Pine Nut and Candied Orange Peel Cupcakes with Christmas Spice Buttercream Frosting13

Posted by in Citrus,Experimental Recipe,Italian-Inspired,Seeds,Spices (Wednesday December 19, 2007 at 2:35 pm)

pine nut and candied orange peel cupcake with christmas spice buttercream

I will be frank. I am not a fan of pine nuts. They fell out of favor with me back in the 90’s or whenever it was that every restaurant was serving them in their dishes. They are new to my husband however and, go figure, he likes them. So, when he rushed off to be with family leaving me with a container of pine nuts that were bound to spoil, I thought, “time for pine nut cupcakes.”

The pine nut idea morphed quickly and easily into an Italian-style fruit cake concept. I started and ended with candied orange peel. I was so close to throwing in some more dried or candied fruits, but feared venturing too far into fruit cake territory. I am also not a fan of fruit cake. The resulting was interesting. Its hard for me to be objective here as the cake tasted very pine nutty and like I said… don’t like ‘em. Anyway, husband returned and he gave them his seal of approval. So, if you or someone you know likes pine nuts, give the recipe a try.

I topped them with a small amount of very spicy buttercream. I liked the buttercream very much. While sweet and intense in flavor , it definitely said “holidays” to me.

Well, the Porro family is traveling over the holidays. I will be baking cupcakes at my destination, but I am not sure if I will be posting. Never the less, you will see me back in the new year with more cupcake recipes and a follow up frosting post (hopefully with video)!

Happy New Year!

Cupcakes
~15 cupcakes / 350 degree oven

3/4 cup pine nuts
1 stick butter, unsalted/room temp
1/4 light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs, large/room temp
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup candied orange peel, roughly chopped (see below)

1. Toast pine nuts at 350 for 7 minutes. Grind pine nuts with in a food processor. I removed some of the nuts (about 1/4) while they were still chunky then ground the rest up a bit more. Pine nuts are oily so they never get very fine and they will start to clump up.
2. Beat butter on high until soft, about 30 seconds.
3. Add the brown sugar and regular sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
4. Add eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated.
5. Add the ground pine nuts. Beat to combine.
6. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
7. Measure out orange juice and vanilla together.
8. Add about a third of the flour to the butter/sugar mixture and beat to combine.
9. Add all of the juice/vanilla mixture and beat until combined.
10. Add another third of the flour mixture and beat to combine.
11. Add the ricotta cheese and beat to combine.
12. Add the rest of the flour and beat to combine. Mix in the orange peel.
13. Scoop into cupcake papers about three-quarters full. Note that these cupcakes will shrink slightly when they cool.
14. Bake for 22-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.

Christmas Spice Buttercream

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground clove

1. Beat butter on high until soft, about 30 seconds.
2. Sift sugar into the butter. Add vanilla and spices and beat to combine.
3. Add more powdered sugar to arrive at the consistency and sweetness you like. 2 cups worked for me.

Note: This is a very spicy buttercream. If that doesn’t sound appealing to you add half the amount of spices to start with. I liked its holiday flavor-intensity.

christmas spice mix

Assemble
1. Top cooled cupcakes with the frosting.
2. Top with a decoration, chopped orange peel, or whatever you have.

Candied Orange Peel
Why reinvent the wheel? Nic over at the Baking Sheet has already gone and posted a recipe for candied orange peel. I have used this recipe in the past and used it again this time around.

candied orange peel
tossing peel in sugar

All About Frosting – The Recipes42

Posted by chockylit in Cheese,Chocolate,Step-by-Step Photos (Tuesday December 11, 2007 at 11:13 pm)

chocolate ganache

I get many a question about frosting. I thought I would compile my thoughts on the subject in two part series of posts – a sort of one stop shop for all things frosting… from my perspective, of course! First up… the recipes.


