Bite-size apple cider snickerdoodles

I’m done with sticky, sweaty summer days. Done. It’s already gone back to being dark when I wake up in the morning for work, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s fall. No matter what the thermometer says.

I can’t wait to make hearty soups and pumpkiny things and apple desserts and various of eats and drinks infused with cinnamon and nutmeg and all the other spices that make you think of sweater weather.

So, you know, why not start now? I decided I’m going to will autumn into being. With some cookies.

apple cider snickerdoodlesI went to a wedding yesterday that was inspired by the couple’s tradition of making an apple crisp together every fall. I mention this for two reasons. 1) This put me in the mood to make an apple dessert of my own. 2) I really want to show somebody, anybody, everybody the awesome present my partner and I made for them.

apple crisp aleApple Crisp Ale, brewed by the mister, bottled by the two of us, and labeled and packaged by me using some of their engagement photos.

Okay, okay, back to the program.

I wanted to make an apple dessert. To narrow it down, I needed something not too messy to eat and easy to transport to my board game happy hour this week. I considered apple hand-pies… but all that assembly, whew. Cookies were definitely a better bet. But how to infuse them with apple-y goodness? I’ll be honest, 90% of the reason I decided to use apple cider is because that meant I wouldn’t have to do any of the coring, cutting, and peeling prep necessitated by using whole apples. This really (sorry) appeeled to me.

I poked around to see kind of apple cider cookies were already out there on the old internets. What presented itself over and over again was this strange recipe using an apple cider flavored just-add-water drink mix. I had no idea such a thing existed… and I was certainly not interested in purchasing any. The handful of recipes I found that used actual apple cider called for a few tablespoons, maybe a third of a cup at most. This didn’t seem like it would impart the concentrated apple cider flavor I was looking for.

I reflected on the lovely apple cider caramels I made last year from smitten kitchen. The whole recipe starts with four cups of apple cider boiled into oblivion to create a half cup of sweet and sticky apple syrup. This syrup is then used in place of some of the sugar to bring a natural, apple-y flavor and sweetness to the table. Bingo.

apple cider snickerdoodlesThis makes a looooot of bitty cookies, which is perfect for a party where you want people to get cookies in their mouth instead of crumbs on your floor. If you’d prefer, feel free to roll the dough balls a little bigger and bake longer as needed for fewer, larger cookies.

Bite-Size Apple Cider Snickerdoodles
Adapted from Snickerdoodles by Joy of Baking

Makes approximately 12 dozen mini cookies

4 cups apple cider
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (or 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

In a medium saucepan, boil apple cider uncovered over medium high heat to reduce. This will take 40-60 minutes depending on how high you keep the heat and the size of your pot. Stir occasionally, then more frequently as it starts to boil down. Keep it bubblin’ until it’s reduced to between 1/3 cup and 1/2 cup of thick syrup. Transfer to a heatproof, oiled bowl or measuring cup and let cool in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the brown sugar and cooled apple cider syrup until integrated. Add butter and beat again until fully combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Add dry ingredients, then beat again on low speed until the dough comes together. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

In a shallow bowl mix together the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Shape dough into 3/4-inch round balls. Roll each ball in the spiced sugar coating, then place on baking sheet at least 2 inches apart (I fit 20 cookies per half-size baking sheet). Use the bottom of a glass to gently flatten the dough balls.

Bake the cookies for 7 to 8 minutes — until they are firm around the edges but still soft in the middle, and just turning light golden brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack until cool.

Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Fig and thyme white cake with whipped honey frosting

My dad’s 50th birthday was on Friday. I emailed him to ask what his favorite cake was.

His helpful response: “I never met a cake I didn’t like.”

Given free reign like that, I decided to do something a little different. Something he’d never order in a restaurant or ask for someone to make him, but that would still knock his socks off.

I also wanted to make something summery because of his late August, dog days of summer birthday. S’mores cake? Eh, I’ve made it in cupcake form before and wanted to try something new. Chocolate-orange? Nah, that seems like more of a cold weather one to me. I thumbed through All Cakes Considered for ideas. I hemmed. I hawed. I pondered.

Eventually I got stuck on my favorite thing about summer: figs. The rest came together pretty quickly after that. A fluffy white cake with a fig jam in the middle. A light, whipped honey meringue buttercream on top. Not too heavy, but certainly tooth-achingly sweet. Good for the kids.

