Sunday, February 14, 2010

valentine's day - caramel cupcakes - this is what i get for being an overachiever

caramel cupcakes (valentine's day) - 21I'm the type of person who doesn't want to just settle on a basic recipe. I will purposely find the hardest and most time consuming recipe, just so I can conquer it and feel like a bad ass. By bypassing all these basic fundamental recipes, I guess I'll never understand how the magical mysteries of baking works. Here's an example: Cake. I have yet to bake a basic yellow cake or basic chocolate cake recipe. Reason being that I think it's too freakin' boring. If I was going to go all out and bake something, then I want it to be a fancy recipe like red velvet or ricotta or cookie dough filled cake. Which is why for Valentine's Day, I thought I had to pull out all the stops.

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And so Valentine's Day was approaching and I thought I'd bake some caramel cupcakes I found off a website. The recipe used a "caramel syrup" in the batter and icing, and this was my attempt to make it.

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I've made caramel before (for the caramel chocolate crunch tart) so I didn't think this would be such a feat. Unfortunately, either the recipe wasn't thorough in its directions, or I'm just a retard, but the first batch didn't turn out so well (left). It tasted like bitter metal (that's the nicest way to put it), so I scratch it and made a new batch (right). See the big difference in color?

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This "syrup" wasn't very caramely though; but I assumed it was because it was a "syrup" as opposed to strictly being caramel. I filled each heart-themed cupcake liner with the batter, but decided I'd fiddle around with them a bit. Some cupcakes got filled entirely with the batter, some got different amounts of caramel syrup blended throughout, and some just got a whole spoonful of syrup ladled on top. Each specific liner got a different way of preparation (notice how the second row of cupcakes have a liquid floating on top, opposed to the cupcakes further back which probably had syrup in the center).

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Unfortunately I forgot which liner had which style of batter. Either way, they sure looked pretty!

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The frosting also used a good amount of this mysterious "caramel syrup". I first made a mound on each cupcake (I saw this on a website) and then the frosting gets piped on in coils to make that mountain shape so familiar with bakery style cupcakes.

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My boyfriend noted how sweet these cupcakes were (he definitely had one that had an excessive amount of this caramel syrup). I agree though, that extra spoonful or so of syrup made these very sweet, even for my taste.

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Another comment was how dense these were. I don't understand... maybe it was because of the extra syrup, or maybe it was because this was a shitty recipe.

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My boyfriend's mom told my boyfriend that she knows that one day I'll find the best cupcake recipe... Translation: I need to find the best basic cupcake recipe. I need to quit dabbling with these fancy shmancy recipes, and I need to start at the bottom- Here I come boring yellow cake recipe.

Taken from Sugarlaws.

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1+1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk
1/3 cup caramel syrup (see below)
caramel butter frosting (see below)

1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Butter one tall 9-inch cake pan (I made cupcakes, so line muffin tins).
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.
4. Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.
5. Sift flour and baking powder.
6. Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. (This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.)
7. Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.
8. Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.

caramel syrup recipe:
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for "stopping" the caramelization process (no idea what this means) )

1. In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber. (my first batch, I probably went a little too far, whereas the second batch I was so hesitant that it was probably underdone.)
2. When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.
3. Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. (Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.)

caramel butter frosting recipe:
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream (I used milk, and probably only 4 tablespoons)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup (I wanted it to be extra-caramely so I used 4)
Kosher or sea salt to taste

1. Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.
2. Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.
3. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner’s sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner’s sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

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