23 February 2013

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes




My family are documented Snickerdoodle fans.  Of course we aren’t the only ones.  It seems to me that the love of Snickerdoodles is almost infectious.  The most popular post on My Own Sweet Thyme this past year has been the one where my son and I break down a recipe for soft and satisfying Snickerdoodle Blondies, a crowd pleasing bar cookie that is easy to make and to transport and fit for almost any gathering.


This past spring when my son graduated from High School I was once again browsing for all things Snickerdoodle.  Cupcakes were on the menu for his graduation party, a group event hosted by several families. A variety of cupcakes were already promised and I wanted to make a unique contribution that would reflect his personal tastes. 





When I found a plate of gorgeous Snickerdoodle Cupcakes featured at Martha Stewart.com I knew I was onto something.  I changed the recipe a little.  I declined to buy the cake flour in the original recipe since I was already trying to clear out my cupboards for our move to Tennessee.  I also reduced the amount of sugar slightly and added an optional touch of nutmeg, a necessary flavor note for some Snickerdoodle connoisseurs.


The result is a lovely little cake filled with Snickerdoodle flavor.  Make them as minis or regular sized cupcakes, topped with a crown of luscious Vanilla Buttercream Frosting, drizzled with just a touch of Simple Vanilla Glaze or simply dusted with a Spiced Sugar Topping. These cupcakes are sure to satisfy the Snickerdoodle lovers in your life.





Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon cinnamon + 1 teaspoon for topping
1 teaspoon nutmeg (if desired) + ¼ teaspoon for topping
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar + ¼ cup for topping
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1¼ cups milk

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line cupcake pans (standard or mini size) with paper liners. Set aside.

Prepare the Spiced Sugar Topping in a small bowl by combining ¼ cup sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon nutmeg.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and 1 Tablespoon cinnamon.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer at medium speed, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla.

Reduce mixer speed to low. Add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk, beating until combined after each addition.

Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared cupcake pans, filling each three quarters full.  If you don’t plan to frost or glaze the cupcakes sprinkle each with a dusting of the Spiced Sugar Topping.

Bake cupcakes at 350F until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, approximately 18 - 20 minutes for standard size cupcakes and approximately 12 - 14 minutes for mini cupcakes. When done, allow cupcakes to rest on wire racks until cool.  Remove from cupcake pans and frost with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting or drizzle with Simple Vanilla Glaze, if desired.




Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Adapted from Wilton.com

1 cup butter (at room temperature)
1 cup shortening
2 lbs powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla (preferable clear)
2-4 Tablespoons Milk

In a large mixing bowl use an electric mixer to combine the butter, shortening and vanilla until smooth.

Gradually add the powdered sugar until fully combined.

Add the milk, one Tablespoon at a time, until a good spreading consistency is achieved.

Continue beating until light and fluffy, approximately five minutes. After beating keep the bowl covered with a damp towel.

To frost cupcakes, fit a large pastry bag with a notched tip, fill the bag with the Vanilla Buttercream Frosting and pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes in a circular pattern, starting at the outside edge of the cupcakes and moving inward.  

If you don't have a pastry bag you can use a gallon sized Ziploc bag instead.  Fill the bag about half full of frosting.  Zip closed.  Cut off ½-inch or so of a lower corner and pipe the frosting through the hole.

If you prefer not to pipe the frosting, simply spread it on the cupcakes generously with a knife.

After frosting each cupcake sprinkle the top with a dusting of the Spiced Sugar Topping.




Simple Vanilla Glaze

1 cup confectioners' sugar
1-2 Tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a small bowl, stir together the confectioners' sugar, vanilla and 1 Tablespoon of the milk. Add more milk, if needed, a few drops at a time until the mixture is smooth and a nice consistency for a glaze. 

Drizzle the glaze over the cupcakes.  Sprinkle tops with a dusting of the Spiced Sugar Topping.

Let cupcakes rest until the glaze has set. 

Enjoy!

14 February 2013

Hot Chocolate



It is a gorgeous Valentine’s Day here in Memphis! It is bright and sunny and the temperature is in the neighborhood of 60F. It is the perfect atmosphere for sunny smiles and red high heels.  Out for lunch at Houston’s it was great to see folks of all ages dressed in their Valentine best as they treated each other to a festive meal on this beautiful day. I am delighted to be a part of it.