But I wanted to slightly temper the sugar rush for the adults. Something herby. Which of course led to my favorite fig accompaniment, thyme. It’s piney, but not too piney like rosemary sometimes is. It doesn’t overpower the delicate honey flavor in the frosting, but it does effectively counter the sweetness while adding a little flair of its own.

Of course, the best part of this flavor combo is that I can say that I made my dad a fig-tieth birthday cake, on account of him being alive for a long thyme.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry!

I cut plain slices for my niece and nephew, then said to my dad, sister, and brother: “I didn’t think the kids would like this, but if you’d like I can put some fresh thyme over your piece of cake.”

Sister: “What’s thyme?”
Brother: “That sounds really weird. But usually when you try to get me to eat something weird, it’s good, so okay.”
Father: “If you say so.”

I sprinkled a few leaves over each piece of cake. I could tell they didn’t trust me one bit.

fig and thyme white cake with whipped honey frostingThen they tasted it. “I can’t believe that’s… actually really good.” Well gee, thanks for trusting my judgement, folks. But I knew I had a winner when my sister and dad both took tiny slivers for seconds, and chose to add thyme to them completely of their own volition.

My dad knows I post my recipes on the internet. He saw me taking my photos and figured (correctly) that they were for a post. He said, “People aren’t going to think that’s good when they read the recipe. It’s too weird. They’re not going to realize how good it tastes and they won’t make it.”

It’s not that weird. Prove him wrong.

fig and thyme white cake with whipped honey frostingFig and Thyme White Cake with Whipped Honey Frosting
Adapted from Whipped Cream Cake by Melissa Gray in All Cakes Considered and Brown Sugar Meringue Buttercream from Sky High Cakes as posted on Completely Delicious

Serves 10 to 12

Cake:
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup whipping cream
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Frosting:
3 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons water
9.6 ounces (about 19 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into chunks

Garnish:
scant 1/2 cup fig jam, at room temperature
fresh thyme leaves, stripped from woody stalks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray two 8-inch pans, then line with a parchment paper circle. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together cake flour, salt, and baking powder. In a small bowl, beat eggs until thick and pale yellow. Set both aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip cream on medium speed until stiff peaks form. Add beaten eggs and beat again until fully integrated and foamy. Add sugar and extracts and beat again for about 1 minute. Add dry ingredients and beat on low speed until barely combined — there should still be some visible flour. Use a spatula to fold the ingredients the rest of the way to avoid over mixing.

Divide batter evenly among prepared pans, then put in the oven. Bake for 20-30 minutes, removing when a toothpick comes out clean. If your oven heats unevenly, swap positions of the two layers about 10 minutes into the baking time.

Place on a wire rack until cool enough to handle. Use a knife to loosen the edges of the cake from the pan, then flip out onto the rack. Remove the parchment paper from the bottom and let cool completely.

For the frosting, there’s a little bit of timing involved in making this all work. Start by combining the water, sugar, and honey in a small saucepan. Do not yet put it over the heat.

In the bowl of your stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form.

Put sugar solution over medium heat, stirring occasionally until it comes to a boil. Once it is boiling, stop stirring and insert a candy thermometer. Book without stirring until it reaches 238 degrees F (soft ball stage).

Turn the mixer with the egg whites back on medium speed. Carefully pour the hot (seriously, really really hot, be careful) sugar mixture in a thin stream into the egg whites. Try not to hit the beater or the side of the bowl.

Once the sugar syrup has been added, raise the speed to medium high and beat until the mixture is down to room temperature (touch the side of the bowl to check). This will take several minutes.

With the mixture still running, add the butter cubes a few tablespoons full at a time. Once all the butter has been added, continue to beat until smooth. The mixture may start to look curdled at one point, especially if your butter was a little too cold or too warm. Just let the mixer keep running and it will work itself out. Once the frosting is smooth, creamy, and light you’re good to go.

Put one cake layer on a serving plate or pedestal. I’m no expert cake decorator by a long-shot, but the best tip I can give for tidier looking cakes is to line the plate with strips of parchment paper tucked under the cake before you frost it. Try this! It really helps your cake look better to not have frosting smeared all over the plate.

