Saturday, November 26, 2011

Browned Butter Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Marshmallow Frosting (GF)

I hope all of you had a happy Thanksgiving! I'm sharing one of the two desserts I made for Thanksgiving dinner- Sweet Potato Cupcakes filled with cinnamon pastry cream and topped with marshmallow frosting.

It really seems like Christmas came earlier this year- this climate of early festivity has of course been driven by consumerism and marketing by major retail corporations, but personally, I'd rather focus on the seasonal charm of it all. I started listening to Christmas music a couple of weeks ago, so that pretty much shows where I stand on the subject. You see, I know many people who staunchly say that Christmas music should not be played, nor Christmas movies aired or viewed, until after Thanksgiving. I'm usually with them, but this year I was kind of into the fact that I could listen to vintage holiday songs in the midst of miserable Los Angeles traffic earlier in the season.

I am also one of those people that continues to bake with pumpkin and sweet potato through Christmas, so I hope you are too! These turned out pretty tasty- I recommend them for your next holiday get together.

Browned Butter Sweet Potato Cupcakes (Gluten Free) (makes about 22 cupcakes)

1 cup superfine sweet rice flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup superfine brown rice flour
1/4 cup almond flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1 1/2 sticks butter, unsalted and browned (see below)
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sweet potato puree
1/4 cup water

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flours, starches, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside. Line 2 12-cup muffin pans with cupcake liners (I found that this recipe only made 22 cupcakes, but I tend to fill my cups a bit fuller).

Cut butter into slices and place in small saucepan over medium heat. Melt butter and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until butter turns a light brown shade and smells nutty. Once browned, place butter in a plastic dish and put in fridge or freezer to cool completely.

Once butter is cooled, place in bowl of stand mixer with sugar and cream together for 1-2 minutes. Add eggs one at time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla extract. Once batter is thick and creamy looking, add dry ingredients, in three additions, alternating with water and sweet potato puree. Fill cupcake liners about 1/2-2/3 full and bake at 350 degrees for 20-22 minutes.

For the Cinnamon Pastry Cream:

2 cups whole milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs

Place milk, vanilla, cinnamon stick and ground cinnamon in a saucepan and heat to a boil.
While the milk is heating, mix the cornstarch, sugar and salt.
Gradually add the eggs to the dry mixture and mix until smooth.
Slowly add 1/3 of the hot milk while whisking constantly. Then, pour the mixture back into the saucepan and return to the heat, stirring constantly with a whisk or spoon until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens.
Remove the cinnamon stick.
Pour into a large shallow bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap or parchment to prevent a skin. Cool down a bit before putting in the refrigerator.

For the Marshmallow Frosting:

-2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
-1 7-ounce jar Marshmallow Fluff/Creme
-1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
-1/4 cup heavy cream
-2 tsp vanilla extract, or 1/2 vanilla bean

Combine butter and marshmallow cream. Add in confectioner's sugar, cream, and vanilla. Mix until fully combined and creamy.

To Assemble:

Core out the center of each cupcake using a small paring knife. Fill a pastry bag with cinnamon pastry cream and pipe into each cupcake. Frost and decorate as desired.

I made homemade marshmallows earlier in the week, so I melted these down and added water instead of using marshmallow cream in the frosting. Homemade marshmallows are like another world compared to the store bought kind- they're like soft, delicately sweet pillows. I even really enjoy the store bought ones, but they really can't compare with these. They're also super easy to make. Check out the recipe on my past Scotchmallow Heart Candies post.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Strawberry Sponge Ruffle Layer Cake (Gluten Free)

I am a total sucker for all things girly. When I was in the middle of wedding planning a couple of years ago, I saw ruffle cakes like this one EVERYWHERE and I was smitten. Not only because the all over ruffles create such a pretty, feminine effect, but because the cake struck me as being inspired by the fashion of the season also. Ruffles are still very in, but they were REALLY in a few seasons ago. This fact inspires me to create a cake with a sequined effect as an homage to the current season (post to come).

This particular cake is a strawberry sponge cake filled with cream cheese strawberry frosting and covered in vanilla swiss meringue buttercream. The cake turned out DELICIOUS. It's wonderfully moist and has Nestle Strawberry Milk powder to create the strawberry flavor.

For the Strawberry Sponge Cake

*Makes four 7-inch round layer cakes

2/3 cup superfine sweet white rice flour
1/4 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup, plus 1 1/2 tbsp potato starch
1/4 cup corn starch
2 1/2 teaspoon(s) baking powder
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
1 cup milk (you may also use another non-dairy milk)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup powdered strawberry milk
1/2 tsp Salt

Butter and flour pans and line bottoms with circles of parchment paper. Set aside. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flours, starches, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer, beat eggs until foamy. In the meantime, heat milk and butter together on stovetop until milk is hot and butter is melted. Turn off stove.

