Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pumpkin Ale Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream

This year my husband and I celebrated five years of marriage. It's been a wonderful five years, and I wouldn't change a thing. I always make us a cake to celebrate our anniversary, and since we love beer so much, I wanted to incorporate beer into a recipe this year. Pumpkin beer is one of our favorites, so we decided to sample more than a dozen different pumpkin ales, such as Saranac, Weyerbacher, Fegley's, Long Trail, Shipyard, and Blue Moon, in search of the best. While the ones I mentioned were all good in their own right, they were not the best. I'm pleased to announce that a local pumpkin ale topped the list this year: Stegmaier Pumpkin Ale. It's not too heavy and has a great pumpkin flavor that is accompanied by a nice blend of fall spices. It made us the perfect anniversary cupcakes: pumpkin ale cupcakes topped with salted caramel swiss meringue buttercream—which just so happened to fit this month's What's Baking theme of Baking with Pumpkin or Sweet Potatoes. The results were heavenly!   

Pumpkin Ale Cupcakes
Source: adapted from Snappy Gourmet

1 box spice cake mix
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
3/4 cup pumpkin ale plus more for brushing tops (I used Stegmaier Pumpkin Ale.)
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two cupcake tins with 18–20 paper cupcake liners.

Whisk together cake mix and spices. Add pumpkin, beer, and eggs. Beat on medium speed for two minutes.

Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full and bake for 19 to 23 minutes. 

Remove cupcakes to a wire rack and while warm, poke holes in the tops with toothpicks and brush with reserved beer. Cool on a wire rack completely before frosting.

Salted Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Source: adapted from Living Eventfully

6 teaspoons meringue powder
6 tablespoons warm water
3/4 cup sugar
2 sticks butter, cut into 16 pieces (room temperature)
1/4 cup salted caramel sauce

In a large heatproof bowl (or stand mixer bowl) combine meringue powder, water, and sugar. Place bowl over saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and transfer to stand mixer.

Using the whisk attachment, whip mixture on high until it holds stiff peaks (about 6 - 7 minutes). Continue beating and add the butter a few pieces at a time. Add salted caramel sauce. Continue beating until buttercream is thick, smooth, and glossy (about 3 - 5 minutes).*

*If mixture starts to look curdled, keep beating.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Turkey, Chorizo, Black Bean, and Sweet Potato Chili

I love chili. It's the perfect dinner on a football Sunday. It's perfect for a cool fall day. I also love trying different types of chili recipes. When my husband suggested this chili recipe, I wasn't sure about it at first. It called for sweet potatoes, black beans, poblano peppers, and Mexican chorizo. While chorizo is delicious, it's also not one of the healthiest ingredients. It can be very greasy and tough on the tummy. I suggested we use half ground turkey and half chorizo, and omit the jalapeno peppers. We were pleasantly surprised at how tasty this chili was. It was one of the most flavorful chili recipes that I have ever tasted. It was spicy, rich, and satisfying—perfect for a cool fall day. 

Turkey, Chorizo, Black Bean, and Sweet Potato Chili
Source: adapted from Taste of Home, August/September 2012

1/2 pound Mexican chorizo (casings removed)
1 pound ground turkey
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 poblano peppers (seeded and chopped)
1 bell pepper (any color, seeded and chopped)
2 cans fire-roasted tomatoes
2 cans black beans (drained and rinsed)
2 medium sweet potatoes (peeled and chopped)
2 cups beef stock
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
salt and pepper to taste

Brown chorizo in a large skillet and add to a crock pot. Brown turkey in chorizo drippings and add to crock pot. Add to crock pot and stir in tomato paste. Add peppers, tomatoes, beans, sweet potatoes, stock, and spices. Mix well. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Microwave Salted Caramel Sauce

Making my own caramel intimidates me. I've heard it takes a few times to get it right, and I'm one of those people who like to conquer recipes on the first try. When I came across this caramel sauce recipe that you make in the microwave, I was intrigued. So I set out to conquer the caramel! The first try was a fail, but at least I knew what I did wrong, so I was able to correct it for my second try. The second pass was successful. The result was buttery, sticky, and salty—everything a good caramel sauce should be. You can use this in a variety of recipes or just eat it straight from a spoon. I used it to make special cupcakes for my five-year wedding anniversary.

Microwave Salted Caramel Sauce
Source: Cook's Illustrated via Tracey's Culinary Adventures

1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
2 tablespoons water
1/8 teaspoon lemon juice (or vinegar)
1/2 cup heavy cream (heated)
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon salt

Stir the sugar, corn syrup, water, and lemon juice together in a 4-cup glass measuring cup or medium glass bowl. Microwave until the sugar mixture turns an off-whitish/yellowish color for about 5 to 8 minutes, depending on the strength of your microwave.

Set mixture on the counter for about 5 minutes. Your sugar mixture will darken as it sits. Meanwhile, heat the cream in a small saucepan until hot.

When sugar mixture is a nice amber color, add the cream slowly a few tablespoons at a time. It will bubble up, so be careful. Stir in the butter and salt until combined. Once cooled, store in an airtight container in the fridge for about a month.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Blue Moon Cupcakes with Orange-Scented Cream Cheese Icing

I'm a huge fan of beer. Blue Moon is one of my favorites, but lately we've been branching out from our old standbys and trying some new craft beers. I've become a huge fan of seasonal beers such as pumpkin ales and Oktoberfest brews. But when I saw this recipe on Pinterest, I didn't care that it was a summer flavor. I knew I had to make it right away. If you don't like beer, you won't like these cupcakes. The beer flavor really comes through and it's enhanced by the orange zest added to the batter and the icing.

Blue Moon Cupcakes
Source: Sweet Tooth via Pinterest

1 and 1/2 sticks butter (room temperature)
1 and 3/4 cups sugar
2 and 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs (room temperature)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1 cup Blue Moon beer plus more for brushing tops
1/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a cupcake tin with 24 cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

In another bow, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy on high speed.

Add eggs, vanilla, and orange zest and beat until combined.

Combine milk and beer. Turn mixer to low and alternately add flour mixture and milk to butter/sugar in three additions, ending with flour.

Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 full, and bake for 18 to 20 minutes.

Remove cupcakes to a wire rack and while warm, poke holes in the tops with toothpicks and brush with reserved beer.

Orange-Scented Cream Cheese Icing
1 stick salted butter (room temperature)
1 block cream cheese (room temperature)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange zest (or more)
3 - 4 cups powdered sugar
1 - 2 tablespoons water

Cream together butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and orange zest. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time, beating well and adding water one tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached.