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Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes

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I totally didn’t plan this.

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One of the many benefits of having a teenage niece across the street are those times she decides she wants to bake – and wants your help. Here I was minding my own business, doing things that were probably productive, possibly healthy and definitely didn’t involve cupcakes, and then there she was, just-baked chocolate cupcakes in hand, wanting to make frosting together.

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(She made red velvet cupcakes too, but that’s another story.)

Her goal: salted caramel on chocolate cupcakes. We made a brown sugar frosting, and the caramel was her idea – her plan was to run to the store to buy caramel sauce to dribble overtop, but I explained that caramel could be made easily out of the sugar we already had in probably less time than it would take to run to the store. We brought sugar to a simmer with a bit of water to help it along – and a drop of lemon juice, which helps caramel stay in its liquid state and not crystallize. We swirled the pan until it turned golden, then drizzled some in a thin stream into cold water to make it turn hard and crackly – fun kitchen science – then whisked in some cream (it foams and bubbles – more delicious science!) which turns it into a sauce you can drizzle over ice cream – or cupcakes.

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Em: That’s it? We made caramel?

Me: Yep.

Em: It’s so good! And so much cheaper!

Indeed.

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Look how lovely!

A piping bag with a star tip and some sugar and a pot, and these beauties can be yours.

Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes

Cupcakes:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup strong coffee (I mix together instant decaf)

Frosting:
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp. maple or Roger’s golden syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups icing sugar, plus extra if needed
1-2 Tbsp. milk or cream

Salted Caramel:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/3 cup heavy (whipping) cream
1/4 tsp. sea salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line muffin tins with paper liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt, breaking up any lumps of brown sugar and cocoa.

Add the milk, oil, eggs and vanilla and whisk to combine; add the coffee and stir until well blended and smooth.

Divide the batter among the cups and bake for 25 minutes, or until the tops are springy to the touch. Tip the cupcakes in their tins to allow the steam to escape.

To make the frosting, beat the butter, brown sugar, syrup and vanilla until fluffy. Beat in the icing sugar and milk or cream, adding extra sugar or milk if needed to achieve a spreadable consistency. Spoon into a piping bag with a large star tip and pipe over the cooled cupcakes.

To make the caramel, stir together the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan set over medium-high heat. When it comes to a boil, stop stirring and swirl the pan often, cooking until it starts to turn golden. When it starts to change colour don’t leave the pan – swirl it often until it turns a deep golden – the colour of maple syrup. Remove from heat and whisk in the cream – it will foam up. Whisk in the salt and let cool to room temperature – it can be slightly warm, but not so warm that it will melt the icing.

Dribble over the cupcakes. Makes 1 1/2 dozen cupcakes.

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May 04 2014 | cake | 15 Comments »

Lemon & Honey Ricotta Cheesecake

ricotta cheesecake 1 Lemon & Honey Ricotta Cheesecake

*THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. CONGRATS GISELE!*

I used to make cheesecakes all the time. It was kind of my thing.

This was back in the eighties, when I was a teenager who a) idolized Canadian Living magazine and b) wanted to win the heart of a certain acid wash jeans-wearing boy with Adam Clayton glasses who thought cheesecake was the height of gourmet and requested the New York-style one I had learned to make (from Canadian Living) for every birthday. But the neighbour in the duplex he lived in with his parents – an older German lady – often made a deep cheesecake with a dry, almost crumbly texture that he was enamoured with, and so I set about figuring out how to make one.

Which is what good girlfriends do, right?

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Not able to perfectly replicate it, I eventually moved on to a dense, silky chocolate-mocha cheesecake with a chocolate cookie crumb crust that I made for about ten years before my interest in cheesecake waned – making it that is, not eating it. And yet I have somehow amassed a collection of dozens of springform pan sides and bottoms, approximately two of which actually align with each other.

A recent tub of ricotta brought back memories of that German-style cheesecake, and I thought I’d meet it halfway – not all dry and crumbly, but a little more rustic than the usual rich and creamy.
And because my spontaneous decision to bake a cheesecake came about approximately twenty minutes before I had to go pick up W from school, I decided to do the whole thing in the food processor – pulse gingersnaps into dust, add melted butter to turn them into wet sand that can be pressed into the bottom of the one springform pan I could find, then whiz the ricotta-cream cheese-honey-lemon-eggs into a perfectly smooth filling that required only pouring and baking. Almost instant, this. Which is not generally what I think of when I consider baking a cheesecake from scratch.

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Making a cheesecake kind of seems like a bigger deal than it actually is. Look! No biggie.

Also? Once baked, my cheesecake will lie in wait in the fridge for a party on Saturday, all ready to go, no decorating required save for a handful of berries. Yay cheesecake!

Tip:

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I know – not everyone owns a food processor. So before we get to the recipe, to make up for being MIA lately I’ve got a fancy schmancy new one to give away! One of you will have a KitchenAid 13-Cup Food Processor with ExactSlice™ System (valued at $299.99!) delivered to your door (sorry, Canadian residents only) for your processing pleasure. This one is particularly great for big chopped salads and slaws – but it makes a perfectly smooth cheesecake too – even when you only have 20 minutes to get it into the oven. (Read more about my experience with this particular machine over here.)

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To enter, leave a comment. Say anything! I’ll do a random draw on Friday.

THE CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED! CONGRATULATIONS GISELE!!

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Lemon & Honey Ricotta Cheesecake

Adapted from Giada.

Crust:
2 rows (about 1 dozen) small gingersnap cookies
1/4 cup butter, melted

Filling:
1 475 g tub ricotta cheese
2 8 oz (250 g) pkgs cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
grated zest of a lemon or orange
4 large eggs

fresh berries, for topping (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the cookies into crumbs – you should have about 1 1/2 cups. Add the butter and pulse until well blended. Press into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan and bake for 12 minutes, until pale golden.

Put the ricotta, cream cheese, sugar, honey and lemon zest into the bowl of the food processor – no need to wash it out – and pulse until well blended and smooth. Add the eggs and pulse just until blended.

Pour the cheese mixture over the crust and bake for 1 hour, until set but still slightly jiggly in the middle. Cool in the pan on a wire rack, then refrigerate until cold, which should take a few hours. (Can be made up to a few days ahead.)

Serve in wedges, topped with berries. Serves 8.

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button print gry20 Lemon & Honey Ricotta Cheesecake

April 30 2014 | cake and dessert | 423 Comments »

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