Add sugar to eggs and continue beating for 5-6 minutes until batter becomes creamy and fluffy. Add vanilla extract.

Add milk and melted butter and beat until combined. Add flour mixture 1/4 cup at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Once batter is fully combined, pour equal amounts into each pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees. Insert a toothpick and gently press the tops of the cakes to check when

Allow cakes to cool in pans for about 15 minutes.

NOTE: Due to my limited oven space and the fact that I only have two 7-inch cake pans, I mixed and baked two sets of 2 cakes separately. It wasn't too much more work this way since this is a pretty easy and quick cake to mix up.

For the Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

2 sticks unsalted butter
2/3 block of cream cheese (room temperature)
1 cup of strawberries, diced
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Place sliced, washed strawberries in food processor and chop using short pulses until strawberries are diced into very small pieces, but NOT pureed. Set aside. Cream butter and cream cheese together until well combined. Add powdered sugar and mix until fully incorporated. Add vanilla. Add strawberries and mix until just combined.

For the Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
4 egg whites
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 sticks butter, unsalted
2 tsp vanilla extract

Slice butter into small pieces and set aside. Combine egg whites and sugar in metal mixing bowl. Create a double boiler by placing over an appropriately sized saucepan filled with simmering water (stove should be kept on). Whisk egg whites by hand on stove top (do not allow water to enter the mixing bowl) until temperature registers 160 degrees, or until all of the sugar is melted and egg whites are foamy. Place mixing bowl on stand mixer and beat using whisk attachment until mixture is a thick meringue and is fully cooled. Once mixture is cool, add butter in piece by piece and slowly until all is incorporated (mixture may appear curdled, but it will whip up nicely, don't worry). Once butter is incorporated, use paddle attachment to beat for another 2-3 minutes.

Add vanilla and pink food coloring- mix until fully incorporated.

To assemble/decorate the cake:

Place one cake layer on a round cake board, or cake stand. Spread about 1/3 cup of the strawberry cream cheese frosting on top. Place another cake layer on top of the first later and repeat with remaining layers/frosting until all four layers are stacked.

Spread a thin layer of swiss meringue buttercream all over the cake until covered, but very thinly (the cake does not need to be perfectly covered because the ruffle layer will also be added).

Fit a large pastry bag with a #103 Ateco tip. Fill pastry bag with remaining swiss meringue buttercream. With the narrow part of the tip facing you, point pastry bag and tip straight down, making left to right motions to create ruffles. Continue around the entire side surface of the cake.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sugared Cranberry White Chocolate Cheesecake (Gluten Free)

Believe it or not, I’m already in the holiday spirit.  Basically, if your local Macy’s Department Store were a person, that person would be me.

It may be a little too early to start thinking of Christmas, but I think that anything decorated with these sugared cranberries would be delightful not only for Thanksgiving, but Christmas too.  They’re such a beautiful rich red tone, kissed with a light frost of sugar.  And they’re SO easy to make.  

In addition to the sugared cranberry garnish used in this recipe, I used a beautiful and tasty fresh cranberry curd to top the cheesecake.  And I have a funny story about this cranberry curd recipe.  

Well, it’s funny depending on who you are in the story… The curd recipe is from Nigella Lawson’s book “How to be a Domestic Goddess,” which I do not own, but still was able to utilize the recipe due to the wonders of the internet.  My husband used to watch Nigella Lawson’s show when he was a younger, single guy because she’s easy on the eyes.  He made the mistake of telling me an old story about his brother trying to take the television from him at their parent’s house to watch sports, accusing him of only watching her show because he thought she was “hot.”  Anyway, it was a mistake of him to tell me this because I can get crazy jealous at times.  I completely admit it. 

Case in point- directly proceeding his re-telling of this story, I set about to point out every Nigella Lawson cookbook we saw at bookstore (accompanied by a glare that said “what do you think about this?  You better not want to look at it!), told him about every Nigella Lawson interview I heard on NPR, and glared at him when he nervously informed me that Nigella Lawson was a guest star on Top Chef Masters a few seasons ago (Mr. Pixie Crust works for the company that composes the music for the Top Chef series).  I know, I know…I realize I’m nuts.  And he truly is the sweetest, most patient man.

Anyway, in true “me” fashion, I sheepishly told him that I was using her cranberry curd recipe for this cheesecake and he had a good time teasing me.  He also asked if I was going to post a picture of her, so…

And now onto the recipe...this particular dessert is a white chocolate cheesecake topped with cranberry curd and encased in a gingersnap crust. 

For the White Chocolate Cheesecake:

Gingersnap Crust:
2 cups finely ground store bought gingersnap cookies (Trader Joe’s has a really good gluten free option, which I used)
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted

Pre-heat oven to 330 degrees.  Lightly butter the sides and bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan.  After gingersnaps have been finely ground in food processor, process 2 cups of the crumbs with butter until incorporated and mixture is similar to wet sand.  Press crumbs at the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan.  Set aside and begin making filling.