Spread the fig jam evenly over the first layer. Then using an offset spatula, spread a small layer of frosting on top of the fig jam. Go almost all the way to the edge. Top with the second cake layer, then frost the top and sides to coat.

Sprinkle fresh thyme over the top of the cake, then serve.

Cherry chocolate Gruyere galette

I’ve been hanging on this recipe for a while and couldn’t think of something to say about it.

I mean, it’s just a galette with a touch of bitterness from the super-dark chocolate, an unexpected salty bite from the Gruyere cheese, a rich and flaky crust, all capped off with sweet and juicy in-season cherries.

chocolate cherry Gruyere galetteDo I really need to say anything else?

Cherry Chocolate Gruyere Galette
Crust from Sweet Galette Dough by David Lebovitz for Fine Cooking

Serves 6-8

Crust
11 1/4 oz. (2-1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
5 oz. (about 2/3 cup) ice water

Galette
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 ounce Gruyere cheese, grated
1/2 ounce dark chocolate, roughly chopped
2 cups fresh cherries, pitted and sliced in half
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Stir flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add chilled butter and pulse until crumbly, but distinct chunks of butter remain — really, big chunks are good!Add ice water, then process just until dough comes together, no more than 30 seconds. Turn dough onto work surface and gather and knead together just slightly. If is fine if you see streaks of butter on the surface, as this is what will give you delightful flakiness. Divide into two equal pieces and shape into discs. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour. (This galette only requires one disc of dough. Wrap the other very well and freeze for later use, thawing in the fridge for one day before using. [I used a leftover disc for this one.])

While dough is chilling, mix grated Gruyere and chopped dark chocolate into the cream cheese. Set aside.

Preheat oven with baking sheet or pizza pan in it to 400 degrees.

On a floured surface, roll one disc of chilled dough out into an approximate circle about 13 inches in diameter. Transfer to a piece of parchment paper.

Spread cream cheese mixture on the dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Starting in the middle, place the cherry halves in a single layer, face down, over all of the cream cheese mixture. Fold the excess dough over the edge of the filling, pleating as you go. Brush the melted butter along the exposed crust with a pastry brush.

Slide the galette, parchment paper and all, onto preheated baking sheet. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. When edges are browned, remove pan from oven. Slide the parchment paper and galette onto a wire cooling rack to prevent it from getting soggy while it cools.

Enjoy while slightly warm or at room temperature. Or, store covered in the fridge for up to 4 days and let come to room temperature before serving. If desired, garnish with curls of dark chocolate once cooled.

Fig and honeyed mascarpone galette

Fig season! Who can complain? Well obviously I can, because you know what sucks about figs? Because of their delicate nature, they’re so often in those horrible plastic clamshell packages to protect them during shipping. If you buy prepackaged figs, you’re going to end up with at least a couple that were picked too early. It’s my understanding that when you pick a fig too early, it will “ripen” on the counter in the sense that it will get softer. But that complex, oozy, honey-sweet taste? Not gonna happen.

So when my friend Laura told me that there’s a fruit bearing fig-tree in a park near my house? Shut the front door!

At the earliest opportunity, I rode my bike over there with a grocery-bag lined backpack, a vision of fig-filled galette running through my head. And then? I couldn’t find the damn tree if my life had depended on it. I texted Laura for further clarification of the location (what I actually asked was “uhhh, can you send me the Google Maps coordinates?”). I rode around for a bit waiting for a reply, and then remembered, oh yeah. She’s in Tanzania.

She hopped on the internet that weekend to email me a screenshot of the Google Map (and presumably do other things). But for this galette I had already filled my cart at the grocery store. It was still delicious, and, I must warn you, almost tooth-achingly sweet. It’s perfect for a brunch spread, especially since it can be made ahead of time and will hold in the fridge for several days. If you wanted it to, it could function as a dessert — seriously, all those figs make it fit for the most hardcore sweet tooth.

fig and honeyed mascarpone galette

Fig and Honeyed Mascarpone Galette
Crust from Sweet Galette Dough by David Lebovitz for Fine Cooking

Serves 6-8

Crust
11 1/4 ounces (2-1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
5 ounces very cold water

Galette
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon orange blossom water
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds fresh, ripe figs
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
super flaky sea salt, to garnish

Stir flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add chilled butter and pulse until crumbly, but distinct chunks of butter remain — really, big chunks are good!Add ice water, then process just until dough comes together, no more than 30 seconds. Turn dough onto work surface and gather and knead together just slightly. If is fine if you see streaks of butter on the surface, as this is what will give you delightful flakiness. Divide into two equal pieces and shape into discs. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour. (This galette only requires one disc of dough. Wrap the other very well and freeze for later use, thawing in the fridge for one day before using.)

