Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cinnamon Bun Cupcakes

Today was kind of a crappy day. Not so much because of work; more so because of the cats. 
This cat, in particular
And not so much crappy; more so the other end. That's all we're going to say on the matter. Yes there are pics. No you can't see them. Weirdo.  And when I get stressed out and worked up, and the house is already clean (because I had to mop the kitchen and scrub the dining room and change all my clothes and take another shower) I turn to baking to relax. You probably knew this already.

So today I'm giving you yet another excuse to eat dessert for breakfast. Inspired by Confessions of a Cookbook Queen's Honeybun Cake, I present to you: Cinnamon Bun Cupcakes.

As always we start by creaming together your butter and your sugar. Alton Brown says that what we're doing with this step is using the sugar to create little pockets of air in the butter. Yes, I think of that every time. Every single time I make a cake, "Now we're creating little pockets of air in the fats of the butter."  

As we know, start off with a mostly-room temp stick of butter, not too warm, not too soft, and whip it up with the sugar until it looks like mashed potatoes. That's your gauge. You want mashed potato butter sugar.  My butter here in this picture wasn't quite soft & airy & mashed potatoey, and that's because it was a little bit too cold. On the plus side, I discovered I didn't have any eggs & had to run out to the grocery store, leaving this on the counter to warm up just a teensy bit. Came back with eggs & the butter was just right.

Next you add your eggs. Unless the recipe says otherwise, you always add your eggs one at a time and beat them thoroughly into the cake each time. This is for cakes, mind you, not pancakes or bread or cookies. Cakes go one egg at a time. Egg; mix; egg; mix; vanilla; mix. 

And again, unless the recipe says otherwise, you want to have your "dries" in a separate bowl whisked together. That's all the dry ingredients except for the sugar (cause that's making pockets of air in the butter fats!)--your flour, your baking powder, your salt.

I decided with this recipe to mix the cake together in the same manner as the classic southern 7Up cake. Have you had one of those?  Rich and dense as heck!  I make 'em with Mountain Dew Code Red.  Anyway. You mix your wets (minus the liquid, which in this case is milk), you whisk together your dries in a separate bowl, and then you slowly add the dries into the wets, alternating with the milk. A little flour; a little milk; a little flour; a little more milk; the rest of the flour; the rest of the milk.

Mix it up and you got cake mix.
Mix your brown sugar & cinnamon & vanilla in another bowl and you got filling.

Now we start the fun part!
A layer of cake mix, a tbsp of brown sugar mix, another layer of cake mix. You can take a toothpick and try to swirl it up if you want, like in the original recipe, but it didn't work out so well in the cupcakes so I gave up. Tasted fine. Won't notice the difference.

Left side of the pan: halfway done.
Middle of the pan: unswirled.
Right side of the pan: swirled.


When they come out of the oven, they look like little coffee cakes! So cute! So good-smelley!
Front: swirled. Middle: not swirled. Still tastes the same.
I admit, the original recipe called for glazing these right away, but I've had the experience of glaze melting into hot cake and completely disappearing. So we went out for dinner while these cooled off on a wire rack. Came back, they were completely cooled, so popped the rack over a sheet of newspaper and glazed them. Then sprinkles. Autumn leaf sprinkles.
The finished result was pretty darn good if I don't say so myself.

Recipe time! This recipe gave me 18 good-sized cupcakes.

2 cups of flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/4 cups sugar
1 stick butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup of milk

1 cup of brown sugar (I prefer dark brown sugar)
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2) Whisk together the first three cake ingredients in a mixing bowl.
3) In another mixing bowl, cream together the sugar and butter.
4) Add eggs one at a time, beating well between each egg.
5) Add vanilla & mix well.
6) Slowly add your flour mixture into the sugar mixture, alternating with the milk, a little at a time, mixing well between each addition.
7) Pop some cupcake baking cups into your muffin pan, and using a spoon or ice cream scoop, add approximately 2 tablespoons of batter to 18 cups.
8) Layer a generous amount of brown sugar mixture on top of the batter; you're going to have some leftover, so don't be stingy.
9) Layer the rest of the batter on top.
10) Bake at 350 for about 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. You know your cake is done when the top is springy to the touch. Let cool on a wire rack.
11) Once the cakes are cooled, whisk up your glaze ingredients in a small bowl.
12) Lay out a piece of newspaper that you don't ever want to see again (the political pages, perhaps?), sit the whole wire rack on top of the page, and then pour your glaze over the cupcakes.  You should have just enough glaze for all 18.
13) You don't need sprinkles, but sprinkles are cool. Like bowties. Only a lot more edible than bowties. This is a perfectly valid 13th step.

And there you go. The brown sugar cinnamoney middle makes it feel breakfasty. I bet this would be really good with a cup of coffee. Hey, grownups can have dessert for breakfast. It's Grownup Privilege.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Step 1: Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

My intent is not to write a famous blog with thousands of subscribers and advertisers and comments that scroll for days and days. This isn't what we're doing here.

