Salted Caramel Cupcakes

Yesterday morning,¬†I went into work to renew my CPR/AED and Lifeguarding/First Aid certifications. It was my first time getting in a pool since last year, and now I absolutely reek of chlorine, even though I’ve showered twice. I guess I better get used to it because this is what I’ll be smelling like all summer!

Anyways, I needed someone to practice my lifeguarding skills on, so I dragged my sister to the pool with me to be my “victim.” She wasn’t too thrilled about waking up so early in the morning, and demanded that I make cupcakes for her for subjecting her to such torture. Of course I was happy to oblige! ūüôā

I decided on these salted caramel cupcakes because I have been the LOVING sweet and salty combo lately.¬†If I¬†find a recipe¬†for a dessert that calls for a sprinkle of sea salt or¬†see a¬†menu item with the word “salted,” I’m immediately ALL over it.¬†These and these¬†have made their way to the top of my favorite desserts list.

But I think these salted caramel cupcakes top them all. They are¬†probably the BEST cupcakes I’ve ever made.¬†I¬†had the hardest time keeping¬†my fingers out of the salted caramel buttercream as I was frosting the cupcakes, and I don’t even like frosting!

My sister wasn’t too pleased with some of my¬†healthier baked goods, but she thoroughly approved of these cupcakes! They are definitely not going to last long around our house. ūüôā

Salted Caramel Cupcakes

Source: adapted from Savory Bites

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used soy milk)

For the salted caramel buttercream:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 – 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • generous pinch sea salt

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a standard 12-cup cupcake pan with liners.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

3. In a separate bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla, and beat until combined. Turn mixer speed to low, add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk in 2 additions. Beat until just combined, scraping down sides of bowl.

4. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes (it only took 18 minutes in my toaster oven), or until toothpick inserted in center of cupcake comes out clean. Cool in pan for a few minutes, then transfer cupcakes to wire rack to cool completely.

5. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, cook sugar over medium-high heat until it begins to melt. Stir with a wooden spoon until amber brown in color. Carefully pour heavy cream into saucepan in a steady stream, stirring constantly until mixure is completely smooth. Set caramel aside to cool.

6. In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer until smooth. Add confectioners’ sugar 1/2 cup at at time to desired consistency, and beat until smooth. Add cooled caramel (reserving just a few spoonfuls to drizzle cupcakes with) and sea salt, and beat until light and fluffy.

7. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired and drizzle with reserved caramel.

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Black Bean Brownies

My¬†friend Katie is joining the Peace Corps, and leaves for Togo tomorrow!¬†Since she’ll be¬†in¬†Africa for the next couple of years,¬†a few of my high school friends and I slept over at her house last night to hang out for the last time before she leaves. Yes, we are all college graduates and we still have sleepovers!¬†ūüôā

Lots of¬†awesome¬†food¬†was consumed including various desserts¬†baked by Katie’s mom, chocolate (!) beer, and Jeni’s goat cheese and cognac fig ice cream that I brought, which originated in Ohio! (Ohio has grown on me over the past four years, but Oregon will always be #1 in my heart!).

Also, we had homemade waffles and yak/bison sausages from the farmer’s market for breakfast! Plus MORE cookies and chips. Basically, I had a TON of junk food this weekend, and not much of my usual oatmeal, kale salads, tofu, etc. I am definitely in need of some¬†healthier eats this week.

But of course there is no way that I can eliminate sweets from my diet completely, so I just decided to make a healthier version of one of my favorite desserts. I’ve been on a put-weird-ingredients-in-my-dessert kick¬†lately.¬†Last week¬†it was chickpeas in my blondies and avocado in my cake.¬†Today, I put¬†black beans in my brownies.

I know it¬†sounds pretty¬†unappetizing, but they¬†tasted¬†just like¬†regular brownies. They are delightfully chocolatey, super fudgey, and not beany at all! If I hadn’t made these myself, I would never have guessed that¬†the main ingredient was a can of black beans.¬†Also, these brownies are completely gluten-free and oil-free! Pretty unbelievable, right? You MUST try them for yourself!

Black Bean Brownies

Source: adapted from Amy Bites

Ingredients

  • 1 (15 1/2-ounce) can¬†black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • ¬†1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and spray an 8×8 inch baking dish with cooking spray.