While dough is chilling, stir honey and orange blossom water into mascarpone until fully combined. Then slice figs into quarters.

Preheat oven with baking sheet or pizza pan in it to 400 degrees.

On a floured surface, roll one disc of chilled dough out into an approximate circle about 13 inches in diameter. Transfer to a piece of parchment paper.

Spread mascarpone mixture on the dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Layer fig quarters in concentric circles on top of the mascarpone. Don’t worry about being perfect — it’s rustic! Fold the excess dough over the edge of the filling, pleating as you go. Brush the melted butter along the exposed crust with a pastry brush.

Slide the galette, parchment paper and all, onto preheated baking sheet. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. When edges are browned, remove pan from oven. Slide the parchment paper and galette onto a wire cooling rack to prevent it from getting soggy while it cools.

Enjoy while slightly warm or at room temperature. Or, store covered in the fridge for up to 4 days and let come to room temperature before serving. Sprinkle with a bit of super flaky sea salt just before eating for added flavor and crunch.

Pride rainbow flag cookies

It’s almost Baltimore Pride!

My friends Liz and Kendall are tailgating in the Lesbian Lot tomorrow, and sometimes I think I am physically incapable of going somewhere without making something to eat or drink. I wanted to make something properly festive and queer, and I figured Pride is as good of an excuse as any to ingest a bunch of no-good-for-you but oh-so-cute artificial food coloring.

Hello rainbow flag cookies!

pride rainbow flag cookies

Layered cookies are nothing new — I’d be impressed if you haven’t yet seen the Cinco de Mayo piñata cookies that took the internet by storm a few years ago. Luckily, a flag shape doesn’t require any special cookie cutters. All you need is a sharp knife and a rainbow of gel food colors to transform these basic, buttery cookies into pride flags.

In order to make perfect little flags, you have to trim some dough off the edges. Don’t toss it! Pinch off equal sized portions of the scraps, then roll into balls and flatten for little tie-dye cookies.

tie-dye scrap cookies

Please note: it’s hot outside right now, so pretty much every other step in this recipe is “put it in the freezer!” If it is cold in your kitchen while you are making these, you may not have to do as much chilling. But for me, the slightly warm kitchen combined with the pound of butter (yep) and I had to chill a lot.

Happy Pride!

Pride Rainbow Flag Cookies
Adapted from Slice and Bake Cookies by smitten kitchen

Makes 30 – 35 cookies

4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted
4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons almond extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
gel food color — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth. Add powdered sugar and beat again until combined. Add egg yolks, extracts, and salt and beat again until smooth. Add the flour, then beat on low until almost combined. Fold the rest of the way with a spatula and work into a rough ball. Put dough into a storage container and freeze for 10 to 15 minutes.

Turn dough onto counter and divide into 6 equal portions. I used my food scale to make sure everything was pretty darn close. Put one ball on a parchment-lined surface, and wear powder-free latex gloves if you don’t want to potentially stain your hands. Use a toothpick to transfer a small amount of one gel food color from the container to the piece of dough. Knead dough in your hands until the color is fully integrated and no longer streaky. Add more color as desired to increase saturation, but start small and move up. A little goes a long way!

Once dough has achieved desired color, roll into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap, then place in the fridge. Repeat the process with the remaining colors. Chill dough balls for at least 30 minutes, longer if you can stand it.

Prep a small baking sheet (I use a quarter size baking sheet) with a piece of plastic wrap to build up your cookie loaf on.

Remove the purple dough ball from the fridge and place on a piece of parchment paper or Silpat. I also use a piece of plastic wrap on top to prevent sticking to the rolling pin. Roll out and shape into a roughly 4″ x 10″ rectangle. Place on plastic wrap covered baking sheet and carefully peel back Silpat/parchment to remove.

Place the whole pan in the freezer while you prepare the blue rectangle. Then repeat, centering the blue one over the purple one. Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat with green, yellow, orange, and red, keeping the pan in the freezer whenever you’re not using it.

