Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rolo Cupcakes

It's that time of year when everywhere you turn there are pumpkin pies, apple desserts, turkey dinners and other fall staples. Williams-Sonoma has added autumn touches to all of their merchandise (this was under the category baking essentials -- explain to me how this is essential?), grocery stores are running 'specials' on canned pumpkin even though we are probably paying double what they charge in April (can you even get canned pumpkin in April? Note to self, make something pumpkiny this spring to find out.), and in my neighborhood, everyone is pumped about a little parade that is held on Thanksgiving where they blow up the balloons just a few blocks south of us.

Now that I have you all harvest-focused, I am going to break the reverie for a moment to present these cupcakes that are so sweet and so chocolaty and so delicious (and so beautiful!) that you won't miss the warm colors or the smell of cinnamon. Instead, think more along the lines of so-much-sugar-you-feel-your-heartbeat-increase and the-fun-doesn't-stop-on-the-outside since each of these has a surprise center that gets you every time. Hello Rolo Cupcakes, where have you been all my life?
I made these a few weeks ago to share with a few of our friends as well as to try to woo Robbie's coworkers into offering him a full-time position instead of the freelancing position he held. He is now a full-benefit employee as of last month and I have established my baking cred amongst our group of friends here in the city. I attribute both of these accomplishments to these cupcakes.

Rolo Cupcakes
Adapted from My Baking Addiction

For the Cakes
1 18.25 ounce package Devil's Food Cake mix
1 5.9 ounce package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp vanilla
24 frozen Rolos (I let mine freeze overnight)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners. Using the paddle attachment of a mixer, beat together the cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil, eggs, water and vanilla until smooth. Evenly divide the batter amongst the tins. Push a frozen Rolo in the center of the batter, being sure to smooth the batter over the candy. Bake for 18-22 minutes until top is springy to the touch. Cool the cupcakes thoroughly on the wire rack.

For the Frosting
4 sticks unsalted butter; room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/3 cup caramel syrup
1 1/2 pounds confectioners' sugar

Cream the butter in the bowl of an electric or stand mixer. Add the extract, salt and caramel syrup and combine well. Begin adding in the sugar and mixing thoroughly after each addition. Add more caramel syrup if you want more of a caramel taste. I ended up adding another 1/3 of a cup.

For the Ganache
4 ounces bitter sweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla (I have a confession, I accidently left the vanilla out of the ganache. To my knowledge, no one noticed.)

24 Rolos for garnish

In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the heavy cream until very hot but not boiling. Place the chocolate pieces in a heat safe bowl (I used a Pyrex measuring cup). Place chocolate pieces in a heat safe bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and allow to sit for about 5 minutes. I used this time to begin frosting the cupcakes. Whisk the cream and chocolate until smooth and thoroghly combined. Whisk in the honey, corn syrup and vanilla (if you can remember the vanilla). Allow to cool for about 15 minutes. I used this time to finish frosting the cupcakes. You do not want it to harden so that you can't spoon it over the frosting so you may want to check back on it. Once cakes are frosted with the caramel buttercream, spoon the glaze over the tops of the cupcakes. Top each cupcake with a Rolo and stand back for the stampede.

Friday, November 04, 2011

White Bean Soup with Andouille and Kale

This past weekend I experienced several firsts -- my first ever New York snowfall (not the brown slush I have encountered on previous trips post-snowfall); my first October snowfall (I didn’t even know snow existed before Christmas time), and my first New York Halloween.
I learned several things with which I will now enlighten you:

1) The weathermen up here are legit. If they say it is going to snow in October, then it is going to snow in October. Even if a borderline for the snowfall is mentioned (as in “we may be on the line for some snowfall”) that should be understood as “get ready for three inches of snow.” If only they were this good with hurricane strength predictions. 

2) Evidently there are different types of snow. In NC, when a forecaster mentioned snow, I would immediately stop listening and stare at the sky in anticipation of the appearance of any white substance. It is so abundant up here that they categorize. This one was classified as ‘big and wet’ which I was excited about because I was expecting dog-like kisses falling on my head. Which leads me to my third realization . . . 

3) It is perfectly acceptable to use your umbrella in a snow storm. I went out without one in order to get the full effect of the dog-like kisses and instead, returned a drenched mess. Note to self - see realization #1 about the validity of weathermen. Big and wet means big and wet. I will take my umbrella next time. 

4) Halloween in NYC is still awesome with street-organized trick or treat routes of which you can opt in or out (Sadly we had none since they politely told us we were not needed after hearing we were on the 5th floor --I thought kids needed to be more active these days!) and various monsters/princesses/etc. riding on the subway as they head to various Halloween parties. Good luck determining if those green and red striped tights with the red heels on the 20-something next to you are part of a Halloween costume or just part of their Monday attire.  

5) Shops give out candy! Kids go from the deli to the food stand guy to the pet store to pick up candy. I got a mini-Snickers bar from my cleaners! I would have preferred a 40% discount but I’ll take what I can get. 

6) Evidently Halloween is one of my husband’s favorite holidays (I never thought to ask him this fact) and my plan to stay in and watch Twilight together was grudgingly accepted. So next year we are dressing up as Wall Street protesters and hitting the Village. I promise.

And so, with snow making its appearance before November, I am ready to hunker down for some winter cooking. Starting with this soup. I am SO glad I said ‘yes’ to packing my crock pot even though it is kept five feet above my head in our overhead closets and therefore a bear to get down and put back up because, even with the storage hassle, this soup was delicious and enough for the two of us to eat off of for a week - very handy for the inevitable snowfall that will make us want to stay in our (well-)heated apartment snuggling with Newt. 

Happy (snow!) Fall!
White Bean Soup with Andouille and Kale
From Real Simple

1 pound dried white beans (I used cannellini)
1/2 pound andouille sausage links, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 sprigs fresh thyme or another appropriate herb (I used sage because they share a song lyric)
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 bunch kale, stems discarded and leaves cut into bite-sized pieces (about 8 cups)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

In a 4 - 6 quarter slow cooker, combine the beans, sausage, onion, celery and herbs. Add the brother and stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours until the beans are tender. Twenty minutes before serving, discard the stems from your fresh herbs and add the kale. Cover and cook until the greens are tender for another 15 to 20 minutes. Add the vinegar and salt and pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon each).