Caramel Apple Cupcakes

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There is no reason for my lack of updates in the last month, except that I frequently suck at blogging. Life gets in the way sometime. And my computer died thanks to my cat and now I’m stuck using Windows 8.1 which makes me want to poke myself in the eyes.

A month ago I lamented about how AlphaBakes was meeting its end. However, luckily for me, there was a change of heart! This month, AlphaBakes and Random Recipes joined together to create a combined challenge of alpha-baking and picking random cookbooks off of my shelf.

So how does this challenge work? We were told to pick a random cookbook off of our shelves, go to the index and look under “A,” and pick one of those recipes to make.

The random number generator chose the book A Baker’s Field Guide to Cupcakes by Dede Wilson. This is a fun cupcake book, filled with seasonal cupcakes. When I made it to the index I was given the option to make these Caramel Apple Cupcakes or the April Fool’s Day “Spaghetti and Meatballs” Cupcakes. Perhaps the latter would have been appropriate, since it is April this month, but I wasn’t really in the mood for decorating cupcakes. Despite the caramel apple variety being in the Thanksgiving section, I opted to go that way!

These cupcakes are almost muffin-y. Perhaps a little sweeter than a standard muffin, but having the fruit in it felt so much more like a muffin to me than a cupcake.

Anyway, I’m glad to be blogging again. There’s more to come in the next few days!

AlphaBakes Logorandom

 

 

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

Ingredients
2/3 cup peeled and diced Granny Smith apples
18 Kraft caramels
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, divided
3 cups sugar, divided
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, divided
1/4 tsp almond extract
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
2 tsp ground cinnamon

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350. First make the streusel. Melt one stick of butter. Mix it with 2/3 cup of sugar, the cinnamon, 1/2 tsp of vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Mix until well combined. Then stir in 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour and mix together, allowing it to clump together and form crumbs. Set aside.

2. Whisk 2 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, and a pinch of salt together in a small bow. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the other stick of butter until creamy. Add 3/4 cups + 2 tbsp sugar, gradually beating until light and fluffy. Beat in 2 tsp of the vanilla extract and the almond extract. Beat in the eggs one at a time and scrape the bowl after each addition. Add the flour mixture in four additions, alternating with the sour cream.

4. Fold the chopped apples into the cupcake batter.

5. Prepare a cupcake tin, allowing for this recipe to make approximately 18 cupcakes. Fill each paper liner one-quarter of the way full with batter. Top with some streusel. Fill with remaining batter and top with remaining streusel.

6. Bake for 22 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.

7. Melt the caramels in a double boiler on in a microwave. Drizzle the caramel over the top of the cupcakes.

* makes 18 cupcakes
* these cupcakes are also being shared with Mix It Up Monday

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Apple and Butternut Squash Hash

Apple Butternut Squash Hash

 

My life as a law student changed in the last few days. The reason for the lack of posts was due to a lack of cooking. This lack of cooking was due to the fact that I’ve been in trial. I wasn’t on trial for myself, but I was acting as the defense attorney. I was being supervised the entire time, but the trial was mine. It was my strategy, it was my questions, it was my opening and closing. I ended up not winning, my client was found guilty, but I truly feel that was because the law just wasn’t really on my side in this case.

While I wasn’t happy that I lost, it was a great experience. I’ve been pretty useless for the last week. I haven’t stayed caught up in my classes. I haven’t been cleaning my house. I haven’t cooked dinner or made lunch. All I’ve been doing is prepping.

I don’t even know how I’m going to make my life function when my trials are more than two days long. 🙂
Just kidding. I loved the whole thing and not cooking for a week was so worth it.

This is the first meal I’ve made since I took my trial hiatus. It was a great breakfast. I love the combination of apples and butternut squash.

Apple and Butternut Squash Hash
(source)

Ingredients
1/2 butternut squash, skin removed, seeds removed, and shredded
1 apple, seeds removed and shredded
1/2 lb mild Italian sausage
2 strips bacon, diced
1/4 yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp dried basil
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

1. Shred the butternut squash and the apple in a food processor with the grater attachment.

2. In a cast iron skillet cook the bacon pieces. Flip the bacon several times and cook until the bacon is crispy. Remove and set aside.

3. In the bacon grease cook the onions and garlic. Cook until the onions are translucent.

4. Add the sausage to the skillet. Break up with a wooden spoon. When the sausage is half way cooked add the shredded apples and butternut squash. Add the basil, salt, and pepper and mix around. Cook for about 3 minutes.

