Friday, September 30, 2011

Apple Pie in Disguise

One of my favorite things about this time of year is Apple Pie! But pie requires a lot more effort to eat and share, you have to have plates, forks, toppings, etc. That's why I love cupcakes, they are so easy to pass around! I stumbled across a recipe from the Craving Chronicles and thought it was a perfect addition to my cupcake recipe collection, with a few modifications. I have posted my edits below so you can enjoy too!

This is probably the MOST labor-intensive cupcake I have ever attempted, but it was soooo worth the effort! I even got compared to a professional baker!

Apple Pie Cupcakes 
makes 24 cupcakes

These consist of several parts:
1) cinnamon-nutmeg cupcakes
2) apple filling
3) vanilla caramel sauce
4) caramel butter-cream frosting

Part 1: The Apple Filling
I chose to make this part first because it needs to cool completely before filling the cupcakes. And frankly, I hate peeling apples, so I figured I would get the worst part out of the way.

2 T unsalted butter, softened
4 apples, I used Johnathan apples (my mom picked them at Eckert's for me)
1T sugar
2 1/2 T dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 T cornstarch
1T water

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat, I used a small pot and had some overflowing apples. 
Add Apples, sugars, lemon juice, and spices. 
Cook until apples are tender, it will look watery. It took about 8-10 mins for me.
Combine Cornstarch and water, then add to apple mixture.
Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. 

Part 2: The Dreaded Caramel Sauce
This was my first (and second) attempt at making homemade caramel. I went in thinking "I can do this!", but it did not go well the first time! I figured it though, and ended up with some pretty delicious vanilla caramel sauce.

The recipe originally called for a split vanilla bean, but it was difficult to scrape the seeds out, the seeds went straight to the bottom, and it did not taste very much like vanilla. So, the second time around I just used vanilla extract. 

3/4 C sugar
1 1/4 C heavy whipping cream (room temperature)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Mix vanilla with cream. 
Use a very large pot, and spread sugar onto bottom of pot. If the sugar is too deep, it will burn before it melts. 
Stir with a whisk constantly until it starts bubbling. Stop stirring and when it looks the color of one of those square caramel chews and smells of caramel, remove from heat. 
Immediately whisk in vanilla cream mixture until smooth, return to heat if clumps form. Be careful not to overcook the caramel though. This will bubble and be very very hot!
Freeze until you are ready to make the frosting. 

Part 3: The Cupcakes 
(the easiest part)

1 C whole milk
1/2 C unsalted butter, room temperature
2 C flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 3/4 C sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners.
Heat milk and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until butter melts. Remove from heat. 
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
Using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat eggs and sugar for about 5 minutes. 
Add flour mixture and beat on low just until incorporated. Add milk mixture and vanilla, and beat until blended. 
This will look very liquidy, but they puff up nicely in the oven.
Divide evenly among baking tins. Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pans until almost cool, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Once cool, use a paring knife to make a cone shape hole in the center of the cupcakes. 
Fill with a spoonful of apple filling. 
Remove the excess cupcake from the 'lids' and replace the top. 

Part 4: Caramel Swiss Meringue Butter-Cream Frosting
Anytime I see the words 'Swiss meringue butter-cream', I cringe a little bit. It's the most time-consuming icing I think there is, but its always delicious! Light, and airy perfection. 

Unfortunately, this will make about 30% more icing than you need. 

6 large egg whites OR 2/3 C plus 1/4 C egg white mixture (I'm too lazy to do it myself!)
1 1/2 C granulated sugar
Pinch of kosher salt (I always wondered why people use kosher salt, now I know: its coarser than normal salt)
3 sticks unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 C Vanilla Caramel sauce (make sure its completely cooled first)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Place a small saucepan with about an inch or two of water over medium-low heat and bring to a simmer. Combine egg whites, sugar and salt in the metal bowl of a stand mixer. Place bowl over pan of simmering water and whisk constantly until mixture an instant-read thermometer reads 160°F. (It will start to look frothy.) 
Remove bowl from heat and attach to stand mixer. Beat with the whisk attachment until stiff meringue peaks form, about 10 minutes. 
Switch to paddle attachment. On low speed, add one cube of butter at a time, waiting until incorporated before adding the next. 
Once all butter is added, on low speed slowly pour in caramel. Add vanilla and continue beating until smooth. 
Freeze bowl of icing for 15 minutes. Then return to stand for another quick beat. 
Pipe onto cupcakes, I used my Wilton 1M tip.

Drizzle caramel sauce on top and you're ready to enjoy!

For best results, refrigerate overnight and enjoy for breakfast the next morning! :)

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