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Champagne Cupcakes with Grapefruit Curd

  I sat down so many times to start writing this post.  I typed out the recipe, chose my photos, and then started a sentence- only to be eaten up by the unfeeling Mr. Backspace.

  I wondered, how can I make this post beautiful?  Should I (can I?) paint a picture, like Elissa?  Draw you in with a story, like Kaitlin?  Pull out the wit and real-life talk, like Joy?  Play up the sarcasm and make you guffaw, like Yammie?

  I finally caught myself.  How about I just be me?

  Laugh, shrug it off.  I didn't just totally doubt my capabilities here, did I?  Ok, yeah, I did.  It sucked.  And these cupcakes had to suffer weeks of being a lonely "draft" because of it.  In the mean time, I decided to screw up a tart and attempt to wax poetry.

  Just consider yourselves lucky that things are working out now.

 Now, I'm not any of those girls I mentioned above, and if I was...well, things just wouldn't be as special.  I think I'll write like Ellen today.

  And you came here for cupcakes.  Let's talk!

  First off, this batter is heaven.  Sheer heaven.   It's rich, fluffy, and dripping with champagne.  Plus, I just adore sour cream batters.  Don't freak if your cakes bubble up somewhat in the oven, that's just the alcohol throwing a little party.  A bit of frosting and no one will ever know!

  Oh...the frosting.

  If concentrated champagne oozing off of a mound of creamed butter and sugar isn't enough to convince you that this frosting is amazing, then clearly I need to work on my photo-taking skills.

  Sounds lovely, right?  You've got a booze-y vanilla cupcake and a spiked, fluffy frosting.  But, that's a lot of sugar and champagne, right?  You need a little something to complement it...a bit of tartness, if you will.  Enter grapefruit curd.

  But now, unless you're already quite familiar with the cone method, you might be wondering how exactly that curd snuck in there.  I've given instructions within the recipe, but sometimes, you need a visual.

  1. We have here a cooled cupcake, and a small, sharp paring knife.
  2. Take your knife, and cut out a cone-shaped wedge from the center of the cupcake- taking care not to cut all the way to the bottom.
  3. Cut the top off your cone, reserving it to place back on the cupcake.  Also, those little wedges leftover are perfectly bite-size...just sayin.
  4. Fill the cupcake with as much curd as you can fit!  It depends on how big you cut your holes.  I could fit a little over a teaspoon in mine.  Just leave some room to replace the cupcake top.
  5. Replace the cupcake top.  And you're done!  Frost and decorate as you so desire.

  Speaking of inspirational ladies, I made these cupcakes as a little contribution to a house show I went to with my sister, featuring Danielle at the Sandwich and Carly Baer

  Holy lyrics.  That's all I have to say about that.  Well, that, and they liked my cupcakes :)

Champagne Cupcakes with Grapefruit Curd
Yield: 17 cupcakes

Ingredients for the grapefruit curd:
  • 2 teaspoons grapefruit zest (from about 2 grapefruit)
  • 2/3 cup fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice  
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces  
  • Red gel food coloring, if desired

Ingredients for the cupcakes:
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup champagne, prosecco or your choice of sparkling wine  

Ingredients for the frosting:
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons champagne or prosecco, divided
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar 

To make the grapefruit curd, whisk together the zest, grapefruit juice, sugar, lemon juice, and egg yolks in a heatproof bowl.  Place over simmering water (making sure the water isn't in direct contact with the bowl) and cook until thickened, whisking frequently (it will take upwards of 10 minutes).  To check if the curd is thick enough, dip a spoon or rubber spatula in the curd.  If it comes out with a thin coat, it's ready.  Strain the curd through a fine mesh sieve and discard the solids.  Whisk in the butter until combined.  Add a smidge of red gel food coloring, if desired.  Let cool to room temperature, then chill thoroughly in the fridge.  Overnight is best.

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line cupcake pans with liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla and mix to combine.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream and champagne.  Things'll get fizzy and stuff, no worries.  With the mixer on low, add the flour and champagne mixtures alternately, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Fill the cupcake liners with about 1/4 cup of batter, taking care not to fill more than 2/3 of the way full.  Bake for 17-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  (A couple of my cupcakes fizzed and bubbled over a bit, but they still cooked and tasted awesome!) Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, place the 1 1/2 cups of champagne in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.  Simmer until reduced to 3 tablespoons (It will get realllyyy bubbly at first, so take care to stir it a bit so it doesn't boil over.)  Transfer to a small bowl and let it cool completely.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until smooth.  Add the powdered sugar on low until combined, then increase the speed and beat until fluffy.  Add the champagne reduction and 2 tablespoons from the bottle and mix well.

With a small knife, take a cooled cupcake and cut a cone-shaped wedge out of the top of each cupcake.  Cut the top off the cone and reserve it to put back on the cupcake.  Fill the hole with about a teaspoon of grapefruit curd, or just however much will fit, depending on how big you made the hole.  Replace the top of the cupcake and repeat with remaining cupcakes.

To decorate as pictured, fit a pastry bag with a large, star-shaped tip.  Fill the bag with frosting.  Pipe generous swirls onto the cupcakes, and decorate with sprinkles and such as desired.