5. Cover the skillet and lower the heat. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If after 10 minutes the squash isn’t tender, cook for 10 more.

6. Add the bacon squash mixture.

* serves 2-3
* shared with Foodie Friends Friday, Foodie Friday, & Weekend Potluck

Christmas Dinner 2012

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Every year at Christmas we try to do something different. Last year for Christmas we had a German-inspired meal. We always have several dishes that require more effort than a normal night’s dinner. My mom and I spend most of the day and most of Christmas Eve preparing for the meal. It’s small, just the nuclear family (though we typically have an honorary guest, this year a dear friend of mine from childhood who happened to be in the area, my dad’s cousin, and his girlfriend.) But the reason we do it small, is because we typically like to do something more intensive than what you could easily serve a bigger group.

I posted the Christmas Dinner Menu earlier this month. The only changes to that menu were that instead of the breaded Brussels sprouts we had balsamic glazed Brussels, we switched crown roast recipes though the concept was essentially the same, and instead of the mixed berry sauce on top of the panna cotta, there was a cranberry sauce instead.

I’m not sharing all of the recipes, I’m only sharing the recipes that I personally cooked or was involved because they’re the ones I know the changes we might have made. All the dishes are shown though, because you need to see the meal!

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The star of our meal was the Crown Roast of Pork with Apple and Hazelnut Stuffing. Our crown wasn’t the prettiest crown there is, because there are definitely better butchered crowns, but given the store didn’t charge more for it than the cost of the pork chops individually, it’s hard to complain.

The brine called for a lot of salt, which we ended up halving because the recipe called for 9 cups of salt which is a lot. The problem was that even then, the salt didn’t all dissolve into the water, and frankly, all the seasonings in the brine really didn’t come through in the meat at all. All in all though, the stuffing was a show stopper and was delicious. The pork was really just pork chops, but they were perfectly cooked and yummy. I’m not going to share this recipe besides giving the link to the recipe we followed because my mom made some changes, but I am unsure what she did. I was in charge of the stuffing portion which we followed absolutely to the recipe.

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We also had a side of Burgundy Mushrooms from the Pioneer Woman. My mom had seen this recipe and was very excited to make it. The flavor of the mushrooms was divine. The only problem is that the bouillon contains so much salt and my family doesn’t really eat much salt, so we couldn’t eat very many mushrooms without needing to drown in a glass of water. But the flavors of the wine, butter, and mushrooms was great. I’m also not sharing this recipe because it wasn’t made by me.

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I promise, this isn’t just a picture post. I made sweet potato rolls. Mine didn’t come out quite as beautiful as those on Food Done Light, but the flavor was perfect. The oven I was using is a little cool I think, so I had to bake them longer than the recipe said. The flavor of the sweet potato is extremely mild in these rolls. In fact, if I hadn’t told you there was sweet potato in it, you probably wouldn’t know. The rolls were soft and even two days later haven’t gone stale (we finished them off tonight with a spaghetti squash casserole.)

Sweet Potato Rolls

Ingredients
1 medium sweet potato, peeled
1/2 cup lukewarm water
2 tsp instant yeast
2 tbsp non-fat plain Greek yogurt
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs, divided
1/4 cup non-fat dry milk
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 3/4 cups to 2 cups all-purpose flour

Directions

1. In a large pot boil water over high heat. Add the sweet potato for about 20 minutes, until soft. Once the sweet potato is soft, remove from the water and smash. Place in the freezer until needed.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the water, yeast, yogurt, salt, 1 egg, dry milk, and whole wheat flour. Beat with the paddle attachment, mixing on low speed until the dough starts to hold together. Add 1 1/4 cup of the all-purpose flour and mix more. Slowly add more all-purpose flour 1 tablespoon at a time, until you have a soft dough that is not sticky.

3. Replace the paddle attachment for the bread hook and use the bread hook on the dough for 6 minutes.

4. Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover with a towel. Let the dough rise for about an hour.

5. Deflate the dough. Tear the dough into 16 equal pieces. Place in a baking dish that has been sprayed with Pam. Cover the rolls with a towel and let rise for 30 minutes.

6. Beat the other egg and spread the egg mixture lightly over the rolls.

7. Bake the rolls for 20-25 minutes at 375. Allow to cool.

* makes 16 rolls

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Like I said above, instead of breaded Brussels like we had originally discussed at the last minute we decided there was a lot of bread going on, so we decided to make a simple balsamic vinegar sauce, roast the Brussels sprouts, and throw in some dried cranberries. It was a yummy addition to our meal. I would give you a recipe, but there isn’t one.

