Monday, June 8, 2015

Espresso Infused Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Whipped Sea Salt Buttercream, Honey Caramel Sauce, Smoked Fleur de Sel, + Crispy Cake Crumbs

Y'ALL. I am a self-proclaimed cupcake hater. Feel free to glitter bomb if you please, but it's just not my thang. Buttttttttt, these cupcakes have changed my tune. They are by far the best cupcakes I have ever made. The base is a luxurious espresso infused dark chocolate cupcake that has a deep complex flavor, yet manages to stay utterly moist during the baking process. My secret for that texture... a little bit of mayo. I know some of you will squirm, maybe throw your hands up in the air, or scoff at the idea of putting in a condiment that normally belongs on a hamburger into cake batter. But hear me out, okay? My great grandmother, Mama Jones, always added some creamy mayo into her recipes for cake. This is especially important in red velvet cake + any kind of chocolate cake. Listen though, it isn't too weird if you really think about it... mayo is simply eggs + oil whipped together. And well, we already put that in a lot of our cakes from the get=go, so why not give it the little push it needs to make an extra moist cake. Now that you've gotten over the initial shock factor of the mayo, the res of the batter has dark cocoa powder, freshly brewed espresso, buttermilk, and other classic baking ingredients. The star of this show, however, is by far the whipped sea salt buttercream. Why, oh why, I had I never thought of the concept. I never really like buttercream... it was always far too sweet, to the point where I almost just drop dead on the spot. But with the sea salt whipped in, it makes it not too sweet, not too salty... just rightttttt. While living in Savannah, a little gourmet chocolate shop was down the street from our apartment. We went nearly every week, if not twice, just so I could get my favorite truffle that had dark chocolate and a gooey local honey center. It was the most mind-blowing combination that I have ever come across. So a light bulb went off in my head and I just had an itch to top the cupcakes with a homemade honey caramel sauce. It was the perfect. And all those cupcakes needed was a sprinkle of smoked fleur de sel and a crispy dark chocolate cake crumbs. Voila! The best cupcakes y'all will ever eat, and I mean it!! Enjoy :)

For the Espresso Infused Dark Chocolate Cupcakes:
1 ¾C AP Flour
2C Sugar
1C Dark Cocoa Powder (high quality)
2t Baking Soda
1t Baking Powder
1t Kosher Salt
1C Buttermilk, Well-Shaken
½C Mayo
½C Vegetable Oil
2 Extra Large Eggs, Beaten
1t Vanilla Extract
1C Freshly Brewed Espresso

For the Whipped Sea Salt Buttercream:
2 Sticks of Salted Butter, Room Temperature (very soft)
½t Kosher Salt (add a little at a time until you have reached your desired saltiness)
2t Vanilla Extract
4C Confectioners’ Sugar, Sifted
¼C Chilled Heavy Cream

For the Honey Caramel Sauce:
½C Honey
1 Stick of Unsalted Butter
¾C Light Brown Sugar, Packed
1 Can of Sweetened, Condensed Milk
¼t Kosher Salt   
Smoked Fleur de Sel, For Garnishing

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a cupcake pan with liners. Set this aside while you make the batter.
2. For the Espresso Infused Dark Chocolate Cake: Sift together the AP flour, sugar, dark cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of a standing mixer (fitted with the paddle attachment). In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, mayo, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla extract until completely combined. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. With the mixer still on low, pour in the coffee and stir to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the finished batter into the cupcake liners and bake for 10-15 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool completely before topping them with frosting.
3. For the Whipped Sea Salt Buttercream: In the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, add the softened, salted butter and beat until creamy. Throw in the salt and vanilla, and beat again. Start by adding one cup of confectioners’ sugar at a time, whipping it until it is smooth and incorporate before the next addition. Repeat until all of the confectioners’ sugar has been used. Finally, whip in the heavy cream to loosen the texture (you can use a little more if you need to).
4. For the Honey Caramel Sauce: In a medium saucepan, melt the honey, butter, and brown sugar on medium heat. Once melted, let the mixture come to a rolling boil for 2 minutes while stirring continuously. Add in the sweetened, condensed milk and stir to combine. Allow it to cook for another minutes or two so that it will thicken slightly. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt. Let this mixture cool slightly before topping the Buttercream with it.
5. Finishing the Cupcakes: Using a large ice cream scoop, gather the whipped sea salt Buttercream and plop it on top of the cooled chocolate cupcakes. Using a knife or a spoon, smooth out the sides and create a hollowed out center. Pour a little bit of the honey caramel sauce into the center and garnish with a sprinkle of smoked fleur de sel. If you want to decorate them, you can sprinkle on some chocolate sprinkles or toasted cake crumbs.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Summer Strawberry Pizza with Sauteed Ramps, Crumbled Gorgonzola, Shaved Speck, Baby Arugula, + a Balsamic Reduction Drizzle on Multigrain Pizza Dough

