November 26, 2012

Maple Cornmeal Cupcakes with Browned Butter Frosting

Sorry for the radio silence these past two weeks. I had some personal stuff going on, and then my computer died, and then my old computer that I kept just for such an eventuality died, and then there was family stuff and hurricane stuff and nor'easter stuff, and the internets just kind of got pushed to the backburner. If it makes you feel any better, I'm also calling this year's NaNoWriMo a fail. I only got about 10k in before all the drama happened. So that got shoved to the backburner as well, and you know how much I love NaNo. It's not that I don't enjoy writing by hand, but I've had problems with my wrist since I was a kid, and I strain it enough typing 1667 words a day. Writing out 40k words would not have been fun.

November in general has just been a month of fail. I'm resigned to that fact. So no more dwelling. December is almost here, and I spent small business Saturday in one of my most favoritest places in the entire universe: Candyland Crafts. What is Candyland you ask? It's a candy making and cake decorating specialty store. They have a room full of nothing but chocolate molds. The mold room. It's awesome. And they have tons of specialty sprinkles and royal icing decorations that they make themselves and candy melts in every color of the rainbow that taste better and melt smoother than the Wilton ones. I'm convinced Candyland is magic. I bought some really cute stuff to make Christmas presents with, so yay for Candyland!
These cupcakes were for Thanksgiving, not Christmas, though. And were a lot better than I had thought they would be. I found a recipe for maple cornmeal cupcakes in the Betty Crocker Big Book of Cupcakes, and tweaked it a bit to suit my needs (no maple syrup but 2 teaspoons maple flavoring? Homie don't play that) (I'm sorry. I will never say that again.) (Maybe). My family yells at me when I do that. "You should follow the recipe at least once. It could be really good the way it is," my mother told me.

"Uh-huh," I said. "Try one."

"Oh my god," she said, mouth full. "These are really good."

"Now what was that you were saying about following the recipe?"

"Forget everything I said."

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Or cupcakes, as it were. Because these suckers were really, really good. The texture of the cornmeal was a little odd to taste in a cupcake, but the flavor more than made up for it. The cornmeal gave it a sort of earthy butteriness (is that a thing? it is now) which paired really well with the maple flavor. It's kind of like breakfast. Only not. Because it's a cupcake.
To be fancy, I topped them off with a whipped maple browned butter frosting. It was a bit sweeter than I usually like my frostings (and I put too much on the cupcakes, heh), but the smoky, nutty flavor of the browned butter went really well with the earthier flavors of the cornmeal and maple. And I think it was the first time my cousins had had browned butter anything, so I looked like a total gourmet. Let's face it: browned butter tastes fancy. And smells magnificent. Any perfume makers out there, you need to make a maple and browned butter perfume. Candle makers, you have the same task. I will buy in bulk if you can manage it.
While you're on that, can anybody recommend a good laptop? Asking for a friend....

Maple Cornmeal Cupcakes {Printable Version}
Yield: 12 cupcakes

1½ cups flour
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
½ tsp. salt
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. maple flavoring extract
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp. maple syrup
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp. milk

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium mixing bowl, mix the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, cinnamon (if using), and salt. Set aside. In a mixer, beat the butter on medium speed, gradually add in the sugar, and
continue to beat until fluffy (about 2 minutes). Add the eggs, oil, and extracts one at a time, beating well
after each addition.

In a liquid measuring cup, or a small bowl, mix together the milk and maple syrup. On low speed, add
the flour mixture to the butter, alternating with the milk mixture. Continue to beat until well combined,
scraping down the sides as necessary. Be careful not to overmix.

Line a standard muffin tin with 12 liners, and fill about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way with batter. Bake 20-25
minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely on wire racks

Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker Big Book of Cupcakes

Maple Browned Butter Frosting {Printable Version}

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup whipping cream
¾ tsp. maple flavoring

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Continue to heat, whisking constantly, until the
butter turns a light, golden brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Add the sugar and maple flavoring to the bowl of a stand mixer and mix together on the lowest speed.
Slowly stream in the browned butter and continue to mix until the mixture looks like small peas. Add in
the whipping cream, gradually increase the mixer speed to high, and whip until fluffy.