Once your loaf is complete, wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap, then in a freezer bag, and freeze for at least 2 hours and up to 1 month.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.

Remove dough loaf from fridge or freezer. Using a very sharp knife, trim about 1/3 of an inch on each side to even up the edges.

Cut 1/4-inch slices from the loaf, then place on baking sheets with about 2 inches between each cookie. (I was able to fit 10 cookies per half-size baking sheet. While I was waiting for one of my baking sheets to free up, I put the loaf — surprise — back in the freezer.)

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until they are firm but not yet brown. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire cooling rack.

Store baked cookies in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

A mouthful in more ways than one: Thai-incense smoked chocolate cheesecake cupcakes with coconut cream frosting

So, it’s been a really long time since I’ve posted. There’s not a real good reason, just a lot of little, shitty reasons. At least I’ve got something amazing to come back with. May I present to you:

Some marginally complicated but incredibly delicious cupcakes!

A major component of these cupcakes is the Thai incense candle, which you may be able to find locally if you’re lucky. I had to order mine online. I first read about these little guys in a recipe from Saveur — in fact, the flavor profile inspired these cupcakes. These candles are used to smoke sweets, usually cookies, with  an essence of  “various aromatic ingredients” such as ylang-ylang and frankincense. It’s kind of spicy, kind of smoky, kind of floral… it’s hard to explain without tasting it. But Saveur’s move of smoking a cheesecake with it was absolute genius.

Because I’m into the portability of cupcakes, I decided to see if I could transfer the experience of the cheesecake to something I could easily cart along to a board game night. And you know what? It worked. It really, really worked.

Thai-incense smoked black bottom cupcakes with coconut cream frosting

The chocolate cupcake was far more satisfying than the slip of a cookie crumb base in the cheesecake version. The smokiness of the cheesecake is still there, but not overwhelmingly so. When I made the cheesecake, I got some complaints of “too smoky” (not that I agreed with them). The cupcakes? No complaints whatsoever.

And the coconut frosting I devised is a little more aggressive than the coconut cream used on top of the cheesecake. I personally like to pipe just a little squirt of frosting on each cupcake instead of doing sky-scraping swirls — too much and it overwhelms the smokiness of the cheesecake into nothing. (This recipe will have a bit left-over if you also go the less-is-more route — the leftovers are great to add to an Oreo or Joe-Joe, for those times when eating a sandwich cookie isn’t unhealthy enough.)

After I made these cupcakes, my friend told her trainer that she ate two cupcakes which prompted her trainer to say, “I hope it was worth it.” Her response? “Oh god, yes. I cannot explain to you how worth it it was.”

I can’t think of a better endorsement.

Thai-incense smoked black bottom cupcakes with coconut cream frosting

Incense-Smoked Chocolate Cheesecake Cupcakes
Adapted from Black-Bottom Cupcakes by David Lebovitz from The Great Book of Chocolate
Inspired by Smoked Coconut Cheesecake by Saveur

Filling
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature and cut into 1″ cubes
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
Thai fragrant incense candle

Cake
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Frosting
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
6 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil (chilled if needed to solidify)
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons coconut cream
3 tablespoons heavy cream

Put a small, heatproof bowl inside of the bowl of your stand mixer. Put the cream cheese cubes in the mixer bowl around the smaller bowl. Light the incense candle, then put in the smaller bowl. Cover the mixer bowl tightly with a piece of aluminum foil. Let cream cheese smoke for 30 to 40 minutes, then remove the small bowl with the incense candle.

With the paddle attachment, beat smoked cream cheese and sugar until combined. Add egg and beat again until smooth. Refrigerate until needed.

Line 2 muffin tins with 16 paper liners and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. Add brown sugar and stir to combine.

In a separate bowl, combine water, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Make a well in the center of your dry ingredients bowl and add the wet ingredients. Stir gently until just smooth — do not over mix.

Divide the batter evenly throughout the muffin tin — cups will be 2/3 full. Then divide the cheesecake filling among the cupcakes, about 2 tablespoons added to the center of each. (I used one of those cookie dough scoops with the spring loaded getter-outter part, which made things go a lot more smoothly.) You may have a little bit of cheesecake filling leftover.