Still, despite the sunny contrast in climates there are things I can’t help but miss about the Pacific Northwest this time of year.  One of them is the exotic variety of artisan chocolates I had come to depend on for celebrating special occasions.  Just thinking of Moonstruck’s selection of quality chocolates makes my mouth water.  And then there is the hand-crafted charm of Alma Chocolates, a bit more rustic but no more plain spoken. Alma’s hand-gilded dark chocolate icons are uniquely exquisite and the habenero caramels are sublime.


Inspired by those exceptional chocolates of Valentine’s Days past I began a search for artisan chocolates crafted in Tennessee.  That’s when I discovered Olive & Sinclair Chocolate Co. inNashville.




Olive & Sinclair hand crafts Southern Artisan Chocolate. Their claim to southern style is based not only on their physical location but on their product selection as well. While they do not have a line of truffles or caramels, their chocolate bars and brittles offer a variety of southern inspired flavors exquisitely packaged. The bars are beautiful and the flavors, including the Salt & Pepper and Buttermilk White bars along with the Bourbon Nib Brittle,are intriguing.  When I read that their Valentine Cinn-Chili Heart was perfect for making a rich hot chocolate I was hooked.


Not only did the Hot Chocolate turn out to be rich and amazing but the recipe could scarcely be simpler.  Unfortunately it was not included on the Valentine heart packaging but was printed right on the back of the Mexican Style Cinn-Chili Bar and was easy to remember. Try it for yourself using a gorgeous Olive & Sinclair Valentine’s Day Heart or other chocolate of your choice.  No doubt it is best shared with a special friend.


Now I can hardly wait to break into the box of Bourbon Nib Brittle….


Happy Valentine’s Day!




Mexican Hot Chocolate
Slightly adapted from the back of the Olive & Sinclair Mexican Style Chocolate bar

Makes 2 small servings

2.75 ounces chocolate, roughly chopped or broken
1½ cups milk
Sugar, to taste (I didn’t use any)
Whipped cream, if desired
Stick cinnamon or a pinch of spice, if desired  

In a small saucepan heat milk to a simmer.

Add chocolate, whisking until melted.

Add sugar to taste.

Remove from heat. Pour into small cups.

Top with whipped cream and serve with a cinnamon stick or top with a pinch of spice (cinnamon or ancho chili powder is nice), as desired.

Enjoy!

12 February 2013

Snickerdoodle Pancake


Last Minute Celebrating

This morning, just out of the shower, I got a text from my husband:


Shrove Pancake Tuesday!

Yikes!  How could I forget? Every year it seems this occasion sneaks up on me....


Really though, a large part of the charm of Shrove Tuesday is that, well, that’s okay. After all, it’s the “sneaking up on you” that it’s really all about.  Life gets busy and complicated and when it does we need to be reminded to be open to the essence of what’s really important, and let the rest go…or at least loosen our grip on it a little.   We need to clean up and sweep out and make a space that encourages us to be mindful of what matters, to listen for that Still Small Voice (1 Kings 19:12).


Originally Shrove Tuesday was a day to clear rich foods from our pantries in preparation for the observance of Lent. These days those rich foods, butter, eggs, and milk, are staples that can be found in most every kitchen making a pancake dinner one that can easily be prepared on short notice. 


A Gift from the Girls

In my own kitchen I have some beautiful eggs 




left from a recent visit to “the girls” 


at For the Love of Chicken Poop.  I have a little butter, flour and spices.  What I find that I don’t have as I look in the refrigerator is milk!  I do however have some half and half for some forgotten reason and that seems like an appropriate substitution for the occasion.


All that’s left is to decide what kind of pancakes to make this year.  I have already posted about Overnight Pancakes, Swedish Pancakes, A Dutch Baby, Wheat Germ Griddle Cakes and several other variations. This year, with Valentine’s Day later this week, I find myself thinking about Snickerdoodles.  As I begin to pull together the basic ingredients for pancakes I realize they are much the same as the basic ingredients for Snickerdoodles.  Only the proportions and a few pinches of spice hang in the balance.  So why not make a Snickerdoodle Pancake? Topped with a cinnamon-y Snickerdoodle Syrup/Sauce it makes a tempting Shrove Tuesday treat.




