A Southern Grace: October 2011

October 31, 2011

happy candy day!


Happy Halloween, folks! If you think gingerbread is tasty, check out my skeletons over on Key Ingredient!

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October 25, 2011

ross and brody need not apply


Am I the only one who's sick of the whole blending-of-names thing? Bennifer? Blah. Brangelina? Gag. Thanks to them, I can never date a fella named Ross (Gross!), a dude called Brody (Grody!), or any Hispanic studs known as Jaime (Grimy!).

When it's applied to food, though, I don't mind the name-blending so much. Case in point: Banoffee pie. Part banana, part toffee, and total treat, this creation never fails to satisfy. As I'm currently in full-blown cupcake mode, I used the banoffee pie as inspiration for my latest batch. Banana cupcakes formed the base, a glob of dulce de leche was squished into the middle to form the filling, and smooth, rich caramel buttercream topped things off. I also sprinkled toffee bits over the frosting, just because I could.

The resulting cupcakes are magnificent--subtly sweet from the banana and blatantly sweet from all the dulce de leche. Yeah, banoffee has a nice ring to it. Grody? Not so much...

By the way, I'll bet most of you have read about The Fairy Hobmother at some point. Guess what--she dropped in on me after I left a comment on this post. If you leave a comment here, you may be next!

Banoffee Cupcakes
(makes 28 cupcakes)
Banana cupcakes:
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
4 very ripe large bananas, mashed (about 2 cups)
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup dulce de leche

Caramel buttercream:
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 pound (4 cups) powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup dulce de leche
toffee bits, for garnish

To make the cupcakes, first preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla.
Cream the butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the banana mixture and ending with dry, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each 3/4 full. Bake until testers inserted into centers come out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool in tins on wire racks.
Once cool, carve out a cone from the top of each cupcake; fill the hole with dulce de leche.
To make the frosting, with an electric mixer, beat butter on medium-high speed until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to medium. Add the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed; after every two additions, raise speed to high and beat 10 seconds to aerate frosting, then return to medium-high. This process should take about 5 minutes. Frosting will be very pale and fluffy. Add vanilla and dulce de leche, and beat until frosting is smooth. Pipe onto cupcakes and sprinkle with toffee bits.

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October 19, 2011

proper proportions


It's all about proportions for me. I like 2 parts frosting to 1 part cake (and no, I didn't accidentally write that backwards). I like 3 times more chocolate chips in my cookies than what's called for in a typical recipe. When it comes to apple pie, there exists a perfect bite, consisting of 45% innards, 20% crust, and 35% vanilla ice cream.

As far as cheesecake goes, I'm more a fan of the crust than the actual cake. That's one reason why this particular recipe appealed to me so much. Another reason is that it makes use of yogurt, which has come to be one of my staple refrigerated items.

Of course I like to eat yogurt as a snack, either on its own or mixed with granola (17%) and fruit (23%), but I've recently come to appreciate it more as an ingredient in things like muffins and quick breads--it tends to add a moistness and flavor that buttermilk and sour cream can't seem to contribute.

Right now, my yogurt of choice is Chobani. It's thick, it's natural, it's healthy, and the people behind it are passionate and dedicated to bringing us the best possible product. They make many flavors of both fat-free and low-fat Greek yogurt, and I've yet to be disappointed by any.

The original recipe for this luscious caramel cheesecake called for sour cream, but on a whim, I used Chobani's plain 2% Greek yogurt instead. The resulting cake was so smooth and rich and decadent, I have no need to try it again with sour cream for the sake of comparison. When something this close to perfection is made, why mess with it?

For me, the ratio of crust to filling is just right, especially since the crust is laden with toasted pecans. The cherry on top is the amazing caramel sauce that gets added at the end, assuming you have any left after taste-testing one time a few times repeatedly and without end.

*This post is sponsored by Chobani.

Caramel Pecan Cheesecake, Chobani-style
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and finely-chopped
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup butter, softened

3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups light or dark brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs
6 ounces plain Greek yogurt (Chobani is oh-so-nice, and conveniently, the perfect size!)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

5 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup pecan pieces
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup heavy cream

Wrap the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with 3 or 4 layers of heavy-duty foil. To make the crust, combine ingredients and blend until a uniform dough is made. Spread to the edges of the pan. Prick all over with a fork, then bake 15 minutes at 400 degrees F. Allow to cool.
Heat oven to 450°.
To make the cheesecake, beat cream cheese until smooth and fluffy; beat in brown sugar until light and well-blended. Slowly beat in the eggs, then the yogurt and vanilla. Beat just until well-blended. Pour into the prepared crust. Place the foil-wrapped pan in a large, shallow roasting pan. Place in the oven and add about 1/2 inch of hot water.
Reduce heat to 325° and bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until the cheesecake is firm around edges but still slightly jiggly in the center. Turn oven off and leave the cheesecake in the oven for 30 minutes to an hour longer. Place the cheesecake on a rack to cool to room temperature. Remove the pan sides.
To prepare the sauce, first heat the 5 tablespoons of butter and pecan pieces in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until the butter is lightly browned and pecans are aromatic. Add the brown sugar to the butter and cook, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the cream until thoroughly mixed.

