Tuesday, November 8, 2011
There are certain sweets I do like, mostly because there is a contrast of flavors and textures. What I mean by that is I rarely get a craving for a Hershey's Kiss (unless there's an almond in it), but I do have a hard time turning down a Twix bar. Because if you think about it, it's not really even a candy - it's an elaborately topped cookie. And I can get behind that, because an elaborately topped cookie is just begging to be cupcaked. Yes, I just turned a noun into a verb. I have no editor here besides myself, and I'm probably not going to object too much.
One of the things I like best about Twix bars is the cookie base, and I like incorporating that into my cupcakes as evidenced here and here. I like the surprise crunch of a cookie on the bottom of a cupcake, and having shortbread on the bottom just made sense.
Then, I used a simply but moist vanilla buttermilk cake to top off the cookie, filled it with a gooey caramel sauce, and then...the frosting? I knew it couldn't be too dark, or rich, or heavy, and this is one of the occasions where milk chocolate did the trick.
This makes 24 cupcakes, so plenty to share (and a bit of leftover frosting and caramel sauce to dip your leftover shortbread sticks in - cooks' privilege, you see?).
~Shortbread Cookie Base~
3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter, chilled
Preheat oven to 350F.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, sugar and salt. Pulse a few times to blend.
Cut butter into large chunks and add to food processor. Blend for about 1 minute, until dough has a very sandy appearance and starts to clump together.
Line two standard 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners. Press about 2 tablespoons' worth of the shortbread mixture into each muffin cup, pressing down with your (clean!) fingers to form a solid layer.
You will have leftover shortbread mixture. This is awesome! Line a standard loaf pan with aluminum foil so that you have an overhang on two sides and dump the rest of the dough into the pan. Press it down evenly with your fingers. Using a sharp knife, lightly score the shortbread into bars and set it aside to bake after you bake the shortbread bottoms. When it is time, bake the bars in the oven for about 20 minutes or until starting to turn golden. Let cool for about 10 minutes in the pan, then using the foil as handles, remove the shortbread from the pan. Carefully cut into bars using your scoremarks as a guide, and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container.
Bake the shortbread-lined tins in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes or until the cookie is just starting to turn golden. Set aside to cool while making your cupcake batter.
~Vanilla Buttermilk Cupcakes~
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
Your oven is still at 350, right? If not, get it there.
In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy, scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix in eggs and egg yolk and then mix in the vanilla. Add 1/2 of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Combine. Add the buttermilk, mix and then dump in the rest of the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined and the batter is smooth. Spoon out batter into shortbread-lined cupcake pan, filling about 2/3 full.
Bake for about 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out with moist crumbs.
~Salted Caramel Filling~
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons salted butter cubed
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoons heavy cream, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
Melt the sugar over medium high heat in a large pot. Whisk the sugar as it melts and cook until it becomes a deep amber color. Add the butter and stir it in until melted. Pour in the heavy cream (mixture will foam) and whisk until you get a smooth sauce. You may have some lumps but keep stirring until they have melted. Add in salt but don't taste it! Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Cut a small cone-shaped piece out of the tops of each cooled cupcake. Cut off the excess cone-part, leaving just the lid and pour in 1 teaspoon of caramel into the hollow of the cake. Replace the cake lid and set cupcakes aside.
~Creamy Milk Chocolate Buttercream~
(I'm told this is originally from Cook's Illustrated, but it was paraphrased on a website so I am not 100% sure; I adapted it a bit anyway)
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
12 ounces milk chocolate
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup powdered sugar
2 sticks butter, cut into chunks
Heat cream with corn syrup and salt on stove until simmering. Meanwhile, chop chocolate in food processor. With the processor running, add the simmering cream slowly and process for one minute, until chocolate is melted. Add powdered sugar and vanilla and process again. Then, with processor running, add butter one piece at a time, waiting until the piece is incorporated before adding another. Cool until thick and spreadable (about two hours), then beat with an electric mixer until fluffy and spreadable. It can now be piped or spread onto the cupcakes.