Monday, October 22, 2012

Pistachios and Memories

Pistachios were always a treat growing up .  My mom loved them and got me addicted to them.  In those days the only way to buy pistachios was with Red Dye number something or other .  I grew up thinking pistachios were naturally red.  Of course I've learned the real story about red pistachios, but honestly,even with the crazy chemicals in the red dye I miss those stained red fingers, red lips and red teeth.  That was one treat you could never sneak a bite of, your fingers and lips gave you away immediately.  I rarely buy pistachios in their shell anymore-one of those childhood treats that has fallen by the wayside.  Now when I buy pistachios it's usually for something I'm baking.  After I saw these beautiful  Pistachio and Olive Oil Teacakes on White on Rice's  blog I found myself hurrying out to the grocery store to buy pistachios ! The original recipe for these was for a lovely bread found on the beautiful blog: Farm to Table Geek .

Want the recipe for the Pistachio Olive Oil Teacakes ?  Click here and visit WhiteOnRice.  I decided to add a little orange glaze to my tea cakes, it added just a little bit more moisture and really enhanced the taste of the pistachios.
Orange Glaze

2 Tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
1 cup powdered sugar
Mix the orange juice and powdered sugar until no lumps remain. Drizzle over the Pistachio cakes .

Friday, October 12, 2012

Butter Pecan Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream and Candied Pecans

Woke up to fog this morning and rain this afternoon. Yes I'm whining about the weather-again.  Don't get me wrong, I am so very grateful for the gorgeous extended summer weather we have been enjoying but I wanted it to last, at least until March !  I'm glad we went camping last weekend  at Mount Rainier, and got to enjoy what now appears to have been the end of Summer as we know it. Fall in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest is pretty spectacular-the way the fog rolls in over the sound; all the gorgeous maple and oaks changing colors; sunny crisp days and cool snugly nights-okay so it's not so bad.

One of the nicest things about the weather changing is all the projects I can accomplish while staying inside. Like baking Butter Pecan Cupcakes.  This recipe has been on my "Want to bake" list forever.  I'm not even sure where the recipe originated. I was on Pinterest this morning (yes I'm one of those people) and spotted a picture of butter pecan cupcakes with Swiss buttercream and candied pecans and knew I just had to make these today.  Butter Pecan Ice Cream is one of my favorites and I thought the flavor would be outstanding in a cupcake.  I also didn't want the frosting to over power the cupcake so I thought Vanilla buttercream would be perfect (also one of my favorites). And just to dress it up a bit-the candied pecans.  Yes it's 3 components you have to put together-but they aren't complicated.  Trust me-have I ever led you down the wrong road ?

So until the fog burns off  (not looking like it will ), I will be in the kitchen putting these little lovelies together. Enjoy !

Butter Pecan Cupcakes
Yield: 24 cupcakes
1 1/4 cups butter
2 cups chopped pecans
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 F and line your muffin pans with cupcake liners
Melt 1/4 cup butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the pecans and brown the butter and pecans for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until fragrant.(Caution-pay very close attention to browning the butter with the pecans-they can go from fragrant to stinky burnt in the blink of an eye). Remove from heat and set aside.
In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In another large bowl cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.Add the eggs two at a time to the creamed butter and sugar component, mixing well after each addition. Add half of the flour mixture and mix well .
Add the milk and vanilla, again mixing well. Mix in the rest of the flour and then fold in the pecans . Fill your cupcake liners to just a little over 1/2 full but not 3/4 full-or they will overflow.
Bake for 18 - 22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into a cupcake

Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Yield: 5 cups
5 large egg whites
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar
Pinch of salt
1 lb. (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon vanilla bean paste (Optional)
To make the frosting, combine the egg whites, sugar and salt in a double boiler or heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.

Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated. If the frosting looks curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (don't panic at the separated appearance, it will come together!) Stir in the vanilla extract and vanilla bean paste and mix  until incorporated. 

Note: If you have trouble with your buttercream head over to Sweetapolita's blog. Not only is this a blogalicious blog, she has a great recipe for Swiss Buttercream along with step by step instructions.

Candied Butter Pecans
Yield: 1 cup
3/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 cup pecans
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl and set aside.
Saute butter and maple syrup in a large pan, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Add nuts and toss to coat. Transfer nuts to a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the top of the nuts and toss gently to coat; don't over toss because the sugar will dissolve and won't stick to the top of  the nuts.
Spread out the nuts ensuring they are not touching one another.
Toast in the oven for 5 minutes. Let nuts cool completely.