A Southern Grace: December 2011

December 28, 2011

i'll have a blue(berry) christmas without you


Well, Christmas is over. Back to the grind.

I hope you each had as lovely a holiday as I, with plenty of rich foods and reminiscing with friends and family.

This latest batch of cupcakes has nothing to do with anything, but I liked the title post that popped into my head and it just blossomed from there. They came about as a last minute choice. I made the brown sugar cupcakes and upon seeing a dusty old bottle of blueberry-flavored schnapps (random!) on the shelf, decided that a blueberry filling and frosting might be a nice addition. They were.

The cupcakes are quite sweet and soft, with a far-from-subtle brown sugar taste. I made the filling by reconstituting dried blueberries I received from Oh! Nuts (they have EVERYTHING!) in hot water and a dash or two of the schnapps. Warning: Take care not to use too much liqueur in the frosting--the blueberry flavor is far from authentic and easily overpowering. If, like most normal people, you don't keep blueberry schnapps on hand, a bit of the pie filling would probably mix in nicely while also supplying a bold blue hue!

On to New Year's...and those dreaded resolutions!

Brown Sugar Bloob Airy Cupcakes
(makes about 2 dozen)
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup buttermilk
blueberry pie filling, either homemade or bought

Blueberry buttercream:
2 cups (16 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
6 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons blueberry-flavored schnapps (I used Dekuyper)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cream butter and brown sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition.
Reduce speed to low. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk and ending with dry. Scrape sides of bowl. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each 3/4 full.
Bake cupcakes until testers inserted into centers come out clean, about 25 minutes. Let cool in tins on wire racks.
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 liqueur, and beat until frosting is smooth.
To fill the cupcakes, carve out a cone-shaped hole (and immediately eat the cone)(after adding frosting to it, of course) and carefully spoon the pie filling inside. Apply frosting generously to cupcakes and devour.

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December 20, 2011

what a gem!


I often take issue with the names of the baked goods I make, but in this instance, the creators were spot-on.

Do you not think of a giant red ruby when you look at these beauties? On top of its lovely appearance, these cookies are a knock-out in the taste department too. Crunchy, tangy, sweet, and melt-in-your-mouth buttery, they make the slightly elaborate preparation completely worth the effort.

Morsels like these stand out on any holiday cookie tray, and they're amazing enough to make to serve totally on their own as well. Make them! Eat them! Don't you dare save them for Santa! Most importantly, have a delightful holiday season!

Gems of Unparalleled Taste (or GOUT)(ho ho ho)
from Cookies: Food Writers' Favorites
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 egg, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup finely chopped pecans
strawberry jam

In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, beat butter, cream cheese, egg yolk, vanilla, and lemon zest until well blended. Mix in powdered sugar, then flour to make a stiff dough. Refrigerate dough. Shape chilled dough into 30 small balls. Beat egg white until foamy. Dip balls in egg white, then roll in nuts. Place balls on lightly greased baking sheets. Press an indentation into the center of each ball; fill with a little strawberry jam. Bake 350 for 10-15 minutes, or until cookies begin to brown on the bottom. Let cool.

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December 13, 2011

leftover leftovers?


If, on the off chance, you still have some cranberry sauce hanging around from Thanksgiving, you're a)a slacker, and b)much like me.

I've mentioned before that I find expiration dates to be mere suggestions, and that goes for weeks-old cranberry sauce as well. In looking for an inventive way to use the stuff, my thoughts immediately turned to cupcakes, as that's obviously my obsession right now. My first question to myself was what flavor cupcake base to use, and having always enjoyed the cranberry-orange combination, I decided that was the way to go. Then, I fondly recalled my maple buttercream and chose to use that as the finishing touch.

These were what I would call outrageously good. I added pecans to the cupcake batter for a little contrast in textures and it was a nice component. The sauce was superbly tart against the oh-so-sweet frosting, and the orange in the cupcakes was subtle but appreciated.

If, like most normal people, you took care of your cranberry sauce leftovers long ago, I think it's worth it to make it all over again just for these cupcakes.

Leftover Cranberry-Orange Cupcakes
(based on these)
(makes 12)
4 ounces (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
2 large eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup pecans, chopped
about 1 cup of leftover cranberry sauce
maple buttercream frosting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Cream butter, sugar, and orange zest until pale and fluffy. With mixer running, add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl.
Combine cream, orange juice, and vanilla extract in a small bowl. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture to butter mixture in 3 batches, alternating with cream mixture, ending with flour; beat until just combined.
Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each 3/4 full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until testers inserted in the centers come out clean, about 25 minutes. Let cool in tins on wire racks. Undecorated cupcakes will keep, covered, for up to 1 day (or frozen for up to 2 months).
To fill the cupcakes, carve out a cone-shaped hole (don't you dare let it go to waste!) and carefully spoon the sauce inside. Apply frosting generously to cupcakes and, after giving the components a few minutes to get to know each other, devour.

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December 6, 2011

not my gumdrop buttons!


I love the Shrek movies. Granted, much of the humor is aimed at kids, but there are some lines here and there that are totally meant for and appreciated by adult ears only.

One of my favorite parts of the first movie is the scene with the Gingerbread Man (aka Gingy) and Lord Farquaad. "Do you know the Muffin Man?" "The Muffin Man?" "THE MUFFIN MAN!" So clever. They made a short Halloween episode, and one part that made me laugh out loud also involved Gingy--be sure to wait for his moment:

Did you not giggle at least a little? Okay, maybe I'm just easily amused.

In honor of Gingy, I was inspired to make some gingerbread cupcakes. They have all the flavors of a yummy cookie but with the soft, pillowy texture of a great cake. Plus, there's a pile of cream cheese frosting and crumbled cookies on top. Winner, all around.

Gingy-bread Cupcakes
(you guessed it)
(makes about 15)
1 cup water
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1 cup unsulphered molasses
2 large eggs, room temperature
cream cheese frosting
gingerbread cookie crumbs, to garnish

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper baking cups, and set aside. In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup water to a boil. In a bowl, combine boiling water and baking soda; set aside. In a large bowl, sift together flour, spices, salt, and baking powder; set aside.
In an electric mixer, cream the butter until light. Beat in the brown sugar until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping as needed. Beat in the molasses, baking soda mixture, and flour mixture. Mix well.
Fill the cupcake papers three-quarters full, making sure that the batter is divided evenly. Bake cupcakes until a toothpick inserted in the center of them comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Let cupcakes cool a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating.

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