Chocolate Ganache

Chocolate ganache frosting is one of my favorite frostings to use. Why? Let me count the ways. One, because I love chocolate. Two, because the taste is very “adult” and not too sweet. Three, because it’s practically no fail and adaptable to what I have on hand.

Reviewing my posts, I apparently have as many ganache recipes as I do posts with ganache recipes – a testament to its versatility. If I get one point across about ganache it is that ganache is indeed adaptable to your personal taste and preference.

Ganache is typically made by bringing heavy cream to a simmer then pouring over chopped bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, stirring to combine, and then adding remaining ingredients – pretty straightforward.

The typical ganache recipe I use contains the following ingredients:

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt

I have used as little as 6 ounces of chocolate with 1 cup of cream, as that is all I had on hand, and it worked out fine. I have also interchanged various types of chocolate, bittersweet, semi-sweet, different brands, etc. It changes the flavor of the ganache but not the outcome. The exception is with milk and white chocolate which don’t come up to spreadable consistency using this basic ingredient list.

I like to use Valrhona, 61% cocoa or higher, for its intense, full-bodied, earthy chocolate flavor. I have tried to stay local and use Scharffenberger, which I like to eat on its own, but I find it too bright and tangy to bake with. I have used Ghirardelli in a pinch. While I don’t like the flavor as much as Valrhona it’s an acceptable alternative and readily available in most grocery stores. The brand is really up to you, but the quality of the chocolate makes a big difference in flavor so spring for the good stuff if you can.

How I treat the ganache depends on the cupcake I am making. If I want a very adult flavor I will stick to the basic recipe (see above) and either pour it on, spread it on, or beat it then spread it on.

Poured Chocolate Ganache

Poured chocolate ganache results in a gorgeous, shiny layer of frosting that is very dramatic and very grown up. I used the method for my version of an “Opera” cupcake. Just let the mixture cool slightly and pour it onto the cupcake (or cake) before it starts to thicken. It will thicken in place and stay very shiny if you don’t touch it. Top it with something special – white chocolate dipped candied ginger, an edible flower pedal, or a smuggled dragée. Very classy…

Spread Chocolate Ganache

Cupcakes often form an attractive dome rising over top the cupcake paper. I like this look (more cupcake!) but it doesn’t support the poured ganache method. When spreading ganache, let the mixture come to room temperature, stirring occasionally, until it’s spreadable. Then spread a relatively thin layer on to the cooled cupcake with a small palette knife. To get a smooth finish, dip the palette knife in hot water, wipe dry, and then smooth the frosting.

I use this method when I want a small, but intense quantity of frosting… when I want to have the flavor of chocolate without overwhelming whatever else is going on. See examples of this method here, here, and here.

Beaten Chocolate Ganache

If you want the intense flavor of a straight up ganache, but still want to pipe it on because, well, it looks so nice piped on, then beat the cooled ganache with an electric mixer fixed with the paddle attachment for a few minutes. This will incorporate air and increase the volume of the frosting without diluting the flavor. The ganache will lighten in color compared to the unbeaten version. See an example here.

Whipped Chocolate Ganache

I have been exploring a variation on ganache that is sweeter than the simple version just discussed. I use this when I want the cupcake to appeal to child and adult alike. It’s more akin to a chocolate buttercream, but with a more intense chocolate flavor. I have experimenting with various versions of this approach.

Version 1 – Basic Ganache but with Butter and Powdered Sugar

This is basically a mixture of ganache and buttercream. Most chocolate buttercream recipes use cocoa or just a small amount of melted chocolate beat into the butter and sugar. This method of making the ganache first then beating in butter and sugar makes for a more chocolate tasting frosting.

