Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes

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So, my friends are having a small wedding in June and I offered to provide some cupcakes. They didn't have any specific flavor combination requests, so I was envisioning a months-long quest, filled with exploratory cupcakery. 

I began the arduous task of choosing the perfect wedding cupcake with this recipe.

And the quest ended the same day.

I believe the groom said, "We get to eat these for our wedding??"  That's how good they are.


Eating one of these cupcakes is like being hooked up to a serotonin drip.  

The cake is moist, flavorful, and an excellent base for the rich, sweet, and salty filling and frosting. 

The frosting is a little gooey, but was able to stand up on its own.  I wouldn't add more powdered sugar as the original recipe suggests, as the frosting is very sweet on its own.

Let me give you a guarantee about making this recipe: You WILL eat approximately 1 cup of the filling and frosting before you're done.  Which is good, because there's a little too much of each.


Chocolate Cupcakes (from 20 Something Cupcakes, Adapted from Martha Stewart)
-1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
-1 1/2 cups sugar
-1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
-3/4 teaspoon baking powder
-3/4 teaspoon salt
-2 large eggs
-3/4 cup buttermilk
-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
-1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
-3/4 cup warm water
-Salted Caramel Filling, recipe below

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin with paper liners. Whisk together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. With mixer on low speed, add eggs, buttermilk, oil, extract, and the water; beat until smooth and combined.

2. Spoon the batter into liners about two-thirds full. Bake approximately 15-17 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. Transfer tins to wire racks and allow to cool for 10 minutes; turn cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 1 month in air tight containers.

3. Use a paring knife to cut a cone-shaped piece (about 1/2 inch deep) from the center of each cupcake and throw away the pieces (or save them for a tasty snack!). Make the salted caramel.

Salted Caramel
-2 1/2 cups sugar
-2/3 cup water
-1 tablespoon light corn syrup
-3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
-2 1/2 teaspoons flaked sea salt, preferably Fleur de Sel

1. Heat sugar with the water and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until syrup is clear (that is, until the sugar is dissolved); clip a candy thermometer to side of pan and stop stirring.

2. Cook until syrup comes to a boil, washing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush as needed. Boil, gently swirling pan occasionally, until mixture is caramelized and just reaches 360°F. Remove from heat and slowly pour in cream, stirring with a wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in sea salt.

3. Let cool for about 15 minutes; if caramel begins to harden reheat gently until pourable. Spoon 1 to 2 teaspoons warm caramel into each hollowed-out cupcake. The caramel will slightly sink into the cupcake – just add a bit more. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt over filling.

4. Use the leftover caramel for the frosting.

Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting
-1 stick salted butter
-1 stick unsalted butter
-1/2 teaspoon flaked sea salt
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-3 – 4 cups powdered sugar
-About 1/2 cup leftover caramel sauce from above

1. Caramel should now be cool enough to use for the frosting. Make sure it’s slightly warm to the touch, and still pourable. If it’s hardened too much, gently reheat until pourable.

2. In a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter and salt together until lightened and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; add powdered sugar and vanilla. Mix until thoroughly combined.

3. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the caramel. Beat on medium-high speed for a few minutes until light and airy, and completely mixed. If the frosting looks like it needs to set up a bit, refrigerate it for 15 – 20 minutes. The caramel walks a fine line between being either too warm, or too thick and unpourable if it gets too cool, so this affects the temperature of the frosting and you may need to compensate for that by refrigerating if the caramel warmed the frosting too much. Add more confectioners’ sugar, in 1/2 cup increments, to make the frosting stiffer if you need to.

4. Use a pastry bag with a medium open-star tip and pipe frosting onto each cupcake, swirling tip and releasing as you pull up to form a peak. Garnish each cupcake with a pinch of sea salt.  Store at room temperature in airtight containers.

-Makes approximately 21 cupcakes.

Thai Chicken Noodle Soup

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Hello!

Do you watch My Drunk Kitchen?  If not, you should.  That's essentially what you can imagine going on when I'm cooking (particularly if I'm cooking for a crowd).  Anyway, the way she says "HELL-O!" is how I'm saying hello to you above.

Also, I want to marry her.

Ahem.

Anywho, my semester from hell has wrapped up.  And now I have time to do the following things:
1) Breathe--and not just into a paper bag!
2) Exercise
3) Drink without sobbing into my glass
4) Cook
5) Take photos of food
6) Photoshop the photos
7) Write blog entries
8) Sleep without waking up in a panic
9) Do laundry
10) Shower and get dressed on the weekend (though, as I continue to prove, that's totally optional)

I have several posts to make up for, but I'll start with this Thai Chicken Soup modified somewhat from Cooking Light.  It called to me from those glossy pages like a siren in the night.  So comforting....so spicy and citrusy...so full of bok choy (yes, please)...so NOT fattening.

I ended up adding more flavoring.  For instance, what self-respecting Thai recipe doesn't have fish sauce?  I also put in some chili-garlic sauce because I had it on hand.  That was a good choice.  I would suggest adding more broth (and then upping the spices/flavoring even more).  There was very little liquid for the amount of chicken and bok choy.  Though...I will admit, I put more of that in than it calls for, too.  Make it a meal, people!


Thai Chicken Noodle Soup (modified from Cooking Light)
-1 teaspoon olive oil
-3 tablespoons minced shallots
-2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
-1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh (or jarred fresh) ginger
-1 (14.5-ounce) can fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
-3 (5-inch) pieces peeled fresh lemongrass, crushed with the back of a heavy knife
-2 cups water (**I'm thinking more chicken broth would be good in place of some of the water, especially if you add extra liquid**)
-2 cups shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast  (**I poached my own chicken breasts with a little salt and pepper and shredded it.  It takes almost no extra time.**)
-2 cups chopped bok choy  (**I put in 3 cups**)
-1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
-1/4 cup small fresh basil leaves
-2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
-1-2 teaspoons fish sauce, to taste  (**I used one teaspoon, but may do more in the future**)
-1-2 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce, to taste (**I used one teaspoon, but may do more in the future**)
-1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
-2 cups hot cooked rice noodles (such as Annie Chun's)
-1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or to taste

1. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add shallots; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add garlic and ginger; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.

2. Add broth; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add lemongrass and 2 cups water to broth mixture; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes.

3. Stir in chicken and bok choy; simmer 5 minutes. Discard lemongrass. Remove from heat; stir in cilantro, basil, lime juice, fish sauce, chili-garlic sauce, and salt. Taste broth and adjust seasoning as needed.  Place 1/2 cup noodles in each of 4 bowls; top each serving with 1 1/4 cups soup. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes.

-6 servings