Sunday, July 5, 2015

Key Largo Cupcakes

It has been many years ago, but it is hard to forget my leisurely summers on the beach in Florida. During those years, I was anxious to grow up and did not realize to cherish that time in my life - you know, the teenage years.

Since Florida, I still favor the tart citrusy fruits, never getting enough Key Lime pie or fresh lemonade- which brings me to this recipe.

A plain vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting can be found just about anywhere. It does not remind me of any particular place or particular event. Nothing wrong with a vanilla cupcake, but we all can use a little pizzazz. Face it, we all actually need it. A change from jeans to the little black dress or from plain white Keds sneakers to Camouflage Nike tennis shoes.

The first "pizzazz" addition to this vanilla cupcake is the filling made with coconut and white chocolate. The filling is baked in. Outside of that, as the cupcakes are cooling, they are brushed with pure key lime juice that soaks into the cake part. With the coconut to lime ratio being about even at this point, I decided to top the cupcakes with vanilla french buttercream and sprinkles of lime zest.

Tweaks are still needing on the filling in the area of consistency only, but the taste is spot on. For more details regarding this, please go to the notes at the end of the recipe.

No vacation lined up in the near future? Don't despair. Getting to the Florida state of mind is less costly and easy. Call a friend after work, grab some lawn chairs and put on some of that real coconut-smelling tanning lotion. Set out the cooler with ice and drinks and get outside. Lay in the sun until sunset, laughing and talking with your friend. End the evening with a few of these cupcakes. Also, if anyone asks about vacation travels- tell them you have, in a way, been to Key Largo.....This recipe makes about 2 dz cupcakes.

Key Largo Cupcakes
by Flourtrader

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 vanilla bean seeds (scraped out of 1 vanilla pod)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup or 1 1/2 sticks butter

3/4 tsp coconut extract
2 tbs butter
1/3 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup sweetened coconut
1/4 cup corn syrup
4 oz white chocolate bars (chopped into pieces)

1/4 cup key lime juice
French buttercream icing (adapted from Robicellis recipe)
         1 cup water
         2 cups sugar
         2 tbs corn syrup
         1/4 tsp cream of tartar
         5 egg yolks
         1 egg
         1/8 tsp xanthan gum
         3 sticks of butter (1 1/2 cups)
3 tablespoons of lime zest

Prepare two 12 cavity muffin tins by greasing the top edge of the cavities and lining with cupcake papers. Set aside. Also, line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

The filling will need to be made first. Set up a double boiler and heat until bottom pot of water simmers.  Fill top pot with all the filling ingredients except sweetened coconut. Cook until chocolate has melted. Remove from double boiler and transfer chocolate mixture into a regular saucepan. Place over medium high heat and stir in coconut. Let cook for about 20 minutes until it turns thick, like syrup. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. In order to speed up the process, you can transfer to a cool bowl.

Once it has cooled, scoop up tablespoons and drop onto parchment paper. Filling will run to a point, forming saucers (almost like small pralines).  After all the filling has been put on cookie sheets, place cookie sheets into the freezer.

For the cupcakes, start by placing the butter in a microwave safe bowl. Place bowl in microwave and melt using medium heat for about 1 1/2 minute. Pull out bowl and stir, making sure all is melted.  Then set aside.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Set up a stand mixer and add the eggs to the bowl.  Beat until frothy on medium speed.  This should take about 2 minutes. Turn mixer speed up to medium high and slowly stream in melted butter.  After all the butter is blended, remove bowl from stand.

Stir coconut milk, regular milk, oil, vanilla bean seeds and vanilla extract into egg/butter mixture. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, salt and baking powder. Then whisk the sugar into the sifted ingredients. Fold this dry mixture into the liquid batter, mixing just until no dry streaks remain.

Scoop out batter and fill each muffin cavity. The cavities should only be filled 2/3 of the way up.  Take out cookie sheets with filling. Filling will be very sticky. Using floured fingers, roll each piece into a ball and place in the center of the batter of each cupcake.

Bake cupcakes for about 10 minutes, then rotate pans and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes. Use a tester to check for doneness, but test it off-center since the filling is in the center. Remove pans and place on racks to cool for 5 minutes. Lightly brush lime juice on top of the cupcakes and then from pan to cooling rack.

To make the buttercream, add water and sugar to a saucepan, clip a candy thermometer on the edge  and place over high heat. Then stir in corn syrup and cream of tartar. Let the mixture cook, without stirring until the temperature reaches 235 degrees. This will need to be checked periodically while completing other steps, since cooking to the stated temperature can take some time.

In the meantime, add the egg yolks and egg to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high speed. Beat until they have tripled in volume. Correct consistency can be tested by pulling the beater blade out. The eggs should now stream like ribbons back into the bowl. Beat in the xanthan gum. Turn mixer off.

Check back on the sugar/water mixture and wait until it reaches correct temperature. At the correct temperature, turn mixer back on to medium speed. As the mixer runs, pour hot sugar liquid into the batter in a steady small stream. After all is mixed together, run mixer until the batter reaches room temperature. While it is cooling, start shaving your butter into slices with a cheese slicer or a vegetable peeler.

After the sugar/egg batter has cooled, start adding pieces of the shaved butter, continuing to run the mixer. Once all the pieces are blended in, change the mixer speed to medium high and beat for about 20 seconds creating a smooth buttercream frosting.  Pipe the frosting on top of the cupcakes and sprinkle on lime zest.

Tips and Notes:
1. The perfect filling would not require freezing and would not sink in the cupcake when baked in the batter, I am still working on developing a better consistency. Candy consistency that is light enough not to sink.

2. The original buttercream recipe stated butter measurement of  1 1/2 lbs. As I was making this, I was happy with the consistency and taste after only adding 3/4 of a pound. This is personal preference, so feel free to experiment with this measurement.

3. I recommend a 1/2 day for flavors to meld and best served shortly after that. Cupcakes and icing do not do well stored in the refrigerator.

4. Instead of adding the vanilla bean to the batter, you can also use vanilla infused sugar.  This is done by scraping vanilla seeds into the sugar.  Then mix together, cover and let flavors meld for about 1-2 weeks prior to use.
                                   **LAST YEAR: Chocolate Truffle Cookies**