 Sources: adapted from The Baker Chick, who adapted from Sprinkle Bakes


The Sad Tale of a Tart

***UPDATE: I finally got around to revamping this beauty, find the foolproof recipe here!  You're welcome.
  I know, I'm cruel.  Here I put in front of your faces these tantalizing pictures that look remarkably like a peanut butter chocolate concoction, and yet, no recipe accompanies them.

  That IS rather cruel, but I don't mean it to be.

  You see, Sundays with Joy came across a recipe to be reckoned with this week.  I still adore Joy's book, and if you think about it, one recipe in a hundred certainly isn't bad.  But still, almost all of us had trouble with her tart.

  The crust was notoriously dry for many, and this being my first time even making a tart, I wasn't sure what to look for.  That being said, I did quite a few things wrong.  This tart may look (and even semi-taste) gorgeous, but oh my.

  I considered not posting at all, I considered just letting it lie.  But I'd already taken pictures, and I think you guys know me well enough that I can share my failures as well as successes.  If you've ever harbored secret suspicions that I'm some magical kitchen whiz...I'm here to dash those to bits.

  After adding some milk, I finally got the crust to come together.  But at that point, I think I had it pretty overworked.  I see now that it should've rested in the freezer for longer than an hour, but an hour is what I gave it.  Thus, it went into the oven, puffing and creating holes.  It comes as no surprise then that, as I poured in my liquid-y ganache, it leaked through the crust; creating a mess in my pretty new pan.

  Even after all this, I kept on.  I swirled my peanut butter, I left it to pull itself together in the fridge overnight.

  I had a piece today, and honestly...it was just alright.  I tried to dream up a reason to share it with you, but then I didn't know how I'd begin to write out the recipe.  It needs some work, and just a bit of revision before it's worthy for your tastebuds and kitchen.  The crust was ok..but it's not what I'd pick for a chocolate peanut butter tart.  And that's my own fault.  The original recipe calls for ganache, whipped cream, and fresh berries.  But, well...it's January.  And..I wanted peanut butter and chocolate.

  I want to promise you all right here and now that I will indeed bring this back to life!  With a more appropriate base and a better crust-to-filling ratio, it will be heavenly.

  Life's too short to live with disappointments.

  I'll be back soon with a cupcake for you patient people, but in the meantime, check out Carrie's lovely tart adaptation!  You'll also find the other members' tart posts at the bottom.  This proves that you can indeed make something beautiful out of a mess.  Everyone did so well!


Raspberry Lemon Bars

  So, you remember that discussion about how I didn't like chocolate crinkle cookies for the longest time?  How I thought they were all the same?

  Well, let's just throw lemon bars into that category.  Aaannd then let me remove those as well.  And perhaps let me further confess that I was, again, wrong.  Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong.

  Not that surprising, really.  I've had my eye on these bars since I first saw them pop up in the blogosphere.  And I knew, I just knew that I would love them.

  I mean, if you were to offer me a lemonade, or a raspberry lemonade, I'd totally go after the latter.  I love it, so much.  Put that into bar form, and I'm one happy girl.

  These aren't too sweet, but no too tart.  Plus, they're pink.  Naturally and beautifully pink.  What more could you really ask for?

  Anyway, I'm glad I finally got the chance to make these.  The Sundays with Joy schedule called for Joy's Lavender Lemon Bars this week, and I decided it couldn't hurt to tweak things a bit.  And by tweak, I mean barely adapting this crust to match Joy's, and then using a totally different filling recipe.

  Kind of a stretch, but I couldn't be happier with the results!

  Maybe I'll try out the lavender ones when I have people in the house brave enough to eat them.  I like lavender alright, but it's definitely an acquired taste.  One my family doesn't really have.  But!  I've heard good things from the other members, and Carrie turned hers into a loverly tart!

  I guess these are a bit more suitable to a summer setting, and they're definitely making me yearn for such, but why wait months and months?  The raspberries are frozen, and citrus abounds right now!  And, hey, they're pink.  I'm thinking Valentine's Day is covered.

  Make them, love them, share them.  Everyone needs a bit of pink lemonade in January.

Raspberry Lemon Bars
Yield: about 24-30 bars

Ingredients for the crust:
  • 2¼ sticks (18 tbsp.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ tsp. salt

Ingredients for the raspberry lemon layer:
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons lemon zest
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups (I used a 12 oz. bag) frozen raspberries, thawed
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 6 small lemons)
  • Powdered sugar for dusting, if desired

To make the crust, preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a 9x13 inch pan with parchment paper.  In the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, combine the butter, sugar, and brown sugar.  Beat on medium-high speed until smooth, 1-2 minutes.  With the mixer on low speed, mix in the flour and salt until just incorporated.  Add the dough to the prepared baking pan.  Press into an even layer over the bottom of the pan (I found it helpful to grease my hands with a bit of Pam).  Bake for about 25 minutes, or until light golden brown.  Remove from the oven, maintaining the oven temperature.

