Cheesy Bacon Scone-Off

Om nom nom nom.

That’s all I can really say about this recipe from The English Kitchen.  And this one from my pal Caroline at The Wanna Be Country Girl.  But which one to make?

Oh come on.  You knew I was going to do something ridiculous like that.  It’s in the title for Pete’s sake.  And any excuse to make these beauties twice is a good one.

So here we go.

Bacon, Cheddar and Rosemary Scones from The Wanna Be Country Girl:

First, fry up about 6 slices of bacon.  I discovered at the last second that my bacon was still frozen, so I did something genius.  While I was doing the dishes I popped the sealed package in the sink and when I was finished with washing up the bacon was ready to go.

Bacon Cheese Rosemary Scones 1

Because I was so pleased with myself I made it a round 7 slices.  You’ll want to fry this up extra crispy.  Set it aside to drain and cool, then break into a million little pieces.

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Preheat your oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together 2 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, a pinch of salt (if you’re using salted butter leave this out), and 1 tablespoon sugar (I actually forgot the sugar, and I don’t think it made much difference).  If you don’t have a hand sifter, you can shake your flour through a fine sieve instead.

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Cut 6 tablespoons butter into small cubes (it’s like halfway between 1/3 and 1/2 cup butter) and plop that into the flour mixture.

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Use a pastry cutter or your hands to incorporate the butter into the flour, so in the end all you get is crumbs.

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Find yourself some fresh rosemary.

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Take about three sprigs of that and chop it up so you end up with about 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary.  Add that to the flour mix.

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Find yourself some sharp cheddar.  If you have access to a Costco or you live in Ontario, make it a lovely Balderson aged cheddar.  It makes everything better.

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Gren knows exactly what the cheese grater looks like, where it’s stored, and what it does.  Unfortunately, I am not as liberal with my cheese droppings as the Pie is so he was disappointed today.  Grate up about 1 cup sharp cheddar and add that to the flour mix.

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Crumble up your bacon and add that to the flour mix.  Give the whole thing a good stir so everything is evenly distributed.

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In another bowl, plop 2 eggs and 1/2 cup heavy cream (whipping cream, in Canada).  Stir that up.

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Pour the liquid into the flour.  Stir it around as much as you can.

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Eventually you will need your hands to make everything stick together into a ball. Knead that ball once or twice inside the bowl.

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Dump the ball of dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat it down to a thickness of about 1 1/2″.  Use a cutter or a knife to divide it however you wish, and transfer it to the baking sheet.

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Bake for 12-15 minutes, checking to make sure they’re not browning too much.

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This one was pretty much fresh from the oven and the butter melted just looking at it.

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See?

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We may have eaten these for dinner one rainy night.  Don’t judge us.

Cheese and Bacon Scones from The English Kitchen:

Preheat your oven to 425°F.  Grab yourself a baking sheet.  

Fry up some bacon.  The recipe calls for 4oz of bacon (who weighs bacon?  The British, naturally), but in the interest of fairness I just used the same amount as I did in the last batch, which was 7 slices bacon.  Go for extra crispy, then let it cool and break it up into wee bits.

Bacon Cayenne Scones 1

Sift together 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour1 teaspoon baking soda1 teaspoon cayenne, and 1 teaspoon salt into a large bowl.  I love my sifter, but a simple sieve is easier on the hands and a mite quicker. If you think your cayenne might be extra fresh, I would recommend using slightly less than a teaspoon — that stuff can build on you.

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Use a pastry cutter, and then probably your hands, to work 2 tablespoons cold cubed butter into the mix, until you have a crumb-y consistency.  Same as the last one.

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Grate up 1 cup sharp cheddar (again, go Balderson or go home).

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Add that to the flour mixture, along with the broken bacon.

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Whisk together 1 egg and 1 2/3 cups buttermilk.  You can sour milk with lemon juice, or vinegar but it’s not quite the same.

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Make an extinct volcano with your dry ingredients (dig a crater, yo) and pour the wet stuff into the hole.

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Mix this into a soft dough with your hands while trying the whole time not to knead it.  Apparently in this recipe kneading is a no-no. Dump your doughy mass onto a floured surface and pat the sticky stuff down with your hands until you get a little square patty about 3/4″ thick.