Bake for about 25 minutes, until the cupcakes spring back if you lightly touch them. Set aside to cool completely before frosting — you can also refrigerate them for 2-3 days or freeze before frosting if desired.

To make the frosting:

Put butter and coconut oil in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip until fully combined.

Add powdered sugar about 1/2 cup at a time, beating to combine between each addition. Whip on medium speed until fully combined.

Add coconut cream and heavy cream, and whip again on high until frosting is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.

Spread or pipe frosting onto each cupcake. I prefer a little squirt so as not to overwhelm the cake, but you can pipe on more as desired.

Refrigerate in a tightly covered container until ready to serve.

Guinness-chocolate cupcakes with Baileys-whiskey buttercream, that we are not calling “Blankish blank blank cupcakes”

So y’all, I’m gonna be real. Those drinks with Guinness, Baileys and Irish whiskey? You know, the ones that taste like a chocolate milkshake when they go down as long as you chug it before it curdles? And all of the cutesy baked goods that are inspired by those flavors? You know what I’m talking about, right?

That name has got to go.

Naming a cocktail with a crass joke about terrorism? Not cute.

I’m not saying that nobody should ever be allowed to make crass jokes by way of cocktail names. You’re allowed to. But I think that if you’re going to order something like that, you should know you’re making a statement. The statement being, “I’m a bit of a dick.”

Maybe I’m being too generous, but I think a lot of people order this drink or make these cupcakes and don’t even think about what the name means. Someone who doesn’t know anything about the Troubles in Ireland might not realize that they are ordering what, in different circumstances, might be a “9/11 flaming Twin Towers”. Even if you like dark humor, it’s generally not something you inflict on (drunk) strangers.

I’m of the opinion that if someone tells you something is offensive to them, you should believe them and not think they’re just “being overly sensitive.” And plenty of people have said that the name of this cocktail is offensive.

I also think that you should make an effort to not say the offensive thing around them, and reconsider saying it at all, especially around people you don’t know. And the internet is full of people you don’t know.

Yeah, it’s a “bomb” style cocktail. Yeah, it’s made with ingredients from Ireland. But there really has to be something better to call it.

Now, I’m not so sure about the cocktail. But thanks to a commenter from this awesome thread about boozy desserts on The Hairpin, there’s definitely a better name for the cupcakes: Finnegans Cakes! Irish and filled with booze, just like the cupcakes.

Finnegans cakes

So make these for St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow. Both are ostensibly Irish, but actually an American construct entirely. Perfect!

Finnegans cakes

Finnegans Cakes
Adapted from Chocolate Whiskey and Beer Cupcakes by Smitten Kitchen

Makes 24 cupcakes

Cupcakes:
1 cup Guinness
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

Frosting:
5-6 cups confections sugar
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup Baileys
1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons Irish whiskey

Line 2 muffin pans with 24 paper liners and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium pot over medium heat, bring Guinness and butter to a simmer. Whisk in cocoa powder until lump-free. Set aside to cool briefly.

In a medium bowl, stir together brown sugar, sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt until combined.

In the stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat together eggs and sour cream until combined. Add Guinness mixture and beat again briefly until combined. Then pour in dry ingredients and beat again briefly — there should still be some white streaks left. Fold together the rest of the way with a spatula until fully combined.

Divide evenly into muffin tins — each cavity should be 2/3 to 3/4 of the way full. Pop in the oven and bake for about 17 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. (Swap positions and rotate halfway through if your oven heats unevenly.)

Let cool briefly in tins. Once they are cool enough to handle, remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

The plain cupcakes can be refrigerated overnight or frozen for a couple of weeks, as long as they are in airtight containers. Or, once they’ve completely cooled… frost them!

With your stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the butter until very light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar about 1/4 cup at a time, whipping well in between each addition. Once the frosting is very thick and no longer incorporating, add the Baileys and Irish whiskey and whip again until combined and fluffy. If needed, add a little more powdered sugar to bring to desired texture.

Put into a piping bag with a tip of your choice, or just spread the frosting on with a knife. (If you don’t pipe, you’ll probably have some frosting leftover.)

Twelve days of food gifts: salted maple caramels

twelve days of food gifts 2012: apple cider caramels | basil vodka | lemon sugar | lime sugar | Old Bay vodka | orange sugar | peppercorn vodka | rosemary salt | salted maple caramels | vanilla extract | vanilla sugar | zesty salt’n'pep

Okay, okay, I’m late again on this one. But not too late! And today, on this last day of the Twelve Days of Food Gifts, you have a nice and easy edible gift that you can have packed into baggies under the tree by this afternoon.