See examples here and here

Version 2 – A Totally Different Take

I first saw this method in a book by pastry chef Emily Luchetti. I have definitely tweaked it significantly since I first tried it many years ago. The recipe includes bittersweet, semi-sweet, and unsweetened chocolate and can be tailored to your personal taste by simply adjusting the quantities of the various chocolates while keeping the overall quantity the same. For example, to make it sweeter, increase the semisweet by a couple of ounces and decrease the bittersweet or unsweetened. The unsweetened chocolate imparts a rich cocoa flavor, the bittersweet gives the frosting bite, and the semi-sweet sweetens the whole thing up.

See examples here, here, and here

There are other recipes and methods out there, of course. I plan to try recipe on David Llebovitz’ site which uses water instead of cream. I know that dairy products mellow the flavor of the chocolate, but I have also been hesitant to combine chocolate and water for fear the chocolate will seize. I hope to post about my attempt soon.


Buttercream

cherry-vanilla cupcakes

There is nothing more frustrating to many readers than buttercream frosting. A classic and main stay, buttercream is also one of the sweetest frostings of the bunch often too sweet for the average adult. I however love American-style buttercream especially paired with a simple cake and in moderation. This post has a pretty typical recipe for American-style buttercream. I understand though that not everyone is a fan. So if I am serving cupcakes to adults I typically do not use buttercream! The only exception I have found is with this recipe, somehow the mint makes the frosting more palatable.

American Style Buttercream

American-style buttercream is simply butter beat with confectioners’ sugar and a little vanilla and a little milk. In order to get to a piping consistency a lot of sugar is required. This results in a very sweet frosting. Like I said I actually like this. I have a sweet tooth though and not everyone does. There is no way I know of to decrease the sweetness of this frosting.

Swiss and Italian Style Buttercream

There are less-sweet alternatives to American style buttercream, Swiss and Italian style buttercreams for example, but these frostings have a different quality that I simply don’t like. They leave a film in my mouth and taste as though they are made with vegetable shortening even if they weren’t. I can’t stand them! Just like I can’t stand Génoise cake, but that is for a different post. But you might like them. Its worth trying for yourself before ruling these styles of buttercream frostings out of your repertoire.

The bad news is that I don’t have any recipes for Swiss or Italian style buttercream frostings. In this case, google is your friend.


Cream Cheese

sweet corn cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting

Cream cheese frosting is my friend. It is my very favorite frosting to use. It’s always a crowd pleaser and balances out the sweetness of any cake well. I work with two versions. One has a higher proportion of cream cheese. It is tangy, on the soft side, and my preference for recipes where I want to really taste the cream cheese (carrot cake, hummingbird cake, red velvet, etc). The second version has less cream cheese. The cream cheese tang is more subtle and its really just there to balance the sweetness of the sugar. I use that recipe as an alternative to buttercream for just about any cake.

Cream cheese frosting takes on flavor very well. Just to give you an idea, this recipe uses Thai Ice Tea as a flavor, this recipe uses citrus, this uses ginger and this uses tarragon. But there are more, just peruse the table of contents to find other flavor suggestions.

I have jut started using the “buttercream alternative” method. Here are some examples, one with matcha and one with salted caramel. But any of the above cream cheese recipes can be adjusted to this method by simply decreasing the amount of cream cheese and increasing the amount of butter.


Meringue Frosting

The thing I love about meringue frosting is how easy it is to have a dramatic presentation. It’s sweet, but not sweet as butter cream. It takes flavor well, but don’t try to add a substantial amount of liquid. It will collapse. Small amounts of extracts (vanilla, mint, lemon), spices, very thick flavored simple syrup, or crushed things (like red hots). And the best thing about meringue is that you can take your culinary torch to it.


Whipped Cream

I don’t use whipped cream very often. It’s just not terribly exciting. I pair it with a cupcake that is plenty exciting on its own like this one. It is very easy to adjust the sweetness though. So, if you have a very sweet cake, whipped cream is a good option. Beware, it doesn’t hold well. So if you use it, keep the whipped cream refrigerated until you are ready to use it and frost the cupcakes just before serving.