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Then you cut it into about 15-20 pieces. I decided, for science, to do mine the same way I did with the previous recipe, to get a better idea of how each one cooks.  Sliced into thick wedges, yis b’y.

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Plop those onto your baking sheet and pop them into your oven for 10-14 minutes, or until they’re risen and a nice golden brown. Just remember that this time is for the smaller square scones. If you make them big fat wedges you’re going to need to bake them for about 20-25 minutes.

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This recipe says to let them cool on a wire rack, but I’m not sure I can wait that long.  Where’s my butter?

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AND THE WINNER IS

Okay well there is no winner.  They’re both amazing.  I loved the fluffiness and slow heat of the English Kitchen version, and the flaky rosemary-ness of Wanna Be’s was amazing.

I mean, if I make these again I’ll probably combine my favourite elements of the two, and come up with my own version.  I always thought scones were hard, but these ladies have certainly corrected that assumption for me!

Bookmark Brownies

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This recipe comes from a laminated bookmark I received as part of a promotional package from Chatelaine magazine.  While I was not so struck by this unsolicited mail that I wished to subscribe to the magazine, I kept the bookmark because the brownie recipe on it was gluten free with an interesting twist.  Actually this is a lie.  As soon as I’d typed in the ingredient list into this entry, I threw it out.  And was annoyed that it was unrecyclable.

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Below is the original recipe for one pan of brownies.  I tripled this because I was baking for work, so ignore my photos involving massive amounts of baking materials.

First, separate 4 eggs, and bring the whites to room temperature.

Bookmark Brownies 1

Preheat your oven to 350°F and line an 8″ square pan with parchment paper, letting the paper hang over the sides of the pan (you’re going to use these as handles later, see?).

Bookmark Brownies 2

In a large bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 cups icing sugar with 2 cups ground almonds (I used almond meal), 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, and a pinch of salt.

Bookmark Brownies 3

Add to that your egg whites and 2 teaspoons vanilla and mix well.

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Pour that thick loveliness into the prepared pan.  And by thick I mean that this stuff will suck you into oblivion if you’re not careful.

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Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the top is shiny and crusty and a cake tester inserted into the centre comes out mostly clean.

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Use the parchment handles to carefully lift the brownie out of the pan (you don’t want it to suddenly sag and break in half, for instance) and set the brownies on a rack to cool completely.

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What this recipe doesn’t tell you (because I guess the bookmark was too small) is that these things are next to impossible to cut cleanly.  I thought mine weren’t cooked enough and ended up putting them back in the oven for another fifteen minutes and they were still ridiculous, sticking to the knife and crumbling everywhere.  Warm, cold, didn’t matter.  Crumbles all over the place.

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But they tasted like brownies.  So that’s that.

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Slutty Brownies for My Birthday

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It’s my birthday.  Hooray!  Happy birthday to ME!

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As such, it means I can do whatever the eff I want to do today.  And I choose to be totally lazy and completely unhealthy and make these brownies*.  I’ve been hearing amazing things about this thing called a “slutty brownie,” and after looking them up on the interwebz I decided to go to the source, which, apparently, is a lady known as The Londoner.  Seems legit.  I could definitely get behind this sort of recipe.

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Normally I’m not one to make stuff out of pre-packaged food.  It’s just not my style.  For the most part, if you make something from scratch it tastes way better and is far more satisfying to make.  In this particular case, however, I think I can make an exception.

Slutty Brownies 1

It IS my birthday, you know.  But I have to say that the word “chocolatey” versus “chocolate” is always worrisome, though these did include real chocolate after all.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and line a baking dish with parchment.  I figured that seeing as some of the contents of my dish would fit normally into a square pan, and because I had extra ingredients on top of that, I should use a bigger pan.

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So you take a some chocolate chip cookie dough. In the British version, cookie dough comes in a box like cake and brownie mix, but here, unless you want it in bulk, it generally comes pre-made in refrigerated rolls.  The Londoner recommends using a teaspoon extra oil and water than recommended for the dry mix, because the cookie dough will be baking longer than usual and might dry out.  And you want this baby to be moister than moist.  So mix that up according to directions and add a bit more liquid. Smoosh the cookie dough into the bottom of the pan.  Use your fingers to make it all even and stuff. I decided I needed an extra roll of cookie dough.

