Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Vanilla Vanilla and more Vanilla Cupcakes

After tackling Pierre Herme's recipe I decided I needed something simple and sweet.  Cupcakes came to mind.  I love cupcakes, I just haven't gotten on the cupcake craze bandwagon yet.  And I say yet , because while I was looking for a recipe that sounded enticing,  I came across so many blogs and recipes for cupcakes that I wanted to bake and have added to my "to be baked" list. Well all I can say is watch out,these little sweeties will be making regular appearances on my blog in the future.  I'm working on a chocolate pumpkin one for Halloween .

What is it about little tiny cakes ?  Is it that we don't feel so guilty eating one because it seems harmless-surely something this small couldn't be so bad for us ?  Or is it because they just look so cute in their teenie little cups ?  I do know that when they turn out tasty and just right it seems that one little cupcake isn't enough, so you pop a second one in your mouth-quick walk away from the table now , I know you want that third one or fourth run away from the table.

When I was looking for something simple I was thinking something simple in taste.  Vanilla is my favorite flavor.  Boring ? I don't think so.  I love the smell, it evokes so many memories-like that first time baking sugar cookies at Christmas, or the first time discovering the beautiful crystals on the vanilla bean, or the smell of the sugar canister that's been infused with vanilla beans.  When I was in pastry school the final project of the quarter was having an ingredient assigned to your team and then doing a presentation on that ingredient-history,harvesting,culture associated with it,uses, you get the picture.  My teammate and I were assigned vanilla.  I was jumping for joy-couldn't wait to get started.  I was amazed by how helpful producers and wholesalers of Vanilla were when I contacted them for information .  They seemed to be overjoyed that I was so excited about their product.  I got so many samples that even after giving away samples to my classmates I still have a corner in my bakery supply shelf filled with vanilla. And needless to say we got an A on our project.  Maybe it was the free samples ? Or maybe my attempt at reproducing Pierre Herme's Vanilla Entrement ?  That's another post for another time.  Whatever it was, my love for vanilla just strengthened after the project and is still going strong.  So when I stumbled upon the blog way more than 52 Cupcakes and the Cupcake Queen declared these as awesome I knew it would be my recipe.

Billy's Vanilla, Vanilla Cupcakes
adapted from Billy's Bakery
Makes about 30-36 mini cupcakes

1 3/4 cups cake flour, not self-rising
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened-room temperature, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 large eggs-room temperature
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Vanilla seeds scraped from 2 vanilla beans ( add the beans to your sugar canister when done)

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. With your mixer, use your paddle attachment and  combine flours, sugar, baking powder, vanilla bean scrapings and salt; mix on low speed until combined. Add butter, mixing until just coated with flour.

2. In a large glass measuring cup or bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla. With mixer on medium speed, add wet ingredients in 3 parts, scraping down sides of bowl before each addition; beat until ingredients are incorporated being careful not to over beat.

3. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling about two-thirds full. Bake for approximately 17-20 minutes.  Rotate your pans halfway through.  Bake until  a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
4. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Once cupcakes have cooled, use a small offset spatula to frost tops of each cupcake or use a pastry bag with the tip of your choice to decorate.  Add sprinkles if you like.

Billy's Vanilla Buttercream

Makes enough for 30-36 mini cupcakes
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

6 to 8 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. With mixer on low speed, add 6 cups powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla; mix until light and fluffy. If necessary, gradually add remaining 2 cups sugar to reach desired consistency. I didn't need the additional 2 cups of sugar.

I really liked the icing for these-not to sweet, it really complimented the taste of the cupcake.  It's definitely a recipe for buttercream that I will keep and try with different flavors.  Now go and have a cup of coffee with a couple (because you can't eat just one) of these little sweet cakes and enjoy. Bon Appetit.

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