While the crust bakes, make the top layer.  Whisk together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and salt in a large bowl.  Add the raspberries to a fine mesh sieve and press through over a bowl, mashing with a spatula to extract as much juice and pulp as possible, straining out the seeds.  Add the egg whites and eggs to the bowl with the dry ingredients and whisk well to blend.  Whisk in the raspberry puree and lemon juice until smooth (Batter will be almost completely liquid, fear not!).  Pour the mixture over the crust.

Bake until the center is just set and only jiggles the tiniest bit when gently shaken, about 35-40 minutes (The top will likely become duller in color and your sides might brown, that's ok!).  Transfer to a wire rack to cool to room temperature.  Cover and chill well in the refrigerator, at least 2 hours.  When ready to serve, use the parchment paper to lift the bars from the pan (You might have to run a knife around the edge a couple times if your filling leaked through the parchment a bit and is sticking to the pan.).  Place on a cutting board and slice into bars.  If your browned edges got a little over done, I recommend trimming them off so they don't add a weird chewy texture.   Dust the tops with powdered sugar if desired.

Sources: adapted from Annie's Eats, who adapted from Sophistimom, crust inspired by Joy the Baker's Cookbook


Gluten-Free Chocolate Fudge Crinkle Cookies

  Gluten.  The enemy of many a person's body.  The cause of so much almond flour.  What is taking the blame for so many ailments.  What is causing me to google xanthan gum.

  I won't pretend that I completely understand this sudden craze to go all GF, but I do know that in the midst of it, there are some people who seriously can't eat it.  At least, not without major consequences.  This article does a pretty good job of explaining the craze, if you're curious.

  Regardless of what the deal is, it's a real thing for many a person.  I feel for celiacs.

  Remember when my sister was filming over the summer?  Well, right now it's the week of winter filming.  Two members of the cast are gluten-free.  So, rather than resorting to my famous gluten-packed desserts, I've been dipping my toes into the gluten-less waters.

  You're going to be so sick of the word gluten by the time I'm done here.  Sorry.

  Finding/developing recipes that are easy on celiac bellies but are also desirable to all taste buds actually hasn't been that hard.

  For one thing, one of the easiest kinds of dessert to do gluten-free are those made up of gooey chocolate.  Brownies, for instance.  Or flourless chocolate cake, which was famous even before the boycotting of flour.

  And then, cookies.

  For me, my first glance of these cookies bring to mind the rather hard, crinkle-y, nutty chocolate cookies my grandma used to make.  They were among the stash of Christmas cookies that was present at seasonal family gatherings.  I'll admit that I tended to pass them by more often than not.

  Why?  I dunno.  I was child of particular tastes.  Heck, I wouldn't even consume soup, of any kind.  And the more I saw them, the more they seemed to get just plain boring.  Year after year of those crinkle cookies, their chocolate-y crevices peeking out of the powdered sugar coating (which, incidentally, gets fricken everywhere.).

  And the older my grandma got, the harder her cookies became. 

  When I came across these a few weeks ago, I mindlessly pinned them to my gluten-free board, just for future reference.  When a gluten-free dessert was suddenly needed, I decided to give them a whirl.  Upon looking further at the post, I realized the insides of these cookies were unlike that of any chocolate crinkle I'd ever encountered.

  Fudge-y, soft, bursting with gooey molten goodness.

  The pictures were great, but they were nothing compared to the experience of actually biting into these.  You pick up a pretty solid and deceivingly hard cookie.  The powdered sugar sweetens up your palate, there's the slight crunch of the crinkled crust as you bite, and then, somehow, that fudge-y brownie-like sensation is there.

  I loved my grandma, and pretty much all of her desserts, but these were a total revelation.  Gluten intolerant or not, they're bound to be a hit.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Fudge Crinkle Cookies
Yield: about 18 cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (any sweetness you desire), divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon espresso powder, optional
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 

Preheat oven to 350°F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Fill a pot with a couple inches of water and maintain at a gentle simmer.  Place a medium heat-proof bowl over the simmering water (be sure it isn't in direct contact with the water) and add 1 cup of the chocolate chips and the espresso powder, if using.  Stir occasionally until melted.  Remove bowl from pot and let cool slightly. (Alternatively, you can also just heat the chocolate chips in a glass bowl in the microwave on a lower power.  I just prefer the double boiler method.)

With an electric mixer or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites in a large bowl until they are foamy and hold soft peaks.  Gradually beat in 1 cup of the powdered sugar.  Continue beating until the mixture resembles soft marshmallow creme and holds peaks. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together another 1 cup of powdered sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the meringue on low speed and mix until combined.  Beat in the melted chocolate and remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate chips until thoroughly combined.  Allow to sit for about 5 minutes.  It becomes more stiff and easier to work with if you let it rest.

Place the remaining 1/2 cup of powdered sugar in a bowl.  Roll rounded tablespoons of the dough in the sugar and coat thickly.  Place on prepared cookie sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart.

Bake until they are puffed, the tops are cracked, and the edges are just starting to firm up, about 10-14 minutes.  Allow to cool on the sheets for 10 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Sources: adapted from Yammie's Glutenfreedom, who adapted from Bakerita, who adapted from Divine Baking, originally from Epicurious