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Take a package of Oreo cookies (double-stuffed is better, apparently), and line them up in the tray.  She says not to use the broken ones, but how else would one fill the gaps?  It’s thrifty.  However, I didn’t have any broken ones.  Way to go, modern packaging.

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And I didn’t have enough Oreos, actually.  So I moved everything to a smaller pan, which just involved some re-smooshing, and was very easy.

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Still didn’t have enough Oreos, though, and I couldn’t justify going out for another package when I was only a few short.

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So I just moved them over a bit.

THEN.  Then.  You take a box of brownie mix.  And you mix that up according to its directions. Mine had chocolate chunks in it!

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No need to add anything extra.  Just do it.  Giv’er.

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Pour that loveliness over top of the Oreos.  I’m serious.  Do it.  If you used a bigger pan like me you will need to spread it carefully so everything is covered.

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Bake that sucker for 40-50 whole minutes, then remove from the oven and put on a wire rack to cool.  Mine was big, so it actually took an hour.  A smaller pan would probably take you about 30 minutes. Look at that lovely shiny/crackly top!

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When it’s still a little warm, use the parchment as handles to remove the gloriousness from the confines of the pan, set it on a cutting board, and cut it up.  I recommend smallish cubes, as larger cubes of the stuff might result in DEATH.  And nobody likes death.

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Serve it up with a dollop of ice cream on top, or whipped cream, or caramel sauce, or fudge sauce, or all four in combination.  With a cherry on top.  And sprinkles.  Okay maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.

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And I’m not going to give you storage instructions because if you have any sense, there won’t be any left to store.

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* This is actually a lie.  I don’t do ANYTHING on my birthday.  It’s a rule.  I made these a week BEFORE my birthday (because despite what you may believe I don’t get up at the crack of dawn and bake in time for a 7AM NST post).  The Pie is creating a magical birthday cake for me as we speak.  There may be a post on it.  Who knows.

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Gluten-Free Pumpkin Dog Treats

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This is the last pumpkin post, I swear.  We’re finally rid of it.  Fortunately, there is one member of our family who will never tire of pumpkin, and that is The Short and Spoiled One.

Experimenting with Animal Portrait Settings
Have we met?

This is a quick recipe that I put together with inspiration from Betty Crocker and Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free.

Preheat your oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together 4 cups brown rice flour with 2 tablespoons ground flax meal (optional) and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.  It occurs to me after the fact that you could also use a mixture of brown rice flour and quinoa flour, seeing as quinoa is the new superfood for dogs these days.  Very trendy of you.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Dog Biscuits 1

In another bowl, whisk together 2 large eggs with 1 3/4 cups (or 1 14 oz can) of pure pumpkin purée (not the pie filling) and 1/4 cup peanut butter (all natural, with no added salt or sugar, please).

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Dog Biscuits 2

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until a shaggy dough forms — you may need to use your hands.

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Sprinkle with more flour and stir that in if it’s still tacky.

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Take the dough and form it into a small ball with your palms.  Flatten it into a patty and place it on the baking sheet.  Angle your thumb sideways on one side of the cookie and press it into the dough.  Use the point of one of your fingers to make four indentations along the curve of your thumbprint.   So it looks like a wee paw print.  Cute, eh?

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Bake for about 25 minutes, depending on the thickness of your cookie.  A finished cookie is crisp and dried out.

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Allow them to cool completely on a rack and store them in the fridge to keep them fresh for a couple weeks.  At room temperature in an airtight container they’ll keep for about a week.

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Gren obviously enjoyed testing them.  Here he is waiting for my okay.

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Scarfing down the first piece.

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Discovering the second.

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Scarfing that one too.

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Are there no more?

