Thursday, April 26, 2012

Black and White Overdrive: Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

I can't believe it's been so long. People, I am so sorry. This month has been a whirlwind of writing and baking and planning and scheming and, oh.  I don't even know where to start. There are so many projects swirling around, all of them replete with promise and good intentions and ideas and excitements. We are so switched on around here, we don't have much "off" time. I've been just about keeping up.

I have been baking all along, of course, but here's one I can share with you. It's an adapted recipe from Bakerella. It involves submerging an Oreo cookie (or its ilk) in the actual cupcake batter, which is really liquidy, or breaking up a cookie so it becomes more of a chunky cupcake kind of experience: you decide which you prefer, but I just plum submerged the cookie itself, intact. You then top said cupcake with frosting, naturally, and another cookie. In my case, I was down to only six cookies, so I had to break them and half to make them go twice as far. So they became little half moons. And I didn't use Oreos, because the film they leave in my mouth is so gross. So I bought the Newmans O's which don't have partially hydrogenated anything. I know it's still a processed cookie; bugger off. This is hard work, people. Heh-heh.

Ms. Bakerella says you should get at least 12 cupcakes, but any recipe with 1 1/2 cups flour and then another 1/2 cup of cocoa is pushing way past a dozen. but I got way more than 12 cupcakes. I got more like almost two dozen. I suppose that means I got about 20.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder
2 Tbsp. black cocoa powder (Note: If you don't have it, don't sweat it. But damn, this stuff is intense and really amps up the flavor.)
1 1/3 cup sugar
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. espresso powder
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. coffee extract
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup hot water
18 Oreos (or 24 if you have a fresh, unopened package, which I clearly did not.)

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
4 Tbsp. shortening
1 tsp. vanilla
3-4 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
3-4 Tbsp. milk
2 tsp. or more of Oreo cookie crumbs
Note: You know how to make crumbs, right? In my case, I used almost an entire jar of Duff Cookies and Cream Sprinkles, because I spotted them at Michaels the week before and nabbed them, knowing this project was in my future.)

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and line one and a half muffin trays with cupcake liners. Alternately, you can always coat it with a baking spray or hit it with some good old-fashioned butter smeared into pan.
2. Either break apart about 12 cookies and place the crumbs in each cup, or place one entire cookie on the bottom of each cup. (The whole cookie will likely float to the top during baking. Wish I'd taken a photo of that but these cupcakes went too quickly for that.)
3. Combine the dry ingredients--the flour through espresso powder--in a medium-sized bowl.
4. Combine the eggs, oil, vanilla, coffee extract, and milk in a separate bowl and whisk together for a few seconds.
5. Dump eggy-oil mix into the dry ingredients. Combine.
Note: I like to start off cakes and cupcakes that come together this way by folding in the dry ingredients, but then finish it up with a small whisk to make sure all the lumps are gone, gone, gone.
6. Add the hot water and mix well until thoroughly incorporated.
7. You can then do one of two things. If you're lucky, you've got mixing bowls with little spouts on them like I do, and you can slowly pour this pretty aqueous batter into the cupcake pan, filling it about 3/4 full. Or you can transfer it to one of those large Pyrex glass measuring cups, and pour along that way. I normally recommend using a 1/4 cup cookie/ ice cream scoop, but that got messy. Halfway through I switched back to the bowl itself and just made sure my hand was steady. I still spilled.
8. Keep going until you have no more batter. You'll likely get 1 1/2 dozen cupcakes.
9. Bake for about 18 minutes until the tops spring back lightly when you touch them or a cake tester comes out fairly clean (you don't want any goop.)
10. Take them out of the oven, put them on a cooling rack and wait ten minutes. Then, transfer them out of the pan to the rack to cool completely. (If you forget this step you may get gummy cupcakes.)

The frosting is pretty straightforward. The original recipe called for all shortening (gulp), but I don't really care for an all-shortening frosting because of the desire to create a white, white base against which the crumbs could be contrasted. To me, no matter what you flavor you put with it, you can always taste shortening in shortening-based frostings; there's this greasy mouthfeel you get. (I know, it goes back to that icky film-in-the-mouth-thing again, doesn't it?)  Even when I do vegan baking, I always use a combination of shortening and Earth Balance. It just tastes better. Trust me on this.

Frosting directions

1. Cream together the butter and shortening in the bowl of a stand mixer.
2. Add your vanilla. Combine.
3. Add the powdered sugar in several increments. I usually do this in 4-5 increments because that stuff makes an unholy mess all over the kitchen if you add too much at once.
4. Add tablespoons of milk as necessary, when things start getting too thick and gunky.
5. If you're adding cookie crumbs, now's your chance. Turn off the mixer and mix in by hand. (I just like doing this kind of stuff by hand.)
6. Frosting! There are a number of ways you can apply the frosting. You can mess around with tips and pastry bags if you want something all sweet and fluffy. I planned to roll the tops in the cookie bits so I didn't see any point in making the frosting a work of art. I used a palette knife and made it as smooth a surface as possible. And then I rolled the Duff crumbs. (That sounds weird.)
7. If you're using an entire cookie, you can carefully ensconce it among the fluffy waves of frosting. Or if like me you have limited resources, you carefully slice them in half with a chef's knife and marvel at how cleanly they break, and put the cut side on top of the cupcake. And then eat one.

These will keep for days. I kept them covered in a cake dome. They were good even 4-5 days later.

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