Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

I am starting to suspect that I have developed a raging case of Adult Onset Attention Deficit Disorder (AOADD).  I used to be the queen of following directions, reading comprehension, and recall of random information.  I was the girl you wanted on your Trivia Night team.

Much like my youthful complexion, shopping in the Junior’s Department, and cassette tapes, those days are long gone.  I now have lists to remind me about lists.  I would be hard pressed to summarize the plot of anything I’ve read in the last few months.  And I continually find myself wandering off task.  For instance, as I am writing this post, I pop over to Yahoo when it tells me that I have a new email.  From there, I open a few browser windows, read an online chat or two, and try unsuccessfully to get into Twitter for twenty minutes.  All that happens before I remember that I was in the middle of something.

In short, I get in my own damn way.

Sadly, this condition often surfaces while I’m in the kitchen.  And it leads to some interesting internal dialogue.  Let’s consider Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes.  In the bake! cookbook, they were on the pages immediately following a recipe for Carrot Cake.  So there I am, book open with absolutely zero recognition that the page says Carrot Cake and I’m thinking Pumpkin Spice.  I start prepping ingredients.  And then at nearly the point of no return, I figured out my mistake.  Luckily the two recipes shared several key ingredients in almost identical amounts.  So with some deep breathing and quick math, I was able to catch my mistake and keep going.

But had I been paying attention in the first place, I would have realized I was on the wrong damn page.

Should you ever meet me in real life and I do something so completely boneheaded that the only explanation is that I’m losing my mind, I’ll try and remember to mention that I have diagnosed myself as suffering from AOADD.

Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from bake!

BAH Note:  I scaled down the original recipe which makes two 9″ round cake layers in order to make one dozen cupcakes.  The math initially involved trying to halve an egg.  Which made my brain hurt.  So instead of bringing on a migraine, I used a little more oil.  I probably could have also just used the yolk of an egg and been done with it.  Maybe next time.  Despite testing for doneness, the larger muffins were still a little wet inside. But then again, this is a very moist cake recipe.  When I ate one the next morning with my coffee, it was perfectly fine.  And nobody who sampled them voiced any complaints.

For the cupcakes:

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon 5 spice powder
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and place a regular muffin tin on a half sheet pan.  Spray the top of the pan with nonstick spray, line the cups with muffin or cupcake papers, and set aside.

Combine the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.

Place the brown sugar in a large mixing bowl and use a spatula to mix in about a third of the pumpkin until there are no sugar lumps remaining.  Use a whisk to mix in the remaining pumpkin, eggs, oil, and vanilla, adding each one at a time and stirring well between each addition.

Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet in thirds.  Use a standard ice cream disher to scoop the drop the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cupcakes are risen and firm and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Transfer to a rack and cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning the cupcakes out to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting:

  • 6 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons crystallized ginger, optional

Place the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl and use a whisk or electric mixer to combine.  Sift the confectioner’s sugar into the bowl one half cup at a time, whisking until it is completely absorbed after each addition.  Add the vanilla and whisk until the frosting is smooth.  After frosting the cupcakes, roughly chop the crystallized ginger and use to garnish the cupcakes.

{printable recipe}

bake! boule

You might recall I’ve been trying to overcome my fear of yeast.  There have been some successes, some failures, and some that were too close to call either way.  So when I got my copy of Nick Malgieri’s bake! and saw that his bread recipes seemed far more accessible to my yeast averse self, I wanted to start baking immediately.  Mother Nature came through town and deposited a blanket of snow shortly thereafter which resulted in an unexpected weekday afternoon trying to coax magic out of some flour, yeast, and water.

I can not tell a lie.  I struggled with this method.  And by struggle I mean that I threw an entire batch of dough away because I was convinced that I had somehow manged to do it wrong.  The instructions and photos conveyed the notion that the dough would fully incorporate all of the flour with the deft use of a rubber spatula.  Not the first time I tried it.  And not the second either.  Both times I used half the flour to make a paste.  Both times I added half of the remaining flour and began folding.   Both times I struggled to get the first half of the remaining flour incorporated, let alone the second half.  Seeing how I got the same results both times, I decided to continue on with my second attempt and see where it got me.

Where it got me was up to my wrists in dough.  Because even my sturdiest rubber spatula could not get the upper hand.  So I chucked it aside and used my hands to gently fold the flour into the dough.  I was able to get all but about 1/4 cup incorporated.  There was a rise, some folding, more rising, and more folding all while I said a little prayer that all this work would result in something bread like coming out of my oven in a few hours.

It wasn’t until the dough had sat for an hour’s rise that my fears started to dissipate.  When I uncovered the bowl, I beheld the sight of doubled dough.  After some shaping and resting, the boules were slashed and slid into the oven.  Thirty minutes later, I pulled out the lovely loaf you see above.