Every time Summer starts to creep around, I begin to crave a rustic pizza with fruit as the star ingredient. It might sound delicious to some of y'all... and it might sound absolutely-down-right-disgusting to the rest. But bless your heart, you couldn't be more wrong. Just take my word for it. This pizza came about on a Saturday at our local farmer's market. Don't you love when dishes just come together so spontaneously? We saw  lusciously ripe, ruby red strawberries and some perfectly pungent (yet still mild) wild ramps and I thought, well heck, let's marry those two flavors. I am on a real ramp kick lately. I can't find them at grocery stores in our hood, but at the edge of Spring, you can find them by the barrel, freshly pulled out of the ground by your friendly local farmer. They are the loveliest combination of a leek, green onion, shallot, and garlic. And when they are sauteed, they just mellow out a bit and give any extremely rich recipe a itty bitty kick. So, I spread a thin pesto-like sauteed ramp base on the pizza dough before I loaded it up with a bunch of different cheeses. I crumbled the ever-so-sticky gorgonzola cheese on top for an extra pop of flavor. It perfectly paired with the sweet strawberries. UM YUM. The pizza is finished with shaved Speck, which we prefer to Prosciutto, if you get in a pickle, just use that instead... no biggie. Baby arugula is scattered across the top for its' peppery bite, and anyway, it goes amazingly with strawberries and gorgonzola. And no fruity pizza would be complete without a drizzle of syrupy balsamic reduction. It just wouldn't. So take our word for it, this is something that can't be missed during these hot summer months. I guarantee it!! Enjoy :)

For the Strawberry Pizza:
1 Ball of Multigrain Pizza Dough (regular or whole wheat dough can be substituted)
1 Small Bunch of Ramps, Chopped
2T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
8oz Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella (sliced, torn into small pieces, or shredded)
4-8oz of Ripe Strawberries, Thinly Sliced
¼C Crumbled Gorgonzola Cheese
¼t Dried Red Pepper Flakes
4oz Shaved Prosciutto (we actually used Speck just because we prefer it over prosciutto)
2T Fresh Basil, Minced
Homemade Balsamic Reduction, For Drizzling
1-2 Handfuls of Baby Arugula, For Garnishing
Kosher Salt + Fresh Cracked Pepper, To Taste

1. Preheat your oven to its hottest setting, around 500-550 degrees, and arrange a rack in the middle of the oven. Let your pizza stone heat up in the oven for at least 30-45 minutes.
2. For the Sautéed Ramps: Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add in olive oil, red pepper flakes, and chopped ramps. Sauté until they become fragrant and translucent, but still slightly crunchy and sharp. This usually 5-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set them aside to cool before you spread them on the pizza dough.
3. For the Strawberry Pizza: Create a 12inch round of dough on a semolina dusted pizza peel and spread the sautéed ramps over the top. Place the torn fresh mozzarella evenly across the dough, and then add on the sliced strawberries, crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, some red pepper flakes, kosher salt, and fresh cracked pepper. Slide the pizza onto the heated pizza stone and bake for 12-15 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the cheese has melted and begun to caramelize. Remove it from the oven and immediately lay small piles of the thin slices of speck (or prosciutto) over the hot pizza. Just before serving, scatter the baby arugula on top, followed by a drizzle of balsamic reduction.
4. Cut into slices and serve immediately!