Snickerdoodle Pancake

¾ cup flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
a pinch of nutmeg
3 Tablespoons sugar (use vanilla sugar if you have it)
3 eggs
¾ cup milk (or half and half)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ Tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix together the flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl whisk the eggs until frothy. Add the milk, vanilla and dry ingredients. Whisk until smooth.

Place the butter in a 10 or 12-inch oven proof skillet (preferably cast iron). Set the skillet in the oven for a few minutes until it is hot and the butter has melted.

Remove the skillet from the oven. Swirl it to cover the bottom of the skillet evenly with the hot butter. Immediately pour the batter into the pan and return it to the oven.

Bake for 20 minutes or until puffed and turning golden.

Remove from oven. Quickly dust with powdered sugar and Snickerdoodle Sauce (recipe below) if desired.

Slice and serve.



Snickerdoodle Sauce

1 cup water
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
2 Tablespoons heavy cream or butter

Combine water, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small saucepan.

Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. 

Continue to boil, stirring occasionally until mixture is reduced and begins to thicken, approximately 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the cream or butter.

Enjoy!


01 February 2013

Banana Muffins



The Best Bananas

I have been at odds with black bananas much of my life.  Never a huge banana fan, I have always viewed their quick descent past freckled yellow to spotting brown, and shrinking black, suspiciously.

As a girl I would occasionally eat a pristine banana, a bright yellow one or even one still tinged with a hint of green, the kind with an almost tart flavor that was just beginning to ripen.  I liked bananas best when you could scarcely break off the stem and peel them without a knife.  Even then I only wanted a bite or two.

My Dad dealt with that kind of pickiness by rarely buying bananas. Aunt Hen, on the other hand, bought bananas just to have some on hand. She saw them as a quick snack, something she could share over breakfast or offer a guest who might pass through her kitchen. If such an occasion didn’t come along she scarcely let it bother her.

Getting Good

When I came into Aunt Hen’s kitchen to visit or get a glass of cold water from her refrigerator I would sometimes look up and see her bananas there, spotting and shrinking. With the wisdom of childhood I would wrinkle my little nose distastefully and ask why she didn’t go ahead and throw those ugly things away.  Without missing a beat she would shrug and with a little nod of her head she would tell me, "They aren’t ugly at all. Why they're just getting good!"

Aunt Hen was no fan of tart flavors.  She would buy fine looking yellow bananas for others but she wouldn’t eat them herself.  If she were going to eat a banana, time had taught her to prefer the deep soft sweetness of overripe bananas, no longer pretty but darkening to perfection and eager to express a bold flavorful stickiness that satisfied her sweet tooth.

Over the years I have come to understand the wisdom of Aunt Hen's words. I have learned to regard perfectly aged bananas as a flavorful treasure that should not be overlooked. Though I still don’t care to eat dark bananas on their own, I have grown to appreciate the depth of sweetness a gently aged banana can add to baked goods.  The deeper the aging the less sugar needs to be added to the recipe and the richer the banana flavor imparted to the bread or muffin that comes out of the oven for my family to enjoy.

Note: If you are wondering just how black bananas can get and still be optimal for baking, or how black is “too black”, check out Ripe Bananas for Baking: How Ripe Should Bananas Be? by my friend Alanna at Kitchen Parade.  She has discovered a timetable that might surprise you!



Banana Muffins

1½ cups white flour
1¼ cups whole wheat flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
¾ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup milk
¼ cup vegetable oil (or melted butter)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1¼ cups mashed very ripe bananas (approx. 4 bananas)

optional additions:
up to 1 cup chopped nuts, toasted 
a handful of chocolate chips
cinnamon sugar
coffee sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tins.

In a large bowl stir together the white flour, wheat flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl whisk together the egg, milk, oil, vanilla and bananas until well combined.

Form a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Add the wet mixture and stir until nearly combined. Add the nuts and chocolate chips, if desired (or save them to arrange on top of the batter if you have picky eaters that will pick them out of the muffins). Continue mixing just until combined.

Fill muffin cups with batter until nearly full.   Arrange any nuts or chocolate chips you have left out of the batter on top of some or all of the muffins.  Sprinkle a little cinnamon sugar or coffee sugar (1 teaspoon instant coffee powder mixed with 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar) on top of the batter, if desired.

Bake at 350F until golden and muffin top springs back when touched lightly in the center; approximately 15 minutes for mini-muffins and 25 minutes for regular sized muffins.  Cool slightly on wire rack before removing muffins from pans.

Enjoy!