Friday, 21 December 2012

Brown butter cupcakes & caramel-apple topping

This is another one of my go-to cupcake recipes: brown butter cupcakes. The batter is so extremely delicious that I have to be careful not to eat half the batter before I manage to fill it into cupcake liners. The dough may actually be a tiny tad more delicious than the actual cupcakes... which are amazing, too, though.

They are the perfect canvas for any kind of frosting - they don't overshadow extravagant frostings but are so yummy on their own that a simple vanilla or chocolate frosting would totally suffice.

The cupcakes taste a bit of vanilla and caramel, which is why I like to pair them with a caramelised apple topping.

The recipe for the brown butter cupcakes is from one of my favourite cupcake blogs, The Cupcake Project. They're relatively easy to make and so far, people have loved them (either that or I have been lied to).

All you'll need for the cupcakes (minus the icing) is this:

  • 1/2 cup/113 g butter, unsalted (doesn't even have to be room temperature!)
  • 1 1/2 cups/150 g of cake flour, not self-rising (I don't own cake flour and I don't think it's a thing here in Germany. So I always follow the tip I found on Whisk Kid: just take out 2 tablespoons of flour for every cup of flour and replace it with 2 tablespoons of cornflour)
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup/225 g of sugar
  • 1 packet/10 g of vanilla sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole milk

Now. Where does the "brown butter" come in? Right now. 

1. Take the butter and melt it in a pan over medium heat. You will have to heat the butter for quite a while, about 10-15 minutes after it has melted completely. Stir occasionally so it doesn't actually burn - the goal is to merely brown the butter, not burn it. It's a bit hard to tell the colour of the butter while it boils so you can tell best whether it's done by the look of the bubbles. At first the bubbles are big but what you want is for the butter to form foam-like small bubbles - then it's done. This is the progress of your butter, from top left to bottom right:
Browning butter.

2. Take the butter off the heat and let it cool down. Not so much that it gets firm again, just from "freakin hot" to "slightly warm".
3. In the meantime, sift together flour, cornflour, baking powder, baking soda and salt (not in your main mixing bowl).
4. With an electric mixer, beat your egg whites until they are frothy.
5. While still beating the egg whites, slowly add the sugar in a steady drizzle.

Left: light and frothy egg white.
Middle: slowly adding the sugar.
Right: consistency after the sugar has been added.

6. In a steady stream, add the brown butter while still beating the dough on medium-low.
7. Alternating with the milk, mix in the flour mixture.

The finished batter.

8. Fill the cupcake liners about three quarters full.

9. Bake at 180 °C/350 F for about 20 minutes.

The consistency of the finished cupcakes is nice and fluffy:

Extra tipp: Usually when I make those, I fold in minced caramelised almonds. I would've done it this time, too, but ran out of time. It's a crowd-pleaser, believe me. Just cut up almonds (or just buy almond slivers), brown them slightly in a frying pan, carefully add sugar and caramelised them. With the help of a spatula, spread them on a baking sheet to cool down (careful, melted sugar is HOT and the worst thing you can do to a ceramic glass cooktop). If necessary, break them apart into small pieces once they've cooled down (cos mine always stick together). Fold them into the dough as a last step before filling the batter into the cupcake liners.

Caramelised apple topping:

Sadly, without pictures. But it's dead easy. Just slice an apple rather thinly and fry it with a bit of butter and quite a bit of sugar in a frying pan for a bit. Turn the slices so they don't burn. Once they look caramel-coloured, take them off the heat and let them cool for a bit. Turn the whole thing (apple slices and whatever juices have formed) into a mush with the help of a food processor. If you can be bothered, put the mush into a pan and over medium-high heat, try and reduce the mush while constantly stirring it (the less water i has, the moe you can mix into your frosting without the frosting getting too thin).

Now whip up a basic cream cheese frosting:

  • 1/2 cup/1 stick/113 g of butter, room temperature
  • 220 g of cream cheese
  • vanilla extract if desired
  • 3-4 cups of powdered sugar (have more on hand to adjust the stiffness once the apple sauce is added)

Add the apple sauce, a table spoon at a time until you're satisfied with the taste and consistency - you may have to add another couple of cups of confectioners' sugar. It won't easily be brought to piping consistency without having the apple flavour diluted too much, so better aim for a spreading consistency.

Spread the frosting on the cupcakes - voilĂ . There you go, an autumnal, wintery cupcake.

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