Wednesday, March 7, 2012

caramel macchiato cupcakes

Growing up, I had a nanny who was originally from Peru. One of my favorite activities was making Alfajores, which are a Lain American cookie, basically dulce de leche shortbread cookie sandwiches (dusted with powdered sugar {are you drooling yet?}). Simple shortbread cookies are my favorite, but that spread in the middle is just pure heaven. I can't tell you how many cookies were lost in the process because I purposely broke them while making the sandwiches the cookies are really delicate and a 7 year old doesn't have the gentlest touch. The best part was (quite like a beignet) inhaling the cookie too fast and breathing in powdered sugar, inducing a combination coughing/laughing fit for the next few minutes.

I'll have to make them for you some time.

These cupcakes are kinda-sorta inspired by those cookies (in that I ate the dulce de leche out of the can with a spoon while cooking used the same dulce de leche for the caramel part). One of my favorite spring/summer drinks is an iced caramel macchiato, and since it's not quite warm enough for iced coffee I thought a nice compromise would be a cupcake. The espresso and caramel go together so well, and instead of full-on frosting I chose a simple whipped cream to mimic the milk in the drink. Since the caramel is pretty rich, the cream cuts through it nicely. If I were you, I would make these sooner rather than later!

Caramel Macchiato Cupcakes (makes 24 mini and 6 full-sized, or 18 full-sized)

1 cup cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 egg whites
1/4 cup whole milk
5 tablespoons butter, softened but still cold
2 shots espresso (about 1/3 cup)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Place the condensed milk can in a pot and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes to give it a head start. Preheat your oven to 350*, line a muffin tin with cupcake papers and spray each with cooking spray. Meanwhile, measure dry ingredients into your mixer bowl. Mix in butter until the mixture has the consistency of crumbs. In a separate bowl or measuring cup, gently whisk together egg whites, vanilla, milk and espresso (I'm sure you could use coffee if you don't have espresso available, or even a small amount of coffee liqueur). Pour about 3/4 of the liquid into the dry ingredients and whisk together, then add the rest until the batter comes together. Evenly distribute the batter among the cups, filling about half way (leave room for the caramel!). Open up the can of condensed milk, which should be a bit more condensed and darker in color at this point. Drop a small amount of caramel into each cupcake and swirl around with a toothpick. Some of it will settle to the bottom, but it will bubble up while baking so it'll still be throughout the cupcake. Bake mini cupcakes for 16-18 minutes and regular cupcakes 20-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let them cool completely before frosting.

For the Whipped Cream

Measure 1 cup of heavy whipping cream and 1/4 cup granulated sugar (I chose granulated over powdered sugar because I think it's a little less sweet - don't worry, it doesn't affect the texture) into your mixing bowl. Whisk on high until you start seeing ripples in the cream that stick (ie the cream isn't just splashing back and forth). Turn off the mixer; when you raise the whisk out you should get soft peaks in the cream. This process will take a few minutes, and I wouldn't walk away otherwise you may end up with sweet butter! Top each cupcake with a dollop of whipped cream.

Check out the other fabulous bloggers participating in recipe madness!
The Cheesefries Stand Alone
Food Feminism Life
Kelly's Stellar Kitchen   

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