Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Tale of Two Cupcake Challenges

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Oh, who am I kidding? There can be no bad times when cupcakes are involved!

We're now into the second month of The Sweetest Kitchen's Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge where the theme is white chocolate. Even though I'm not eligible to win again I planned to participate as soon as I saw the ingredient. White chocolate happens to be my husband's favorite! I've been brainstorming ideas to try out over the next month in the quest for another winning combination. So I guess white chocolate was on my mind when I discovered Hoosier Homemade's Summertime Fun Cupcake Challenge. There's a different theme every week in August and this week's theme is flavor. Taken from the website: "What flavor screams Summertime Fun to you? Create a cupcake with that flavor, write a post with the recipe, add pictures and share them!"

Nothing says "summertime fun" to me like fresh produce and noshing on the abundance of goodies my garden produces this time of year. It's actually a miracle that my garden produces anything because I am such an abysmal gardener. My husband even bought a Grim Reaper scarecrow to stick near my plants with the assumption that they'll need his services sooner rather than later. But in the summer things seem to miraculously take care of themselves and flourish. There's nothing better than having fresh tomatoes, basil, and oregano on hand to make homemade pasta sauce. I also love the ready availability of inexpensive fresh fruit in the stores. It's currently peach season where I live and I find myself stocking up on several pounds a week while they're so cheap. With all of that floating around in my head the concept of a fresh fruit summertime cupcake began to coalesce.

I knew I'd begin with a fresh peach cake since I'd been wanting to make Cupcake Project's Peach Cobbler Cupcakes since I first saw the recipe. The cake is indeed moist and delicious with that rustic look that comes from chunks of fresh peach thrown in the mix. I'd planned to pair it with a white chocolate frosting and was trying to dream up just the right filling to go with it. Last night I got my inspiration from my own garden in the form of mint that is crazily attempting to take over my entire front yard. After a quick Google search to help perfect my idea I stumbled across a peach cupcake recipe that uses sage-infused ricotta as a filling. While I'm not quite brave enough to combine savory and sweet like that, I figured I could adapt the idea and instead infuse my ricotta with mint from my garden. Ricotta would be perfect to offset the sweetness of the cake and white chocolate frosting. The best part is I'd be making the ricotta myself so no trips to the store were required. At least I thought that would be the best part because they made it look so easy on their blog.

I should point out that I have zero experience making cheese. I don't think I've even so much as watched a TV program on the subject. Next time I'll make the effort to buy the exact ingredients called for as my substitutions of half and half and skim milk resulted in a ricotta that, while tasty and authentic in flavor, never got to the right texture. I think mine was too thick because of the excess cream so the liquid couldn't drain out properly. I managed to rescue most of it and preserve the ricotta flavor by adding some cream cheese and extra confectioners' sugar to thicken it up. I do think those additions helped make the filling tastier as well. The mint infusion worked perfectly as I dropped four mint leaves into the milk and cream mixture as it heated. I can't wait to try this again and follow the recipe to a T since I love the idea of making my own at home.

The white chocolate ganache whipped up into a lovely light frosting with just the right amount of sweetness to offset the tang of the mint ricotta filling. To give an extra punch of peach flavor and to round out the cupcake I made some peach simple syrup by boiling a diced peach with sugar, water, and corn syrup and spooned some on top of each cupcake. Since I was feeling especially artsy I went ahead and candied a few small mint leaves as decoration. I'll admit that I did eat mine because I can't resist anything covered in sugar (except, perhaps, ants for those of you getting any ideas) and I loved the burst of sweet mint.

So here I am killing two birds with one stone and meeting the requirements for two cupcake challenges. I'm not sure this will be my final entry in The Sweetest Kitchen's challenge because I have a whole month to keep experimenting, which I know thrills my husband to no end. It is, however, exactly what I was looking for to capture my idea of a perfect summertime treat so I shall humbly submit this as my entry at Hoosier Homemade:

Fresh peach cupcakes with mint-infused ricotta white chocolate filling topped with whipped white chocolate ganache and a drizzle of peach simple syrup, all adorned with candied mint leaves.

Whew! That's a mouthful!

Whipped White Chocolate Ganache
Recipe from Vanilla Garlic

12 ounces white chocolate (good quality)
3/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2-3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

1) Chop chocolate and transfer to a heat proof bowl.
2) Heat cream until bubbles form around the edge of the pan. Pour cream over the chocolate.
3) Let sit for 1 minute then stir until combined.
4) Add butter to the chocolate (make sure it's soft) and stir until combined.
5) Whisk together sugar, salt, and vanilla in another bowl until combined.
6) Pour the sugar mixture onto the chocolate mixture, then stir until combined and smooth.
7) Let sit at room temperature until thickened, about 2 hours.
8) Beat with an electric mixer until fluffy.

Note: Keep close watch as this can suddenly separate.