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Gren was nice enough to share with some of my coworkers’ dogs, and this was the review:

Photo credit: E. Wright

(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

The Pie is kicking butt and taking names with the Memorial University Geographical Society (MUGS) this term, and he volunteered me to be the official caterer for the group.  Last week MUGS held two open houses.  For the first, I whipped up a batch of Miss Awesome’s espresso cookies (because all undergrads need a little caffeine) and a batch of margarine chocolate chip cookies (with Caramilk inside each one, à la the Rolo cookies).  For the second, I decided to create two dozen of these cupcakes.

While chocolate and vanilla actually go quite well together, most people consider them to be opposites of each other.   As this is a geographical society, why not have the chocolate and the vanilla represent both poles on our planet?  Sure, it’s a stretch, I know, but bear with me.  Both of these batter recipes contain buttermilk, which is one of my favourite baking ingredients, and they both come from Baking Bites.

Preheat your oven to 350°F and line two muffin tins with cupcake liners.

For the Chocolate Cupcakes:

In a large bowl, whisk together 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa, 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder.

(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

In a smaller bowl, whisk together 1 egg, 6 tablespoons water, 6 tablespoons buttermilk, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

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Alas, I forgot the melted butter in the microwave until it was too late.  It looks so sad and neglected.

(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

Pour your wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk like crazy until you get no more floury bits floating around.

(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

Fill 12 of the muffin cups with chocolate-y batter. It’s easy if you use a spoon.

(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

For the Vanilla Cupcakes:

In a bowl, whisk together 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder.

(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat 1 cup granulated sugar with 1/4 cup room temperature butter until fluffy.

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Beat in 1 egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract until the mixture is smooth.

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Pour in half your flour mixture and stir until almost combined.  Add in 1 cup buttermilk and mix again, then the rest of the flour mixture, and beat until all the ingredients are combined.

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Fill the other 12 muffin cups with that batter.

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Bake the cupcakes for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the centre cupcake comes out clean.

(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pans for about 10 minutes before using a fork to remove them to a cooling rack to cool completely.  I wish now that I had used large cupcake liners instead of medium ones.  Ah well, what’s done is done.

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For the Frosting:

Nothing says holy-crap-this-frosting-is-awesome like ganâche (well, at least, if you’re ME because I’m weird like that), and for me this is the easiest thing in the world to do.

Start by chopping up about 6 ounces each of dark and white chocolate.

(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

Plop the pieces in microwave-safe bowls and pop them in the microwave.  Nuke ’em on medium power, stirring a few times in between, for about 5 minutes, or until the chocolate is smooth and liquid.  The white chocolate will likely melt long before the dark does, so keep an eye on it so as not to burn it.

(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

Stirring the whole time, add 1 cup room temperature whipping cream into each chocolate. The warmer your cream, the less lumpy your ganâche will be, but the longer it will take to set. Keep that in mind.

(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

Now, because I want something a little firmer than my usual ganâche, I’m going to add some icing sugar.  Start with 1 cup icing sugar and add more until you come to the consistency you like.  Chuck the frostings in the fridge for a bit to set.

(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

For the Writing Icing:

I was originally going to write on these cupcakes using store-bought piping gel, just because the results are easy and predictable.  It then occurred to me, however, that I’d purchased these gels to make a cake for the baby shower for a co-worker’s first child.  This was like three jobs ago, in a different province, and I think the little girl is five years old now.  It might be time to get rid of those.

(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

Instead, I decided to make a sort of royal icing and pipe it on myself.  So I started with two small bowls filled with 1 cup icing sugar each, a few tablespoons water, and some food colouring.

(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

Add a little bit of the water to the icing sugar and stir until you get a good consistency. Likewise, add some food colouring to the mix.

(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

I think this looks so weirdly neat.

(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

Add more icing sugar or food colouring until you reach your desired colour and texture and set those aside.

(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

Remember that this type of icing is kind of like a non-Newtonian fluid, so its physical properties might not be exactly what you expect.  AHA!  SCIENCE!  I like to sneak in a little learning on you now and then.  Sorry.

Assemblage:

Start by smearing your ganâche on your cupcakes, dark for the chocolate, and white for the vanilla.  Or the opposite.  Whatever floats your boat.

(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

Grate a little bit of dark chocolate on the surface of the vanilla cupcakes, and a little bit of white chocolate on the chocolate cupcakes.

