Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Recipe #2: Sweet potato cupcakes. Oh, and did I mention I am a weird-y?

   I am SUCH a picky eater, in the worst way. I know, I know, I claim to love food, but then I say I'm a picky eater, and when I say picky, I mean the list of foods I don't like is longer than I really like to think about. One of the things I dislike greatly are sweet potatoes. I hate them. I hate them in every form, from fries to pies to puree. They disgust me and remind me of the worst things about store-bought baby food, which my son really only ate when other people bought it, except the fruity dessert flavors. Instead we pureed whatever we were eating. For the longest time my little man hated sweet potatoes as well, and then he tried them covered in melted, toasty marshmallows, brown sugar, candied nuts and in a graham cracker crust. At that point, much to my dismay, they became one of his favorite things and I suddenly needed a way to prepare them that didn't offend every one of my senses.
   I found it. I made these for Thanksgiving, and even ate one without vomiting in my mouth, meaning I did it right. What's funny is that it's pretty much sweet potato pie in cupcake form. It tastes very distinctly of sweet potato, but the light, moist texture of the cake really lends itself to my ability to eat it. Not only that, but everyone loved them so much, I've been asked to make them for things other than Thanksgiving, which seems INSANE to me. Why eat nasty sweet potatoes for any reason other than tradition? I can't figure it out. On the plus side, we also eat brussel sprouts pan fried in bacon grease and topped with asiago on Thanksgiving, AND I'm not expected to eat any sort of breakfast food all day. Pretty sure that's the best kind of holiday.
   So, without further babbling or useless rambling, here is my recipe for sweet potato cupcakes. Keep in mind I use home-made graham crackers for the crust, but that recipe will come another day, and store bought grahams will work just as will, I assure you.
Sweet Potato Pie Cupcakes  Makes 2 dozen
  1. 1 1/4 cup crushed graham crackers
  2. 6 T. melted butter
  3. 1 T. Sugar
Mix cracker crumbs and sugar, then ad butter and toss with fingertips until moist and well blended. Don't over mix to the point of soggy though. Divide into lined cupcake cups and press against the bottom of the cup until fairly well packed.

  1. 2 large eggs
  2. 2 1/3 cups packed brown sugar
  3. (1) 15 ounce can of sweet potatoes, drained and mashed
  4. 1 cup melted butter, I use salted because I like the way the cupcakes taste better, but you can use either salted or unsalted
  5. 2 T. vanilla extract
  6. 2 T. orange zest
  7. 1/2 cup applesauce
  8. 2 1/2 cups ap flour
  9. 1 T baking soda
  10. couple pinches of salt
  11. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves (easy on those!) to taste
  12. 1 1/2 cup buttermilk
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line the muffin pan, then do the crusts.
Beat eggs and sugar on low, or just whisk by hand, until fully incorporated and no lumps are present. Color should be an even, dark brown. Mix in sweet potatoes, applesauce, vanilla, orange zest and butter.
Sift together dry ingredients including spices, then mix into the batter until smooth. I like to add it in 3rds to avoid annoying lumps. Mix in buttermilk completely.
Fill muffin pans 3/4 full, as this batter doesn't rise significantly. Bake for 17-20 minutes, until cupcakes are springy and don't jiggle. Allow to cool before filling and frosting. If filling, core cupcakes once cool.

Salt caramel filling:
  1. 1/4 cup water
  2. 4 cups sugar
  3. 2 cups heavy cream
  4. 1 1/2 sticks chilled unsalted butter, cubed
  5. 1 1/2 t. course sea salt
In a heavy saucepan over high heat, combine water, sugar and corn syrup. Cook without mixing until dark AMBER (that's my name! :D), so for about 13-15 minutes.
Remove from the heat and slowly, carefully mix in the heavy cream until smooth. Be sure to work slowly or the mixture will splat up at you, and melted sugar burns are the absolute most painful burns I've ever experienced. You don't want that. I promise.
Return to heat and cook to soft ball stage, or for those of you that AREN'T too ghetto for a candy thermometer, between 235-240 degrees. Try to shoot for somewhere in the middle. It should only take a couple minutes.
Remove from heat and pour caramel into a bowl that can handle the heat of ten thousand suns, so that the caramel stops cooking. Tupperwear? Yeah, not such a good idea for this. I learned THAT one when I was about 10 and was too excited to stop and use common sense.
Mix in your salt and mix in the butter one Tablespoon at a time until completely incorporated.
Allow to cool, and then fill your glorious cupcakes. This is the recipe I use for almost all of my salt-caramel fillings because it doesn't soak into the cake. It stays where you put it.
Save a little to drizzle on the cupcakes after they are frosted and bruleed, so the pecans have something to stick to.

Marshmallow frosting:
  1. 8 large egg whites at room temperature
  2. 1/2 t. cream of tartar
  3. 2 cups sugar
  4. 1 T. vanilla extract, OR if you're really cool, 2 vanilla beans, scraped
Use a double boiler with simmering water to cook the egg whites, sugar and tartar until the sugar is dissolved completely.
Pour into a mixing bowl with a whisk attachment and beat until stiff peaks form. The frosting should be glossy. Add the vanilla and mix until fully incorporated, retaining those peaks, people!
Frost your cooled, filled cupcakes. I like to then toast the frosting, but I don't have a blowtorch presently, so that's not an option for me. Trust me though, if you CAN, you SHOULD. It will make the flavor that much more incredible. Then drizzle the cupcakes with left over caramel that you hopefully didn't eat while finishing the components to these complex cupcakes.

Candied pecans:
  1. 1 egg white
  2. 1 T. water
  3. 1/2 lb chopped pecans
  4. 1/2 cup sugar
  5. pinch of salt
  6. 1/2 t. cinnamon
Preheat oven to 250 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, slightly greased.
Whisk egg white and water until frothy. Separately mix sugar, salt and cinnamon.
Drop pecans in egg white mixture and toss to coat evenly, then remove and toss them in the sugar mixture until evenly coated.
Spread onto baking sheet and bake for an hour, stirring, shaking and tossing every 15 minutes or so. Allow to cool and use to top some delicious cupcake.

   I know these were a bit time consuming and complex. They had a lot of components to them. Don't let that scare you away though. They are magical. I was able to choke down one of my least favorite foods, so not to toot my own horn or anything, but they are pretty freaking tasty. The buttery crust lends itself perfectly to the smooth, spiced cake, which in turn meshes perfectly with the salty, gooey caramel, which contrasts perfectly with the sweet, fluffy frosting with it's toasty top, which the heightens the nutty crunch of the candied pecans, which bring us full circle by making the buttery crust stand out even more.
   Basically, eat these. They will bring you happiness.

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