I still can’t say whether my procedure was wrong or if my expectations were incorrect.  Oddly enough, I had a similar struggle with dry dough when I made Nick’s Quick Brioche.  But based on what he said at our bake! get together, his recipes are tested before they go to print.  So until I find reason otherwise, I have to say the problem lies somewhere in my kitchen.

 

You Can bake! with Nick Malgieri

 

Photo by Beth @ 990 Square

Every so often, the Universe sends Opportunity knocking at my door.  I’m usually pretty leery about answering if I’m not expecting company.  Because more often than not, the person on the other side of the door is trying to sell me something…eternal salvation, Girl Scout cookies, or a weekend subscription to the newspaper.  I usually take a gander through the peep hole and then stand there quietly until the knocker goes away.  But recently, Opportunity left me a calling card in the form of an invitation to spend an evening with Nick Malgieri.

Perhaps I should clarify that statement so as not to give anyone the wrong impression of my moral character.  I was invited to join a group of Baltimore bloggers for an evening of food and drinks organized by Dara of Dining Dish.  Nick Malgieri was the guest of honor.

I’ve said before that my knowledge of the culinary world is pretty narrow.  At least I know that I don’t know squat about the culinary Who’s Who.  And that’s really something that I should work on.  Not so that can I drop names left and right in casual conversation but so that I can expose myself to the wonderful talents of the folks who have turned their passion for creating good food into learning opportunities for home cooks like myself.

That’s how it came to be that I fixed my hair, put on mascara and my cute heels, and set out with a dutch oven full of Commitment Chili and a few dozen Puffy Hearts…I had some learning to do.  And what I learned is that people are people.  It doesn’t matter if you have over 30 years of experience and 9 cookbooks to your credit, or you’re a home cook who blogs about your kitchen (mis)adventures.  We each bring our talents and unique perspectives to the table.  How could that be the recipe for anything but a great evening?

My thanks to Nick for sharing his thoughts with us on the culinary world and being gracious and generous with his time, his talent, and his baking.  I have been drooling over the pages of his latest book – bake! – since bringing it home that night.  I think this description sums it up best:

“After 30 years of teaching and 9 cookbooks, Nick Malgieri is finally writing the book he’s meant to write–a collection of over 30 essential techniques, and recipes derived thereof–outlining the easiest ways to learn the essentials of baking. The 20 chapters cover all the main techniques of fine baking, starting with simple pastry dough and moving through puff pastry and Danish pastry, to all sorts of breads, quick breads, cakes, and cookies. The 125 recipes will take all the intimidation out of baking and promise delicious savory and sweet results.”

If you’ve hung around these parts a while, you know that I can get intimidated by the  mere utterance of “yeast”, “dough”, or “pastry”.  But after reading the recipes, I think that even I can produce satisfying cakes, breads, and tarts with Nick’s help.  I’d like to also thank him for including variations on several of the bake! recipes that I can use to avoid  things like seeds and nuts but still work on improving my techniques and enjoying the results.

I hope the next time opportunity comes knocking at my door, it maybe brings me a pair of stretchy pants.  Because I fear that I won’t be able to control myself once I jump into bake!

Nick Malgieri’s Chocolate Bourbon Cake

Reprinted with Permission

Copyright © Nick Malgieri 2011, All Rights Reserved

BAH Note: Not only did Nick share his baking talents with us in person, but he’s given us permission to share one of his unpublished recipes with you.  How does Chocolate Bourbon Cake sound? I tasted this cake and it is heaven on a plate.  Moist, but dense and richly chocolate, it lulls you into its web.  And then it wraps you with a bourbony hug.  You could omit the bourbon, but I can’t imagine why you’d want to.  I asked Nick whether the cake required a water bath in order to achieve its silky texture and you could have knocked me over with a feather when he said no.  Don’t believe me?  Try it for yourself.

Nick says, “The sweet, mellow flavor of Bourbon has a great affinity for chocolate.  Serve this unadorned cake with a little unsweetened whipped cream.”  I could not agree more.

Makes one 8-inch cake, 8 to 10 servings

  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70%), cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons best-quality Bourbon
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • One 8-inch round 2-inch deep pan, buttered, bottom lined with a disk of buttered parchment.

1.      Set a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

2.      Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat, allowing it to sizzle and get really hot.  Remove from heat, add chocolate and whisk smooth.

3.      In a bowl, whisk the granulated sugar, flour, and salt together; add all the eggs and Bourbon.  Whisk together smoothly.

4.      Stir the brown sugar into the butter and chocolate mixture and stir into the batter.

5.      Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake the cake until the center is still soft, but no longer liquid, 25 to 35 minutes.

6.      Cool the cake on a rack.

7.      To serve the cake, invert to a platter and remove the pan and paper.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap if not serving immediately.

{printable recipe}