What we're doing here, my dears, is baking up something good! You will not find sugar substitute here, nor margarine. No canned frosting, because that stuff is scary. If we're going to break our calorie bank, we're breaking it all the way, my friends.

And we're starting with Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars, by Closet Cooking! I didn't have or couldn't find all the ingredients, so there were some changes. Also, I've doubled the original recipe here, and baked it in a 9x13 casserole dish; most of it is going to work tomorrow for my boss's birthday, but I wanted to keep some for myself.  (Do you see this? How could you not want to keep it for yourself!)

Before we start, here's a couple of tips:
When you're making bars or brownies, you can line the pan with aluminum foil and put your batter into the lined pan. When it's all cooled, gently lift up on the foil and it should all slide out easily.
And, if you forgot to take out your butter to thaw ahead of time, you can microwave it on full for 8 to 10 seconds, and it'll soften up just fine. One stick of butter for 8 seconds, 2 sticks of butter for 10 seconds, no more than two at a time or it won't soften evenly.


-Group 1-

2 sticks of butter, room temp
2 cups flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed (I always use dark brown sugar, for maximum flavor)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

-Group 2-
4 apples
2 tablespoons ordinary white sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice

-Group 3-
1.5 sticks of butter, soft but still a little chilled from the fridge
1 cup flour
1 cup oats (the kind that comes in tub you used to use as a drum when you were a kid)
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

-Group 4-
1/2 cup sugar
2 packages of cream cheese, room temp
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Now let us begin!

-The crust
1) Turn on your oven, and set it to 350 degrees.
2) Combine Group 1 ingredients in a mixing bowl until it resembles sugar cookie or shortbread cookie dough.
3) Press this out into your baking dish (either 2 8x8s or 1 9x13).
4) Bake until light golden brown at 350F, about 12 minutes or so, then set it aside on a wire rack to cool.

-The apples

5) Peel and core and chop up your apples into small pieces.
6) Mix all Group 2 ingredients together in a second mixing bowl.

-The streusel
7) Take the first mixing bowl (which you used for group 1) and roughly mix all Group 3 ingredients together. This should NOT be a smooth mixture.

-The cheesecake 
8) In a 3rd mixing bowl, cream the sugar and cream cheese together until smooth.
9) Beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each egg.
10) Mix in vanilla.

-The construction
11) Retrieve your cooled shortbread base and pour on the cream cheese mixture, covering the whole crust.
12) Slowly drop the apples on top of the cream cheese mix, covering it evenly.
13) Layer on your streusel topping (that's the oatmeal mix); it should cover the apples completely.
14) Bake at 350F about 30-35 minutes, until the cream cheese has set. Let cool completely.

At this point, many people use regular caramel sauce that they bought at the grocery store. Drizzle it over, cut it up, serve it out, and you're done. But if you're feeling adventurous, you can make your own:

-The caramel sauce
3/4 cup of brown sugar
1/3 cup of butter, room temp
2/3 cup of evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 good pinch of coarse salt

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat & bring to a boil. Once it boils, turn down the heat and let it simmer until nice & thick. Try not to stir it too much, as the secret to caramel sauce is letting the sugar and butter melt together.

You want some pictures? We can do pictures!

So to start, I tried mixing the shortbread crust with a wooden spoon, but quickly gave up on that. Yeah, it didn't want to play with the wooden spoon. This worked a lot better just using my hand and folding the mixture over and over into itself like it was bread dough.

This is what it looked like in the bowl once I was done mixing it. Nice & smooth, all of the flour was mixed in, and it easily came off of the sides of the bowl.

Spreading it into the foiled pan was interesting, since the foil wanted to go with the dough wherever it went. This meant that I couldn't just use a spoon to mush the crust around since the foil would follow. I eventually discovered that I could use my hand as a sort of rolling pin, and slowly push the dough out to the edges of the dish.

Yes, the crust has fingerprints in it. Whole handprints, actually. What? I washed my hands! It's getting covered up with yumminesss! No one is going to see the handprints!

No, really, it's fine. 

 For maximum cooling in the shortest amount of time, I put the baked shortbread crust on a wire rack in the coldest room in the house. I didn't want the cheesecake mixture to start cooking on a hot bed of baked cookie beforetime. 

I didn't wait too long, either. The casserole dish was cool enough to hold with my bare hands when I started putting on all of my layers. Here we're layering on the apples.
 Now, this is the caramel sauce that I made using the recipe up top. I made a couple of mistakes here; first of all, the butter wasn't warmed up enough to start with, and secondly I stirred it too much.This means that the fats in the butter separated, and I was left with a grainy, lumpy mess instead of caramel sauce. There are ways to save separated caramel, but this sauce refused to be saved.

Yes my friends, it looked like a hot mess. Ooooh, but it tasted delicious. And did you see that streusel topping? NO ONE IS GOING TO KNOW. 

That's right.

I put it on anyway. Excelsior!

The finished product. Ooey. Gooey. Warm. Delicious. I can't tell if it's breakfast or dessert. I don't care. You want to eat this. You really do.