Yields enough to frost 24 cupcakes - you'll have leftovers

Mint-Infused Ricotta White Chocolate Filling
Adapted from Diced Tomato

2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup cream
4 decent sized mint leaves
1/8 tsp salt
2 1/4 teaspoons lemon juice
2 ounces white chocolate
3-4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar

On standby:
A strainer/colander lined with cheesecloth and set on top of a large bowl (just in case your cheese cloth gets away from you, the extra bowl will act as insurance in case some of your cheese curds fall through your sieve).

1) Over high heat, put the milk, cream, salt, and mint in a nonreactive pot to boil. When it boils the mixture should froth and expand.
2) When a boil is reached, reduce heat to medium and add lemon juice. Your mixture will start to curdle almost immediately.
3) Continue to cook for two minutes and then pour into your colander/strainer and allow to drain (you may need to empty the liquid from the bottom of your insurance bowl as you go so that your mixture keeps draining). This should take about an hour or so. Check on it ever so often to pour off any liquid that runs off. Remove mint leaves.
4) Place the white chocolate in a small bowl and microwave at 20 second intervals, stirring after each, until melted and smooth.
5) Beat melted white chocolate and 3 ounces cream cheese in a mixer until smooth. Stir in ricotta and confectioners' sugar by hand. If needed, add additional cream cheese to thicken.
6) Refrigerate until ready to use.

Peach Cupcakes
Recipe from Cupcake Project

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups peaches, roughly chopped (about 2 medium-sized peaches)

1) Line 16 cupcake wells with paper liners. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2) With a fork, whisk flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl.
3) Beat butter and sugars in a large bowl for 1 minute until light and fluffy.
4) Beat in eggs, yogurt/sour cream, and vanilla extract until blended.
5) Mix in flour mixture.
6) Fold in peaches.
7) Fill cupcake liners 1/2 full.
8) Bake at 350 F for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of the cupcake clean.
9) Cool in pan on wire rack 5-10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on rack.

Yields 16 cupcakes

Peach Simple Syrup
Adapted from Cook's Recipes

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 small peach, roughly chopped

1) In a saucepan combine sugar, water, corn syrup and peach pieces. Heat over high heat, and once the peaches are softened a bit mash with a potato masher or fork. Heat to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Simmer syrup, undisturbed, 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Pour syrup through a fine sieve, pressing on solids. Cool at room temperature.

Syrup keeps, covered, in the refrigerator for weeks.

Candied Mint Leaves

1 egg white
Granulated sugar
Small mint leaves

1) Dip mint leaves in egg white and shake off excess.
2) Dunk in a shallow dish of sugar and coat evenly.
3) Set on a baking sheet or wire rack to dry. Once slightly hardened flip over and move to a clean area of the sheet or rack to finish drying.

To assemble the cupcakes:

1) Using the cone method, cut a cone from the top of each cupcake. Spoon approximately one teaspoon of ricotta filling into each and replace the top of each cupcake.
2) Pipe whipped white chocolate ganache onto each cupcake.
3) Spoon a small amount of peach simple syrup onto each cupcake. This is best done immediately before serving.
4) Garnish with a candied mint leaf and enjoy!


Stef said...

Wow! Impressive! Fun to see how you took my peach cupcakes and made them your own.

HoosierHomemade said...

Those look amazing! I love how you displayed them too! Brillant!
Thanks so much for joining the Cupcake Challenge! I look forward to seeing more of your creations!

Jamieanne said...

Yum, they look great! When I chose white chocolate for the theme ingredient I thought that if I could enter my own challenge, I'd do a white chocolate & peach cupcake, so it's funny to see that you've already done one! :)

Have you got any prizes yet from winning July's competition?

Sourkraut said...

Yup, the prizes have been rolling in over the past two weeks. It's like Christmas! Better than Christmas, really, since everything is actually something I want because it's all baking related. Only waiting on two prizes so I'll be in suspense every day until I get home to check the mail while I wait for them arrive.

idesign said...

gorgeous cupcakes :) the look delicious!! new follower from the shabby nest! Come by for a visit sometime :)


21st Century Housewife© said...

These look beautiful - great photographs! The recipe sounds absolutely delicious too. I love the idea of the candied mint leaves.

Ms Bingles Vintage Christmas said...

These look Yummy!
I am so glad that I visted your blog!
Love it!
I am signing up to follow!
Have a good afternoon~

~ dee ~ said...

Do you use a piping tip (if so, which one?) for the frosting, or do you just use the coupler? I can't ever get mine to look like this!

Sourkraut said...

I did use a piping tip but I can't say which one. I've got a huge collection of old ones that my mom passed on to me and now that I've washed it and put it back in the box with the rest of them I have no idea which one I used. Sorry! All I can tell you is it was a large one with a round opening. I'm still working on my piping skills but to get that look it usually takes the right pressure and a lot of frosting slowly piped on top so it has time to spread and fill out. Sorry I couldn't be of more help!