Recipe by Kim

November 11, 2012

Drunken Apple Pie

Me and pie, we have some issues. Well, not so much pie, as pie crust. I can't make it. I've got this mental block. I mean I make it, but then it won't roll out because it's hard, or I roll it out and it sticks to everything, or I don't roll it out thin enough, or I can't get it to roll out in a circle, and it's too long one way and too short the other, or I'm incompetent and can't manage to get it in the tin right.

And then I'll be watching a show on the cooking channel about pie and they'll be all, oh, it's so easy to make your own crust. And then when you roll it out, you just wrap it on the rolling pin and just drape it over the tin. And I'm like, that does sound easy, Kelsey. Thanks! And then I try it and it's an epic fail and I'm reduced to tears, sobbing over the mess that I was sure this time was going to be a beautifully flaky pie crust.

But you guys see that excessively ugly pie up there? Do you see it? Do you know why it's so ugly? Because I made pie crust! Successfully. Cut in cold butter, sprinkled ice cold water, rolled out with a rolling pin, crimped the edges and everything.

And of course, it had vodka in it.

Yes, you read that right. See, I was looking through the Dash magazine that comes in the Sunday paper, and they were giving Thanksgiving tips, and the last one was all, pie crust is so finicky. So they were all, we swear by this recipe and vodka is the magic ingredient! And it worked.
So I had my vodka pie crust, what should I put in it? My brother says, "How about drunken apples?"

Genius runs in the family.

And then my father wanted raisins in it, but I could only find one little box of raisins, so I decided to make mini pies. I put raisins in one, toffee bits in the other, and kept the third plain apple. This is the raisin one. Can you see the R that I carved in the crust?

And believe it or not, this is the best looking of the three pies. Well, in the tin, the plain apple one looked better, but when I took it out, well...
Dammit man, keep it together!

My drunken apples imbibed a little too heavily there. Or it could have been baked longer. Heh.

...What's that? You want to see the one with the toffee bits? No, you don't. No, you really, really don't. It looks like something out of a cheesy horror movie about baked goods.

...Okay, but don't say I didn't warn you.
Quick, get out of here! The vodka crust will only hold it back for so long. Save yourselves!

Got the patchwork top crust holding back something lurking in the depths of the apple pie filling. It looks like it's going to explode any minute now.

Yeah, this one's looking better and better, huh?
 Of course, who really cares what the outside looks like? Like any dessert, it's what's on the inside that counts.
Mmm, boozey apples....

Spiced Piecrust {Printable Version}
Yield: 2 piecrusts


2 cups flour
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. apple pie spice
1 tsp. salt
½ cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small chunks
4 tbsp. solid white vegetable shortening (Crisco), chilled and cut into small chunks
2 tbsp. vodka
Approx. ¼ cup ice cold water

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, spices, and salt. Using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter and shortening until the mixture looks like wet sand, and there are no pieces bigger than small peas. With a fork, mix in the vodka and just enough of the water that the dough comes together and is slightly tacky. Divide the dough in half, flatten each half into disks, wrap separately in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for a minimum of 45 minutes, or up to two days. Roll out as desired on a well-floured surface.

Tip: Whenever you have to handle the dough, make sure to only use the tips of your fingers. This is the coolest part of your hand, and will help keep the butter from melting.

Recipe adapted from Dash Magazine

Drunken Apple Pie {Printable Version}
Yield: 3 mini deep dish pies (or 1 regular 9 inch pie)

6-7 apples peeled and chopped into ½ inch pieces (approximately 6 cups)
Juice of 1 orange
¼ cup flour
2 tbsp. rum
2 tbsp. brown sugar*
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. apple pie spice
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
1 recipe Spiced Piecrust
Raisins, toffee bits, or dried cranberries, if desired, 1-2 oz. per mini pie
Water, for brushing, and cinnamon sugar, or 1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. water

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Toss the apples with the orange juice immediately after chopping to prevent browning. In a large mixing bowl, mix the apples with the flour, rum, sugar, cornstarch, spices, and vanilla, making sure the apples are well coated. If desired, add mix-ins, such as raisins. You can also divide the filling into 3 equal parts first and add a different mix-in to each.