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Looks pretty, right?  Now we’re going to de-classy it a little bit.

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Spoon your coloured icing into a piping bag and start writing.

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You probably don’t want to write MUGS on your cupcakes.  Unless you do. In which case, why?

(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

Store them in the fridge to keep them fresh, and enjoy them as you will.  I think they look a little like Franken-cupcakes, but the Pie likes the look of ’em, and he’s the boss.  I have no idea how they taste, either, because there weren’t any extras.  But I can only assume that they are passably tolerable, just like everything else I do!

(Polar) Opposite Cupcakes

Red Velvet Comeback Cupcakes

A couple of years ago, I started an official committee at work to help me test out cupcake recipes in advance of our wedding.  The experiment was so popular that peer pressure led me to bring it back again, though in a more cooperative fashion, early last year.  Now that I am back at work in St. John’s after my research stint in Ottawa, it is my turn to bake for the Cupcake Committee.  What better comeback cupcake than red velvet?

Now, the reason the red velvet cake is red is very interesting.  Crucial ingredients in this batter include white vinegar and buttermilk.  The acid in these ingredients reacts with the anthocyanin that is naturally found in cocoa, creating a lovely red tint (anthocyanin, by the way, is the same stuff that makes leaves turn red in the autumn). 

Modern cocoa, usually Dutch processed, is much more alkaline than its predecessors, and reacts less with the acid, so contemporary bakers generally adjust the tint of their red velvet cakes with beets or food colouring.  While beets would help to retain moisture in the cake, I have opted to use food colouring instead, because I believe beets taste like dirt, and I don’t want a cake that tastes like dirt.  If you want dirt, go eat dirt.  Or a beet.

This recipe is cobbled together from a bunch of different sources.  I hope you enjoy it.  It makes about 2 dozen large cupcakes.  Because the batter can stain, I recommend you make the kiddies wait to help until the frosting stage.

Preheat your oven to 350°F and line two muffin tins with cupcake cups.  I apologize in advance for the lighting in these photos.  It’s been raining for a month.

In a bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 cups sifted flour and 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder.

In a larger bowl, cream together 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar and 1 1/2 cups softened butter until fluffy. 

Crack in 2 room-temperature eggs, one at a time, and mix well.  Make sure to scrape down the bowl when needed.

To that add in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 oz red food colouring.  If you are using gel-paste, use half a teaspoon, as that stuff is concentrated.

Wow.  That is RED.

Reduce the speed of your mixture to low.  Grab 1 cup buttermilk.  Add in your flour mix in three separate additions, alternating with two additions of buttermilk.  Whisk well after each and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

In a small bowl, mix together 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda and 2 teaspoons white vinegar.  Stir that foamy goo into the batter for ten seconds.

Divide the batter among the lined cups, filling them about 3/4 full.  Bake, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cupcake comes out clean, which for me was around 25 minutes

Cool the cupcakes completely before removing them from the tins, because if you drop a hot cupcake, it will explode.  This happened to me.

While they are cooling, chop up 6 oz chocolate and melt that stuff in a double boiler.  We are going to fill these cupcakes with a ganache.

Whisk in 2 cups cold heavy cream (whipping cream) until smooth and glossy and chill that for a spell.

I’m sure you’re still waiting around for the cupcakes at this point, so why not cream together 1 cup softened butter with 2 cups room temperature cream cheese?  Slowly mix in 4-5 cups icing sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and there you have your cream cheese icing.

Now that your cupcakes are cool, insert a toothpick into the centre of each one, going about halfway down, and wiggle it around.  Try not to make the hole at the top too large, but wiggle the toothpick enough so you get a wee cavity in the centre of the cupcake.

Using a piping bag, fill each cavity with cooled ganache.

Now you can spread on your icing with an offset spatula, or you can pipe it on.  I chose the piping method, as you can see.

Sprinkle each cupcake with red sugar.  You can dye sugar yourself by adding a few drops of food colouring to a sealed bag of granulated sugar and shaking it around, or you can just buy it.  In this case I had some on-hand already.  Clever me.Then make sure to share them with all your friends!