White Chocolate Cheesecake Filling (Adapted from Food Network)
4 (8 oz) blocks of cream cheese, softened
4 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
8 ounces good-quality white chocolate (I used Ghiradelli baking chips and it turned out great)
1/2 cup, plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tbsp sorghum flour*
½ tbsp potato starch*

**For non-gluten free readers, the original recipe calls for 2 tbsp AP flour, instead of sorghum flour/potato starch

Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer at medium speed until fluffy, then beat in sugar. Add whole eggs and yolks, one at a time, beating well at low speed and scraping down bowl after each addition.  Melt chocolate in a double boiler or a large metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth, and remove from heat.  Beat in flour and vanilla until just combined, then add melted chocolate in a slow stream, beating until filling is well combined.  Bake in middle of oven until cake is set 3 inches from edge but center is still wobbly when pan is gently shaken, 45 to 55 minutes.  Run a thin knife around edge of cake to loosen, then cool completely in pan on a rack. (Cake will continue to set as it cools.) Serve at room temperature or chilled.

For the Cranberry Curd Heavily adapted from Nigella Lawson’s “How to be a Domestic Goddess"
·  1/2 pound fresh cranberries
·  1/2 cup, plus 1 tbsp water
·  3 1/2  tablespoons unsalted butter
·  3/4 cup, plus 1 tbsp sugar
·  3 large eggs

Combine water and cranberries in a small sauce pan.  Cover and place over low heat until cranberries are softened and “popped.”  Pour cranberry mixture in blender and puree.  Once fully pureed, pour through a fine mesh sieve back into sauce pan (you will need to rinse it if there are chunks of cranberries leftover.”  Add eggs, butter, and sugar to cranberry puree.  Turn heat on low and stir continuously, watching carefully so that the eggs do not cook and “scramble.”  Continue to heat and stir until mixture has thickened enough to coat back of spoon.  Remove from heat and allow to cool on stovetop.

For the sugared cranberries (From Cooking Light Magazine):
2 cups water
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups fresh cranberries
3/4  cup superfine sugar (you can make your own by processing regular sugar for a minute in a food processor)

Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring mixture until sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer; remove from heat. (Do not boil or the cranberries may pop when added.) Stir in cranberries; pour mixture into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Drain cranberries in a colander over a bowl. Place superfine sugar in a shallow dish (I used a glass pie plate). Add the cranberries, rolling to coat with sugar. Spread sugared cranberries in a single layer on a baking sheet; let stand at room temperature 1 hour or until dry.

Note: The steeping liquid clings to the berries and helps the sugar adhere.  Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to a week.

For the Whipped Cream Topping:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Beat whipping cream using stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment.  Once cream begins to thicken, slowly add sugar.  Continue beating until whipping cream is fully thickened.  Place whipping cream in pastry bag fitted with large star tip and decorate as desire.

To Assemble:
Tip:  Make the cheesecake and cranberry curd the night before the cheesecake will be served.  Allow the cranberries to steep overnight as well.

Allow cheesecake to cool and fully set for at least one hour after baking.  Pour cranberry curd onto cheesecake, moving pan or spreading with offset spatula to create an even layer.  Cover and refrigerate overnight. 

The next morning, make the whipped cream topping and coat the cranberries in sugar. 

Decorate the cheesecake by piping with whipped topping and finishing with groups of sugared cranberries placed on top to garnish.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Simple Banana Cupcakes with Honey Cream Cheese Frosting (GF)

I’m not one to get up on my soap box about food issues. Don’t get me wrong, bring up most other social and political subjects and you might not be able to shut me up... food has just never been one of them. When Mr. Pixie Crust and I first embarked on our gluten free and (temporarily) dairy free diet, we started to become more and more interested in watching documentaries that discuss raw food and organic produce and animal products. I think it was one of those things where we felt better about not being able to eat (delicious) processed junk food when we convinced ourselves how much healthier we would be.

One particular documentary that we enjoyed is called Vanishing of the Bees. It focuses on Colony Collapse Disorder, which is a phenomenon impacting more and more honeybee colonies in the U.S. Essentially, bees are dying off from pollinating crops that are treated with pesticides because of the impact of the chemicals on honeybees’ immune systems. In addition to the use of pesticides, many beekeepers feed bees processed sugar and water, instead of natural plant nectars, which extenuates the problem of weakened levels of immunity.

All this is to say that bees are integral to humanity’s ability to maintain a proper diet of fruits and vegetables and they are currently being hurt by the very people who need them. To try to do my part (as teeny tiny as it is) I’ve decided to buy carefully sourced organic, raw honey from now on. The particular honey used in this recipe is from Trader Joe’s and is from a part of India where the beekeepers actually climb the trees to collect the honey. Cool, huh?