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I’ve never made or heard of creamed onions before making this menu plan. I’m not really sure what inspired them or how I happened across the recipe. But I am convinced that this dish was the star of the meal. The onions get really sweet when you cook them as long as you need to in this dish, and how can you say no to sweet, creamy onions?

I’m not sharing this recipe since I hardly had a hand in it, but click that link above for a great recipe.

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To end this meal we had panna cotta. For as simple as this recipe was I was incredibly intimidated by it and was convinced the whole thing was going to fall flat on its face. Luckily I was incredibly wrong. The panna cotta was delicious. But really, the process of making it was full of fail.

I made them Christmas Eve since they had to set in the fridge. I had sprinkled the gelatin in the bowl. As I went to go get water to add to the gelatin, I go back to find my bowl gone. My mom had loaded it into the dishwasher. Luckily I had more gelatin left. When boiling the cream, I turned my back for a second and the whole thing boiled over. Without me realizing it, it had also boiled over so much it had put the flame out. I didn’t realize for a few minutes and then had to resimmer the entire thing. I got everything into the molds and was sure it had failed.

Christmas Day I was surprised to see the panna cotta had set. When it became time to make the sauce I learned that all the blackberries we had bought to make the sauce with were disgustingly moldy. After scrambling around the kitchen I made the cranberry sauce with blood orange juice and honey. In retrospect I think I should have just served the panna cotta plain. The flavor of the cream was great on its own and didn’t need to be weighed down by any sauce. Also the cranberries were kind of tangy, so there’s that too.

Panna Cotta

Ingredients
2 tsp plain gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
3 cups cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 piece of vanilla bean 1 1/2 inches long, split

Directions

1. In a small bowl combine the gelatin and water. Set aside.

2. Over medium heat, combine the cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla bean. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 5 minutes.

3. Remove from heat and add the gelatin to the mixture. Mix well until the gelatin has completely dissolved.

4. Pour into 6 1/2 cup molds or ramekins. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

5. To remove the panna cotta from the ramekins, run a sharp knife around the sides and then flip upside down. Top with a fruit sauce (or not.)

* makes 6

What did you have for Christmas dinner this year?

* shared with Full Plate Thursday, Catch A Glimpse Party, and Linkin’ up Thursday

 

 

Spiced Apple Coffee Cake

Here’s a random factoid about me: When I’m stressed I bake. This is a habit I developed during undergrad. Back then it worked out really well. I lived in this huge house that had seven of us in it. Half of the housemates were boys. I could bake something during a moment of stress, eat one piece of whatever it was I made, and then not have to worry about shoving the rest of the treat in my face. The boys that I lived with loved when I was stressed because it meant they could guarantee snacks. Sometimes I’d even come into the kitchen, feeling overwhelmed, and there’d be a cookbook already opened to a page of what someone in the house was desiring.

Like I said, it worked well for everyone. I graduated from college without going into a sugar coma.

Law school however is proving differently. Despite losing a great deal of weight, I am having a harder time resisting my goodies. I don’t want to feed them all to my boyfriend, because well.. He doesn’t really need them. I have contemplated bringing them in to work, but I don’t know why that hasn’t actually happened yet.

Anyway, one thing I’ve found is that if I bake something solely for breakfast and eat it only for breakfast, things are a little more in control.
This apple cake was absolutely delicious. I made it last all week by having a piece for breakfast. Despite it not getting eaten in the course of 24 hours, it stayed surprisingly moist.

My landlord has since brought me fresh pears over and this weekend I’m going to make a pear version of this cake. I’m also making brownies, but that’s a different story.

Spiced Apple Coffee Cake

INGREDIENTS

for the cake..
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
3 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into cubes
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground cinnamon
8 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs

for the glaze..
3/4 cup powdered sugar
3 tbsp sweetened condensed milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp water

DIRECTIONS
1. In a medium bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

2. In another bowl combine the apples, the vinegar, the brown sugar, cardamom, and cinnamon. Toss to combine and set aside.

3. In a bowl of a stand mixer beat the butter, cream cheese, and sugar until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time scraping down the sides of the bowl regularly. Add the flour in three additions and beat until smooth. Using a rubber spatula fold the apples into the batter. Spoon the batter into a springform pan that has been sprayed with Pam.

4. Bake in an oven set to 350 for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes.

5. In a small bowl combine the ingredients for the glaze. Combine.

6. Remove the sides of the pan and place the cake on a wire rack with wax paper underneath. Drizzle the glaze on top of the cake and allow to cool to room temperature.