Bacon Avocado Bites

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Today is Victoria Day, the final day in a long weekend that in Canada is the official herald of the summer to come. It’s the long weekend where people get together for barbecues and outdoor parties, where people open up their cottages and put their boats in the water. It’s the weekend where garden enthusiasts can finally plant all those frost-fearing plants they’ve been keeping inside. It’s a weekend to spend enjoying fresh air and the company of friends.

The Pie is out of town at a tournament this weekend and so I had all sorts of social events planned to keep me from getting lonely and bored by myself. At the eleventh hour, however, literally as I was walking out the door on Friday night to the first of my social engagements, I realized I had picked up a stomach bug from one of my coworkers (despite our best efforts) and I had to cancel everything. While it was a mild case (I’m mostly fine now), I knew it was infectious and one of my events was a brunch with Gen. Zod, a pregnant Atlas, and my immunocompromised mother. So that was a no-go.Avocado Bacon Bites 7

But I’d already bought all the food for it, and so in the moments when I wasn’t feeling terrible, I decided to make smaller amounts of my recipes for the brunch anyway, just to keep myself from going stir crazy with only Gren for company. This one from Sweet Treats & More is ridiculously easy and can be scaled for events of any size. They make great finger food for brunch, lunch, or even dinner. Start by setting your oven to broil and haul out a broiling pan or a baking sheet with a cooling rack set in it.

Then set to and halve, pit, and peel however many ripe avocados you want to use.

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Cut those up into as close to cubes as you can get. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper. I feel like a small gob of goat cheese, brie, or a pecan wouldn’t go amiss tucked into the little indentation left by the pit.

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Then grab a slice of turkey bacon (you can use whatever bacon you want for this of course) for each cube of avocado and wrap it up. Jab a toothpick into it to keep it shut. Wouldn’t want that juicy avocado to escape.

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Lay the little packages on your pan and shove them in the oven.

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I think it depends on how high your rack is and how hot your broiler is because the original recipe called for 10-15 minutes and mine took 8 minutes before they were a little on the charred side. So keep an eye on them.

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Tasty, tasty little bites!

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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!