Roll out the piecrust on a well-floured surface to approx. ¼ inch thickness. Cut 3 circles about 2-3 inches larger than the lip of the mini pie tins for the bottom crusts. For the top crusts, cut 3 circles about ½ an inch larger than the lip of the pie tins. Line the tins with the bottom crusts, and divide the filling equally between them. Place the top crusts over the filling and seal the two crusts together, pinching them with your fingers, or pressing the edges together with a fork dipped in flour.

Brush the tops of each pie with water and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, or brush each with the egg
wash. Score the tops with a sharp knife, place on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake for 30-35 minutes,
until the filling is bubbling, and the crust is golden brown.

*Depending on how sweet your apples are, this amount may need to be adjusted.

Recipe by Kim

November 5, 2012

Vampire Fang Cupcakes

Happy Halloween, everybody!

...what do you mean, it's not Halloween? It is. Governor Christie said so. He signed an executive order and everything. You don't want to go against Governor Christie do you? I wouldn't. He's a scary, scary man.

Here in New Jersey, our governor can eat your governor. And wash 'em down with a couple of beers.

Look, I don't agree with Gov. Christie's politics. Like, ever. And up until now, I figured he was good for little more than the butt of everyone's jokes. But boy, is he the man you want on your side in a crisis.

Gov. Christie, I'll probably never agree with you on anything, but if I met you right now, I'd kiss you. And feed you as many cupcakes as you wanted.
Halloween here in New Jersey got postponed via executive order because last Wednesday the majority of us were without power (and we were the lucky ones). Downed power lines and trees and traffic lights that weren't working made trick or treating downright dangerous. Power is being restored, and things are getting cleaned up as fast as they possibly can, but unfortunately, it's not fast enough for some people. Especially with the temperatures dropping and the nor'easter we're expecting this week.

But in the midst of it all, kids still love dressing up and getting free candy. And by golly, I love giving it to them. I also have a set of bloody gel handprints on the front door that gets rave reviews (I tell them they're from a kid that got too greedy with the candy. Then I give them giant handfuls of candy. Eh, I'm not their parents.)
I'd seen vampire bite cupcakes before, and thought the idea a simple way to make great Halloween cupcakes. Then I saw a silicone vampire fang ice cube tray in the dollar store (a bit like this one), and the wheels started churning. I could make vampire bite cupcakes, but with the fangs on top.

For the "blood" I used a strawberry champagne sauce that I got from foodie penpals (and I added a little red food coloring because it was a bit brown). You could always use your own favorite dessert sauce, pureed cherry pie filling, or this recipe for edible fake blood.

The cakes themselves are one of my favorite recipes for white cake (from, you guessed it, Old Reliable). The frosting is a white chocolate buttercream, which firmed up nicely without crusting. It was a great base for the blood, and I scored it with a toothpick to guide myself when drizzling (so the blood looked like it was coming from where the fangs were biting. I'm detail-oriented like that).

But plain white cupcakes, while always yummy, don't sound particularly Halloweeny, do they?
Who said anything about plain?

Poke cakes always kind of looked to me like they were bleeding, so they seemed the perfect choice. Just stab the cooled cupcakes a few times with a fork, mix one 3oz. package of strawberry, cherry, or raspberry flavored Jello with 1 cup boiling water, then pour onto the cupcakes. I put the cupcakes in a rimmed baking sheet to eliminate the mess while doing this, then double-cupped them to serve.
The rare cupcake vampire strikes whenever Halloween is moved to Nov. 5th
For more on Hurricane Sandy and how to help out, you can visit, see my post on the hurricane, or check out my Facebook page, which I will keep updated with shelters and first responders requiring donations as I learn about them.

Vampire Fang Cupcakes

1 recipe white cupcakes (see below. Vanilla or almond work as well)
1 3oz package raspberry, strawberry, or cherry Jello
1 cup boiling water
1 recipe white chocolate buttercream (see below) or your favorite white frosting
White chocolate vampire fangs
Red dessert sauce, pureed cherry pie filling, or edible fake blood

Bake and cool cupcakes according to the recipe. Using a fork, pierce holes in each cupcake. Add the cupcakes to a rimmed baking sheet. In a bowl, whisk together the Jello and boiling water. Carefully spoon the Jello over each cupcake, then place the baking sheet in the refrigerator to chill for minimum 30 minutes. Generously frost each cupcake and add a white chocolate vampire fang. Using a toothpick, score a line radiating from either fang, and pour as much or as little of the fake blood on the cupcake, concentrating on the lines you made. To avoid sticky fingers, place the cupcakes in another liner before serving.