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October 13, 2011

two for the price of one


Do you ever find yourself staring at a dessert table, forced to choose between digging into a big pile of cookies or tackling a tree of cupcakes? Cookies deliver a nice, satisfying chew, while cupcakes, if they're done correctly, combine a soft, fluffy cake with a smooth, creamy frosting. But what if I want the best of both worlds?

Luckily, I can have it, all in the form of an oatmeal raisin cookie cupcake. It begins with one batter that gets split into two portions, one which becomes the cupcake, and one that gets combined with coconut and more oats to turn into the cookie-like topping. It's wholly satisfying, bringing chewiness as well as cakey-ness all in one bite. Further, there's plenty of aromatic cinnamon involved, so you know I'm happy.

Speaking of two for the price of one, I'm putting up two posts today--this one, and another over on The Back Burner, the blog for the awesome site called Key Ingredient. I'll be writing about a new sweet treat every Thursday, so feel free to visit early and often! Today's feature is a caramel apple pie cupcake, and as I mention in that post, it's the best I've ever made!

Oatmeal Raisin Cookcakes
(Martha did it again)
(makes 30)

3 3/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup oat bran
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups raisins
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 3 standard 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners; set aside. Whisk 2 cups oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, bran, and cinnamon in a medium bowl; set aside.
Put butter and sugars into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Mix in eggs, 1 at a time, and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture, and mix until just combined. Mix in sour cream. Stir in raisins with a rubber spatula.
Transfer 2 3/4 cups batter to a small bowl, and stir in remaining 1 3/4 cups oats and the coconut; set aside. Spoon 2 1/2 tablespoons plain batter into each prepared muffin cup; top with 1 1/2 tablespoons oat coconut batter. Bake until golden and a cake tester inserted into centers comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer to wire racks; let cool completely.

These make fun minis, too!

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October 5, 2011

a lisper's nightmare...


...but this foodie's best friend.

No, I'm not talking about the song 'All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.' (Incidentally, it's WAY too early to be breaking out the yuletide tunes. You know who you are. Take note.) I'm talking about the word streusel. It's tricky.

I think about words a lot, if you haven't noticed. In fact, if I wasn't a scientist, I'd probably be an etymologist (which is, itself, a fun word). I found a site listing a bunch of commonly mispronounced words and phrases, and actually discovered that there are a few things I've been saying incorrectly all these years. (Cardsharp? Really?)(Spit and image? I feel foolish.)

Back to my original word: streusel, German for 'something strewn.' The 'something strewn' atop this batch of tasty, moist pumpkin bread is loaded with oh-so-buttery clumps of cinnamon-scented oats. If you're going to strew something, strew that. I like the golden raisins in this, too--they offer a nice, sweet chew to complement that which I strew. It's true.

Meet my new neighbor, Squirrel Haggard. ('Squirrel' is also a troublemaker of a word, both to spell and say.)

Ah, words. For the record, I'm a misocapnistic mumpsimus who suffers a bit from tachyphagia, is a proud logophile, and practices autotonsorialism. Also, beginning next week, you'll be able to read my words in another forum--I'll share more info soon!

Pumpkin Bread with Topping (it's lisp-friendly!)
(makes 2 loaves)

3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 eggs
2 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup butter, cold
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350º F. Grease and flour the bottom of two 8″ loaf pans. To make the topping, mix together all the topping ingredients using a fork or pastry cutter until combined thoroughly.
In a large bowl or mixer, cream together butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Add vanilla and eggs and mix until incorporated. Stir in pumpkin puree.
In a separate bowl, add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Whisk together until no lumps remain. Add half of the flour mix to the pumpkin mix, blending well. Beat in buttermilk. Add remaining flour mix and beat lightly until smooth. Fold in the raisins.
Pour batter evenly into the two prepared 8″ pans. Cover each with half of the topping mix. Bake at 350º F for 70-80 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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