In addition to buying organic honey, I’ve been trying to remember that bees are important social creatures and not just scary insects out to sting me (I’m a wuss with any and all types of bugs).

Anyhow, you are going to love these banana cupcakes- they are not only simple to make, but are perfectly moist and rich. You would never guess that they are gluten free.

For the Banana Cupcakes (Gluten Free)
Makes 2-dozen cupcakes

3/4 cup superfine sweet rice flour
2/3 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup almond flour
3/4 cup potato starch
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick butter, unsalted at room temperature
3 tbsp canola oil
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups mashed very ripe banana (about 3-4 bananas)
1/4 cup water

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners, set aside.

Measure and sift together flours, starches, xanthan gum, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Using a stand or hand mixer, cream together butter, oil and sugar. Add vanilla. Add 1/2 of the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. Add water and 1/2 of the mashed banana. Add the rest of the dry ingredients, mix and add the rest of the banana. Continue mixing until well combined. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl and mix for a few seconds before using batter.

Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full and bake for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

For the Honey Cream Cheese Frosting:

3 sticks cold butter, unsalted
1 8 oz block cream cheese
2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup honey

Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat butter and cream cheese together. Once well combined, add honey. Lastly, add vanilla and confectioner's sugar. Frost cupcakes as desired.

I frosted my cupcakes by using a large round pastry tip and applying round mounds of frosting, small mounds on top of larger mounds. I then cut out a hexagon shaped piece of black fondant, dabbed with water, and dipped into black sanding sugar. The yellow center is a large yellow sprinkle.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Chocolate Dulce de Leche Cupcakes for Dia de Los Muertos

Happy Dia de Los Muertos! To celebrate Day of the Dead, I made these chocolate dulce de leche cupcakes topped with fondant sugar skulls.

The dulce de leche recipe is a bit of work, so feel free to buy dulce de leche, or try to brave the old "can of condensed milk in a pot of boiling water" method...I tried this once, but it did not go well for me! I wish I could say that this recipe is my grandmother's, but it's Alton Brown's. What can I say, the guy is definitely not Latino, but I love his recipe since it's literally milk and sugar simmered together until caramelized.

For the Chocolate Cupcakes (Gluten Free)

2/3 cup superfine sweet rice flour
1/3 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup pre-sifted almond meal
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup, plus 2 tbsp potato starch
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
2 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick butter
3 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
5 oz bittersweet chocolate
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
1 cup hot water

Line two 12-cup muffin pans with cupcake liners and pre-heat oven to 350. Sift together flours, starches, and xanthan gum and set aside. Using a stand or hand mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Add in eggs one at time, then add in vanilla extract. Melt chocolate in double boiler or microwave and add to mixture, mixing well. Add baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients in two additions, alternating with sour cream. Once fully mixed, add 1 cup hot water and hand stir to incorporate evenly. Bake for about 20-22 minutes, until cupcakes spring back to the touch.

*Readers who are not "gluten-free" may use this cake recipe

For the Dulce de Leche Filling (courtesy of Alton Brown):

1 quart whole milk
Approximately 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

*NOTE: You may need to make 1 1/2 or two times the original recipe to have enough dulce de leche to fill each cupcake and use the remaining candy in the frosting.

Combine the milk, sugar, and vanilla in a large, 4-quart saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the baking soda and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low and cook uncovered at a bare simmer. Stir occasionally, but do not re-incorporate the foam that appears on the top of the mixture. Continue to cook until the mixture is a dark caramel color and has reduced to about 1 cup, approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer. If not using right away, store in refrigerator in a sealed, airtight container.

For the Dulce de Leche Frosting:
1/3 cup Dulce de Leche
3 sticks unsalted butter
2 tbsp cream cheese
2 tbsp milk or cream
2 cups confectioner's sugar
2 vanilla extract

Combine butter and cream cheese in bowl of stand mixer. Using paddle attachment, mix together until combined. Add dulce de leche and mix well. Add 1 cup confectioner's sugar, 2 tbsp milk, and then the other 1 cup of confectioner's sugar. Add food coloring as desired.

To Assemble:

Using a small paring knife, remove the center of each cupcake, without touching the bottom of the liner. Once all cupcakes are cored, fill pastry bag with dulce de leche (no tip necessary) and fill each cupcake. Lastly, frost and decorate as desired.

To Make the Sugar Skulls:

I simply found a drawing of a Dia De Los Muertos skull that I liked, sized it appropriately, and printed it. I then cut it out, place it on a piece of rolled white fondant and used a paring knife to create the skull shape. Lastly, I let the fondant dry for a bit (this makes it easier to draw on) and drew the faces with edible food pen.