Today: salted maple caramels.

salted maple caramelsIf you can find it, use Grade B maple syrup in this recipe. It’s less refined and thus has a more mapley flavor, which helps it really come across in the caramels without having to resort to artificial maple flavoring. It’s also usually a little bit cheaper. I haven’t been able to find it at my local Safeway, but then again they never have anything I need. I always buy it in the big old jugs from Trader Joe’s.

Salted Maple Caramels
Adapted slightly from Maple Syrup Caramels by Serious Eats

1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup grade B maple syrup
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Prep an 8″x8″ baking pan. Line the pan with two criss-crossing strips of parchment paper that are long enough to allow overhang on both sides.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine heavy cream, butter, and fine sea salt until just boiling. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, maple syrup, corn syrup, and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves completely. Then boil for an additional 5-6 minutes, swirling pan occasionally, until mixtures has turned from amber to dark amber.

Pour warm cream mixture into syrup mixture ands stir to combine. Clip your candy thermometer to the side and cook, without stirring, until it reaches 248 degrees.

Pour caramel into prepared pan and let cool for ten minutes. Evenly sprinkle coarse salt over the surface, then let cool for three hours, until cool and firm. It’ll go faster if you pop it in the fridge.

Lift up the ends of the parchment paper to transfer caramel to a cutting board. Cut into 1″ strips, then cut each strip into 1″ pieces.

Wrap each caramel individually in a 4″x4″ square of waxed paper and twist the sides to close.

Caramels will keep stored in an airtight container for 2 weeks.

Twelve days of food gifts: apple cider caramels

twelve days of food gifts 2012: apple cider caramels | basil vodka | lemon sugar | lime sugar | Old Bay vodka | orange sugar | peppercorn vodka | rosemary salt | salted maple caramels | vanilla extract | vanilla sugar | zesty salt’n'pep

Unlike the other gifts I’ve posted so far, these caramels require a leetle more active work. But you can finish them in an afternoon rather than having to wait for things to infuse.

No fun printables for these little guys, but… they’re apple cider caramels. Nobody will complain, I promise.

The endorsement from my friend Brian: “Those caramels are good. I mean they’re really, really good.”

apple cider caramels

Apple Cider Caramels
Adapted ever-so-slightly from Apple Cider Caramels by Deb Perelman in the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Makes approximately 49 caramels

4 cups fresh apple cider
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, boil apple cider. Boil, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a thick, dark syrup. You’ll be left with 1/3 to 1/2 cup syrup from the original 4 cups of cider. If you can raise the heat up a little higher without it burning, do so — it’ll speed the process up. I had smoke detector issues, so I didn’t. Over medium heat, it took me about an hour.

That’s fine, because while that’s reducing you can get everything else in order.

First off, prep an 8″x8″ baking pan. Line the pan with two criss-crossing strips of parchment paper that are long enough to allow overhang on both sides.

In a small bowl, mix together salt and cinnamon.

Once the cider is reduced, remove from heat. Stir in butter, sugar, brown sugar, and heavy cream until integrated. Put your candy thermometer in, and return the pot to medium heat. Let it boil without stirring until the thermometer reads 252 degrees. Keep a close eye — the temperature jumps erratically.

Once it hits 252, immediately remove from heat and stir in cinnamon/salt. Scrape into prepared pan. Let sit for 2 hours, until cool and firm. You can pop it into the fridge to speed things up.

Lift up the ends of the parchment paper to transfer caramel to a cutting board. Cut into 1″ strips, then cut each strip into 1″ pieces.

Wrap each caramel individually in a 4″x4″ square of waxed paper and twist the sides to close.

Caramels will keep stored in an airtight container for 2 weeks.

Happy birthday, Emily

Once again, I’ve been ridiculously busy. Not as fun-busy as before. Just busy.

Of course, that couldn’t prevent me from recalling that back in August my friend Emily sent me a link to Smitten Kitchen’s Pink Lemonade Bars, with the commentary: “If you ever need something to make me for any reason, that would be the something.”

pink lemonade bars

Happy birthday, Emily!