Friday, October 22, 2010

Baking Lessons: Episode 2

Lesson of the Day: If an idea makes you feel like you've lost your mind, 
it's a really fucking good idea.

I was excited to get an email from Joanne of Eats Well with Others (don;t know her? Then get the hell over there, 'cause you should.) over a week ago, letting me know I'd been picked to participate in her Recipe Impossible challenge for Marx Foods (I know I should just move to Oregon and work for them). Then the box came. It was like opening a gift on Christmas for a minute, pulling out all of the fun mystery ingredients:

Then I realized, "Shitballs. I have to cook something with all of this. What the hell am I going to make?" I settled on two things, one sweet and one savory. Actually, that's as far as I got. One sweet and one savory. What those things would actually be, took me days  to figure out.

I stared at an acorn squash for a while. Then I stared at a butternut squash. Then I decided a butternut squash is kind of like a pumpkin, and I can definitely bake something with that. I found an old pumpkin bread recipe of my mom's, remembered a frosting recipe I'd seen, and voila. These cupcakes were born Frankenstein style. A bit of this, a bit of that, and a little faith that it would all work out in the end.

I baked the cupcakes. I cut the inverted cones from the centers. I ate the centers.

I filled them with the caramel and sprinkled them with ginger salt.

I frosted them, topped them with more ginger salt, and then on a whim, I added this.

Because bacon just makes everything better. And even though the devilish  little pumpkin wanted to eat that cupcake, I beat him to the punch. This may or may not have been my lunch today. Either way, I've decided the bacon is an essential ingredient. Hells yes. 

Butternut Cupcakes with Salted Caramel and Maple Brown Butter Icing

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, halved, and seeded
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, divided
1 2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs

Caramel Filling:
adapted from Rick Bayless's Cajeta

1 cup sugar
1 quart whole milk
1/4 tsp. baking soda, dissolved in 1/2 Tbls. water.
1 Vanilla Bean
Ginger Salt and cooked, crumbled bacon for garnish

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Slice squash into four equal pieces and place in a baking dish. Top each with a pat of butter and roast in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until very tender. Mash with a potato masher or a  fork until squash becomes like a thick puree. Set aside to cool.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners. Melt remaining butter and set aside to cool. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. In another bowl, whisk sugars, egg, and 1 cup of the cooled squash puree. Slowly whisk in cooled melted butter. Pour squash mixture into flour mixture and fold to combine. Using a cupcake scoop, fill lined muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center cake comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before inverting tins.

Prepare the caramel filling by first splitting open your vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape out about a 1/4 tsp. and set aside for the icing. Toss the bean along with the sugar and milk into a large heavy bottomed pot. Simmer, stirring constantly, over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda mixture. Once bubbling subsides, return to heat. Bring to a brisk simmer, but not a boil. Cook, stirring regularly, until milk begins to turn golden. This takes about an hour. Continue stirring and cooking until milk begins to brown, making sure it does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Once a soft ball begins to form, the caramel is ready. Remove from heat and remove vanilla bean.

Fill cupcakes by cutting a small cone shape from the top of each. Spoon warm caramel into the hole and sprinkle with ginger salt. Top with Maple Brown Butter Icing and garnish with more ginger salt and bacon, if you dare.

Maple Brown Butter Icing
adapted from Michelle at Big Black Dogs

3 Tbls. Maple Sugar
5 Tbls. butter, divided
4 oz. cream cheese
3 Tbls. whipping cream
1/4 tsp from the remains of your  Vanilla Bean
dash of salt
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar

In a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat, whisk 2 Tbls. of butter and maple sugar until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Whisk in cream. Pour into a small bowl, stirring to cool.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat remaining butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Slice vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the middle. Beat in salt and vanilla. While beating, slowly pour in cooled brown butter mixture and continue mixing until smooth. Add powdered sugar 1/2 c. at a time, beating well after each addition. Chill for 20 minutes before icing cupcakes.

Print the Recipe

This post is linked to:
Foodie Friday, Family Food Friday


Joanne said...

Oh my lord I love these! The ginger salt in the caramel sounds amazing. I've been on a serious ginger kick and have a feeling these are totally what I need in my life. well done!

Danielle said...

I knew these would be awesome when you were talking about them! YUM!!!!

Julie @ Get Healthy Cheap said...

Wow, now THAT is creative! Great recipe, thanks for sharing at Family Food Fridays, hope to see ya next week. :)

girlichef said...

LOOOVE, Love, LOOOOVE the sound of these...and oh yeah with the bacon, nice!

Indie.Tea said...

Wow, the box sounds amazing! Ginger salt...seriously amazing. And the cupcakes look gorgeous and sound too delicious for words.

Anonymous said...

I'm your newest follower.

Michelle said...

WOW...What fabulous inspiration in the box of goodies! And it looks like you had a great time too!

Love the recipe for the cupcakes and frosting!

Shannon said...

omg totally delicious. can't wait to make them :)

Debinhawaii said...

I love that you did cupcakes too (great minds!) ;-) and yours are so decadent and creative. They are gorgeous--the bacon ans salted caramel make my heart beat! ;-)

brandi said...

holy moly - they look incredible!

The Food Hunter said...

Will be making this for sure...with any luck it will be tonight!!