Recipe by Kim

Silver-White Cupcakes {Printable Version}

Yield: 28 cupcakes

4 egg whites
1½ cups sugar
2¼ cups cake flour
1 cup milk
½ cup unsalted butter or margarine, softened
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a small bowl with an electric mixer on high speed, beat the egg whites
until frothy. Gradually add ½ cup sugar and continue to beat on high until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and remaining 1 cup sugar on
medium speed until fluffy. In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add half of
the flour mixture and half of the milk to the butter and beat until just combined. Add the remaining
flour and milk, and beat until smooth. Gently fold in the egg whites.

Fill the muffin tins 2/3 of the way with batter and bake 17-20 minutes, until the tops are a light golden
brown and spring back when pressed gently.

Recipe adapted from The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook

White Chocolate Buttercream {Printable Version}

1/3 cup heavy cream
6 oz. white chocolate, chopped
Pinch salt
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract

In a small saucepan, heat the cream over low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent a skin from forming,
just until it starts to bubble. Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate and salt. Continue to stir until
the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Let cool to room temperature.

With an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed. Gradually add in the powdered sugar and
continue to beat on medium until smooth. Add the chocolate mixture and vanilla, and gradually increase
the speed to high. Whip on high speed until light and fluffy.

Recipe by Kim

November 3, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

November is supposed to be the month where we take stock of our lives and be thankful for what we have.

So let's talk thankful.

I'm thankful for the electricity and heat that I was without for 5 days. I'm thankful that my house is still standing, that my car wasn't damaged. I'm thankful that none of the trees on my property were uprooted in the 80 mph wind, like so many others I've seen. I'm thankful that we only got 12 hours of rain instead of the 36 that was predicted. I'm thankful that all my family is safe and accounted for. I'm thankful that my biggest concern right now is how I'll fill up when my car finally runs out of gas.

I'm thankful that the tree that was uprooted in front of my friend's house fell on her mom's car, and not the house. I'm thankful every time I see a tree that fell in a similar fashion-- just missing the road or or a house.

I'm thankful whenever I see traffic cones around a downed wire or temporary stop signs at a traffic light that is out, because it makes traveling much less dangerous. I'm thankful when I see utility crews working tirelessly around the clock to restore power. I'm thankful when I see police at one of the gas stations keeping order, because I know they've barely gotten the chance to rest for a week now and they're still out there keeping us safe.

But what breaks my heart is that I lost power for 5 days, and I was one of the lucky ones. People who experienced flooding might not get their power back for another two weeks. If they're even still in their homes. If they're even able to get back to their homes. If their homes are even still there. And the temperature is dropping.

You see, Sandy wasn't just a storm. Sandy wasn't even technically a hurricane. Sandy was a post-tropical cyclone, the perfect storm, a 200-year freak-of-nature storm. Sandy was an historical event that will go down in the history books, and she hit one of the most vibrant and densely populated areas in the country. That bitch hit my home, and I will not take this lying down. Because honey, you hit a Jersey girl, you can be damn sure she is going to hit you right back.

But the problem is, Sandy is bigger than me. I can't tackle her on my own. I need your help. I don't need you tsking and talking about how terrible this is. I don't need you sharing on facebook, or creating hashtags on twitter, and I certainly don't need anything "in honor of" or "in memory of" unless it is something tangible that can actually be used in the relief effort. We don't need to raise awareness; in the 21st century, we already know immediately when these things happen, and the world is plenty aware.

What we need are donations. Money, if you can. Visit or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. The Red Cross is also in need of blood donations. Visit the website for information on that.

Can't donate money or blood? Many shelters are in need of food and blankets. I've posted some on my facebook page, but you can always email me for more information, or check out the Jersey Shore Hurricane News page. They do not post anything until they confirm its validity, so you can trust it. (Please note, I am not affiliated with them, but they've done a spectacular job this past week.) Check out this article for more ideas on how to help.

I would also love if I could organize something with my fellow bloggers to raise money for the Red Cross. If you're interested and have ideas, please email me.

Things are a mess here, and your help is needed right now. So I want you to think of everything you have to be thankful for right now, and then think of those people who lost everything in the blink of an eye.