Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Cupcake Adventure

It has been a long while since I've posted something, although that is not to say I have not been experimenting.  I merely have been remiss in documenting my experiments, but no longer!

As I am currently unemployed, and have nothing else to fill the days, I have been oh so blessed to have a kitchen full of baking supplies and equipment to use at my disposal.  Additionally, the near proximity of a Costco and Vons to my place of residence ensures that I not only have an abundance of flour, butter, milk, and eggs (the staples of any baker), but that I can get some exercise and sunshine in because they are both within running/walking distance.  However, I can't say that when I went to Costco to buy my first 25lb bag of flour did I walk there.

Nonetheless, the many baked goods tried and produced would not be possible without people to eat them, and for that, I am eternally grateful to my church community group, which so happens to meet at my abode, and are more than willing taste testers each week.  While there have been several different items that have been on my list to try and make, and there are some that have been successfully carried out and have yet to be blogged about, I will start off this hopefully more regular posting with a rather simple and straightforward recipe.

The month of May is a month in which a number of people have their birthdays, and so to celebrate such a momentous occasion, I decided to make cupcakes.  However, that was not the real, underlying reason for making cupcakes.  In reality, I had made some lime curd a few days ago, because I had leftover egg yolks from trying (again) to perfect the French macaron (and had slightly improved results from the previous endeavor), and limes were on sale at the local market, and I wanted to make something different.  All this culminated in me making a batch of lime curd.  Which was awesome, except I had nothing to eat the curd with.  And there was no way that I could possibly consume all that curd, so I had to think of something to make it with.

Now some of you may be wondering what curd is.  It is a thickened egg product with sugar, citrus juice and zest, and a little bit of butter, cooked over low heat until it reaches the desired consistency.  Curd can be made with lemons, oranges, grapefruit, limes, or any other citrus fruit.  There are a number of recipes using egg yolks, whole eggs, or a combination of the both.  The one I used was one that kind of combined a whole bunch of different recipes, and had a bit of tinkering on my end and probably isn't very accurate.  The thickening power of the curd may vary depending on how much juice you get from the limes, so I would encourage you to look up a real recipe.  But for posterity's sake, here goes:

4 egg yolks + 2 whole eggs
Juice and zest from 5 limes
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter

1.  Pulse the lime zest and the sugar in a food processor or blender.
2.  Beat in the egg yolks and eggs.
3.  Add the lime juice and place into a double boiler.  If you don't have a double boiler, put in a normal sauce pan and cook over low to medium heat.
4.  Stir continuously until curd begins to thicken.  Cook until curd coats back of a spoon.
5.  Stir in butter and remove from heat.  If you are not going to be using the curd immediately, place into storage container and place a piece of plastic wrap flush with the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming.
6.  Cool completely before serving.

Common uses for curd include a spread for a toasted English muffin or scone, a meringue pie or bar filling, or to fill macarons.  As I didn't really feel like making any of those, I thought I'd try and come up with something a little different.  And so, the idea of filled cupcakes came to mind.  I happen to have the Martha Stewart Cupcake recipe book, and so using some inspiration from there and from various blogs on the interwebs, a cupcake came to mind.  At first, I was just going to fill the cupcakes with the lime curd and frost them, but seeing as we had some shredded coconut, I figured I could use some.  Plus, lime and coconut go awesome together.

I started with a vanilla cupcake recipe I found from here:  It makes 24 regular cupcakes, and is a pretty simple and straightforward recipe.

24 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

1.  Beat butter on high until soft, about 30 seconds.
2.  Add sugar.  Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
3.  Add eggs, one at a time.  Beat for 30 seconds between each.
4.  Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl.
5.  Mix milk and vanilla together in another bowl.
6.  Add about a fourth of the flour to the butter/sugar/egg mixture and beat to combine.
7.  Add about a third of the milk/vanilla mixture and beat until combined.
8.  Repeat above, alternating between the flour and milk mixture, ending with the flour mixture.
9.  Scoop into lined muffin tins about a half to three-quarters full.
10.  Bake for 22-25 minutes until cake tester comes out clean.

Although the recipe says to bake until a tester comes out clean, I like to check them a little early.  When there are just a few crumbs on the tester, I take the cupcakes out and leave them in to finish in the tins for another 10 minutes.  After that, I take them out to continue cooling on a wire rack.  This way, it keeps the cupcakes moist, and you are less likely to dry them out.

Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, then you can start to fill and frost them.  Using a serrated knife, cut a hole into the top of the cupcake and remove.  Gently cut off the cone from the top piece that you removed.  Then place the filling into the cavity of the cupcake and place the top back on.  Now the cupcake is ready for frosting!

Even though I really don't like mixes or ready-to-cook products, I was short on cream cheese and time, and we already had a can of Betty Crocker cream cheese frosting.  But I was determined to make it my own.  So I mixed in a couple spoonfuls of the lime curd to give it some color and a hint of lime flavor, plus some ground ginger.  I may have ended up adding a little too much curd, as it thinned out the consistency of the frosting, and led to it not really holding its shape as well as I would have liked as I piped it onto the cupcake.  If I had made my own frosting, I could play a little bit more with it to make it a little thicker.  Frosting a cupcake can be extremely simple, or you can class it up using decorating tips and a pastry bag.  I was determined to go all out with a star tip and piped a swirl onto my cupcakes, just enough to cover up the scars of putting in the lime curd.

Anyways, the last bit of adding the toasted coconut.  Toasting coconut, if you already have the shredded coconut, is really very simple:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350.  
2,  Spread out the coconut onto a foil-lined baking sheet.  
3.  Bake for 5-10 minutes, until browned.  Stir every 2-3 minutes to prevent burning.  

And tada!  Toasted coconut!  Sprinkle a bit of coconut onto your frosted cupcakes and voila! A finished delicious dessert! Alternatively, you could dip your frosted cupcake into a bowl of the toasted coconut to get a more complete coconut layer.

So there you have it.  A rather long winded, though hopefully informative and fun posting.  I had a lot of fun making these, and when I finally ate mine, I was definitely pleased with the result.  

And as for the next culinary challenge to be accepted and documented... who knows?