Monday, November 28, 2011

Giving Thanks

I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  My apologies for not uploading any new posts last week.  I had a major case of the baking blues after my disaster with those pecan pie cookies, but redeemed myself by winning first place in our cookie exchange last Saturday.  :)  

 The winning cookie :) 

There was an endless amount of delicious cookies, one of which I made for Thanksgiving.  The pumpkin pie cookies were "puffy, pillows of goodness" according to my co-worker, Tony.  Pictures and recipe to follow shortly.  

Along with the pumpkin cookies, I also made caramel pecan pie shortbread with the leftover filling from my previous post. I used my Tita Terry's recipe for the shortbread.  So delicious.  I loved the hint of cinnamon in the filling and the salted caramel.  

I was baking up quite a storm the morning of Thanksgiving, but the baking did not stop there.  I planned a birthday dinner for the bf at Shabu House in Burlingame on Saturday and wanted to make toffee crunch cupcakes.  Every time we go to the grocery store and are  making our way down the baking aisle, he always mentions (drops hints) of craving toffee cookies.  Cookies just don't scream "birthday" to me so I decided to make him toffee crunch cupcakes instead. Lots of work involved but soooo worth it.  Happy Birthday, my love.

Toffee Crunch Cupcakes with a Salted Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Yield: about 30 cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used dutch process cocoa powder)
1 tbsp. espresso powder (I used Starbucks via instant coffee)
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt (I used fleur de sel)
2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup brewed coffee
1 cup toffee bits
For the ganache and toffee layer:
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½-2 cups toffee bits
For the frosting:
5 large egg whites
1½ cups sugar
4 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ tsp. coarse salt
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup caramel sauce 

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda, and salt.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sugar and butter and beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Blend in the vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the coffee, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Mix each addition just until incorporated.  Fold in the toffee bits with a spatula.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners.  Bake 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pans 5-10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the ganache, place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl.  Add the cream to a saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Remove from the heat and pour the hot cream over the chocolate; let stand 1-2 minutes.  Whisk together until a smooth ganache forms.  Whisk in the butter 1 tablespoon at a time until completely incorporated.  Transfer the bowl to the fridge or freezer to chill the ganache to a pipeable consistency, whisking every 5-10 minutes to ensure even cooling.  When slightly thickened, transfer to a pastry bag fitted with your tip of choice.  Pipe a ring of ganache around the top of each cupcake, leaving a hole in the center.  (I just poured the ganache into a deep mixing bowl and dipped the cupcakes.  Saved me time on piping).  Add the toffee bits to a bowl and dip the ganache portion of each cupcake into the toffee bits, pressing very gently to adhere.  Let the ganache set.
To make the frosting, combine the egg whites and the sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.  (The bowl should be cool to the touch.)
Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated.  If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (or longer - don’t worry, it will come together!)  Blend in the salt, vanilla, and caramel until smooth and completely incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip with the frosting and pipe a frilly pile of frosting on top of each cupcake, filling the hole in the center of the ganache.  Top with additional toffee pieces, if desired.

Source: adapted from Bakers Royale, originally from Alice Medrich

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