumbs. I mixed the crumbs with some butter and pressed the mixture into the bottom of the pan. I used my favorite brownie recipe and poured the batter into the pan, on top of the crust. Then I added the dividing grid. I sprinkled some of the graham cracker mixture onto the top of the batter and placed the brownies into the oven.
After the brownies were done baking, I removed them from the oven. Quickly, I added a half of a marshmallow to the top and pressed down slightly. I placed the brownies back into the oven under the broiler to toast the marshmallow.
After the brownies were done baking, I let them cool slightly. Then, I pushed the removable bottom out from the top of the pan with the dividing grid still in and let them cool completely. After the brownies had cooled, I removed the dividing grid and the brownies were complete, and the best part was that the brownies were cut into perfect squares!
This pan helped to create perfect brownies and I can't wait to use it more often!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Cinnamon Bun Cupcakes!

By: Christine
I made these cupcakes for a family cookout and they may have become my new favorite cupcake flavor! Before deciding on cinnamon bun cupcakes, I was going through the list of my favorite cupcake flavors and decided that I wanted to try something that I've never made before. With help from my fiancé, I came up with the idea for these cupcakes, and they were delicious! 
The base for this cupcake is vanilla cake batter. Cinnamon and sugar is then added to the vanilla cake batter
While baking the cupcakes, I made the frosting. I used a vanilla buttercream frosting and added cinnamon and sugar to the frosting, just like I had done for the cupcake batter.
After baking and cooling the cupcakes, it was time to frost them!
You can see the tiny speckles of cinnamon throughout the frosting.
I added a tiny teddy graham cracker to some of the cupcakes and sprinkled on a tiny bit more of the cinnamon and sugar mixture to the other cupcakes.
These cupcakes tasted just like a cinnamon bun. The cake was very moist and the frosting was light and fluffy!
These cupcake are now in my top 5 for favorite cupcake flavor!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Strawberry Margarita, Piña Colada, and Key Lime Cupcakes

By: Jill
For the wedding shower of one of my wonderful friends, Katie, I made three different cupcakes that were all "drink/vacation" themed (she's getting married in the Dominican!): Strawberry Margarita, Piña Colada, and Key Lime.
The piña colada cupcake recipe was from one of my favorite bloggers, Beantown Baker. The recipe looked delicious, but I did make a few minor adjustments in the frosting.
For the cupcake itself, the recipes calls for cream of coconut (NOT coconut milk!) and coconut extract.
After the cupcakes were cooked and cooled, I made the frosting. It is a cream cheese/buttercream frosting, but the recipe amount was not enough so I added an extra stick of butter and a bit more powdered sugar and it was perfect!
I took about 2/3 of a cup of the frosting and mixed in some chopped pineapple. I filled the cupcakes with the pineapple mixture and then frosted the cupcakes with the remainder of the frosting.
I sprinkled the cupcakes with some sweetened coconut flakes and topped them with a cherry.
The strawberry margarita cupcake recipe was from another blogger, My Adventures in Food.
It uses fresh strawberries, chopped in the food processor in the cupcake itself. So yummy!
The strawberries are then mixed into the batter with lime zest and a pinch of kosher salt.
The frosting, a Swiss meringue, was something that I had never attempted before. It involves whisking sugar and egg whites over a simmering double boiler until it reaches 160 degrees.
This recipe was also unique because I had never used tequila in a frosting and I was curious as to how it would taste.
This frosting was absolutely amazing! It was light with only a slight hint of tequila.
I used a strawberry to garnish the cupcakes.
The final cupcakes were key lime cupcakes. The recipe I used was from My Madison Bistro.

I also made a few changes to this recipe. I did not use green food coloring and opted to keep the buttermilk color of the cupcakes with the green lime zest in both the cupcakes and frosting. I did not use cream cheese for this frosting recipe and just added an extra stick of butter and some extra powdered sugar.
I liked the look of the green lime zest flecks in the frosting!
These cupcakes were so delicious and unique!