There are of course other frosting options, but this is all I have for now. Part 2 of the series will cover frosting technique, frequently asked questions, and more on flavoring frostings.

Cranberry White Chocolate Cupcakes8

Posted by in Berries,Cheese,White Chocolate (Monday December 3, 2007 at 4:49 pm)

Cranberry White Chocolate Cupcakes

This recipe is for Leslie, a reader who asked for a recipe for cranberry white chocolate cupcakes to serve at Christmas. I jumped on the combo as I had been wanting to try converting the rich chocolate cupcake I do so often into a white chocolate version. I tweaked the recipe to adjust for the sweetness of the white chocolate, but otherwise stuck to the original. The recipe needs work in the looks department, but taste-wise its great! I’ve heard only positive feedback from the tasters and my husband, who is very picky when it comes to cupcakes, devoured a number of them before I even had time to make the frosting.

As far as looks go, the top of the cupcake has a funny texture (see photo below) and the cupcakes rose some and fell back slightly. This was less obvious the day of, but more prominent the second day. By day two they had shrunk quite a bit. As for the funny texture on top, I am not fazed as it gets covered with frosting anyway. The shrinking aspect might bother the perfectionist in some of us, but if they are served the same day, it will be less obvious. If I have time to work on the recipe before the holidays I will be sure to post an update.

In the taste department, the cupcakes were quite nice. I could taste the white chocolate, but it wasn’t too sweet, something that I expected. The tartness of the cranberries definitely helps. The frosting is yummy as usual, nothing to worry about there. When is frosting not good?

Speaking of frosting, I am still working on my frosting post. I have had to divide it into two posts as its getting way too long. The first will be about the recipes themselves and the second about tips for flavoring frosting as well as piping technique. I hope to get the first post out shortly.

Cupcakes
regular cupcakes / 375 degree oven

7 ounces white chocolate
2 sticks butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
6 eggs
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup dried cranberries

1. Chop chocolate and transfer into the bowl of a standing mixer.
2. Add butter to the chocolate and place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir until chocolate melts and butter is combined.
3. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Note that when you add the sugar the mixture will separate and look pretty funky. This is ok.
4. Let mixture cool for 10 minutes.
5. Add the vanilla. Beat in an electric mixer for 3 minutes. Mixture will thicken and you should no longer see butter floating on the top.
6. Add one egg at a time, mixing for 10 seconds between each.
7. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into the mixture, return to the electric mixer, and mix until blended.
8. Roughly chip the cranberries. Stir into the batter.
9. Scoop into cupcake cups 2/3s full and transfer to a 375 F oven.
10. Set your timer for 5 minutes. When the 5 minutes is up turn the oven down to 350 F.
11. Set your timer for 10 minutes. When the 10 minutes is up rotate the pans. (Move the bottom to the top rack and turn front to back.
12. Set your timer for 7 minutes more. When the 7 minutes is up test one of the top-center cupcakes with a toothpick and remove the cupcakes once it comes out clean.

Note: The batter is pretty liquidy and the cranberries very heavy, so they will fall to the bottom. I was pleased with the layering effect, but if you aren’t into that idea I recommend two options. Either dust the cranberries in flour before mixing into the batter or drop some into each individual filled cupcake before baking.

cranberry white chocolate cupcake
baked cupcake

Cranberry, Clove, White Chocolate Buttercream

8 ounces white chocolate, chopped
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 package (8 ounces) philly cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
[optional] 1/4 teaspoon ground clove

1. In a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water, gently melt the white chocolate. Allow to cool for 2 minutes or so.
2. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy.
2. Beat in the melted white chocolate.
3. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar, vanilla, and clove and beat at low speed, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl, until light and fluffy. Add more powdered sugar to arrive at the consistency and sweetness you like. 2 cups worked for me.

Assemble
1. Top cooled cupcakes with the frosting.
2. Top with a decoration, chopped cranberries, or chopped walnuts.

white chocolate
white chocolate