2. Place black beans, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, eggs, instant coffee, and vanilla extract in a food processor and process until completely smooth and well-combined.

3. Pour batter into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and chopped nuts. Bake in preheated oven for 26-30 minutes, or until top is dry and edges begin to pull away from baking dish. Cool brownies completely in pan before cutting into squares.

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Avocado Pound Cake

I think I was in elementary¬†school when I fell in love with avocados. I remember that my mom would sometimes place a handful of almonds and a few slices of avocado on my breakfast plate of toast and fruit. I guess she wanted to make sure I¬†had enough monounsaturated fats in my diet? Whatever the reason, I’ve been hooked on the creamy green fruit since.

Avocados are an amazing addition to salads, sandwiches, and sushi rolls,¬†but my most favorite way to eat avocado (at least up until this past Thursday afternoon)¬†is¬†in guacamole. Obviously homemade is¬†the best, but Chipotle’s¬†guac¬†is pretty good too, especially¬†when avocados are like five¬†dollars apiece at the grocery store during the winter.

But on Thursday afternoon, I discovered that my new favorite way to eat avocado is in pound cake! I know that sounds totally weird and gross, but trust me when I say it’s not! It’s actually pretty spectacular. The cake is¬† moist and dense, but not overly sweet and buttery. And the cornmeal gives¬†it an awesome texture. I am not a huge fan of pound cake, but I really, really like this one!

Next time I make this, I’ll probably replace some of the butter with even MORE avocado. And hopefully it won’t have those¬†ugly tiger stripe burn marks on top from being baked in a¬†cramped toaster oven!

Avocado Pound Cake

Source: adapted from Joy the Baker

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 cup avocado, mashed (about 1 ripe avocado)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour one 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 Рinch loaf pan.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside.

3. In bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter on medium speed until smooth. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add avocado and beat for another minute to incorporate, scraping down sides of bowl to ensure that ingredients are thoroughly mixed.

4. Add in eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after addition of each egg. Beat in vanilla extract.

5. Reduce mixer speed to low and add half of flour mixture, all of Greek yogurt, then rest of flour mixture. Beat until just combined.

6. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for 40-50 minutes, or until skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Check cake every 10 minutes after 30-minute mark. Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes, then invert on wire rack to cool completely.

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Strawberry Lemon Curd Tart

It’s nearly the end of May, and the weather is still so incredibly¬†gray, cloudy, and drizzly.¬†Who would believe that it’s almost summer?¬†

I guess the dreariness¬†is¬†infinitely better than the stifling heat and humidity I’d probably be enduring if I was still in Cleveland right now, but I am seriously in need of some brightness in my life! To compensate for the lack of sun,¬†I decided¬†to bake the most spring-y dessert that I could possibly think of.

This¬†Strawberry Lemon Curd Tart fits the bill pretty perfectly. Strawberries just scream spring, and I can’t think of anything that is brighter than fresh lemons!¬†

I had high hopes for this dessert, so I really wanted to be able to write about how this tart was absolutely fabulous and that it exceeded all my expectations. And it did! Well, almost.

¬†The strawberry topping and lemon curd were outstanding, and the crust would have been too, except that the bottom was completely burned! I think baking the tart in the toaster oven had something to do with it…

I was a little disappointed that the tart wasn’t perfect, but my family still really enjoyed this dessert, and at least the sides of the crust were still delicious! ūüôā

Strawberry Lemon Curd Tart

Source: tart adapted from Bon Appetit, crust from Baking Illustrated via Annie’s Eats

Ingredients

For the curd:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

For the crust:

  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
  • 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

For the topping:

  • fresh strawberries, sliced lengthwise

Directions

1. To make the curd, whisk together eggs, sugar, and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Add butter and lemon peel. Whisk over medium heat until mixture thickens to pudding consistency, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and press plastic onto surface of curd. Chill for at least 2 hours.

2. To make the crust, whisk together egg yolk, heavy cream, and vanilla in a small bowl; set aside. Place flour, sugar and salt in a food processor, and pulse a few times to combine. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture and process until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 15 1-second pulses. With the machine running, add egg mixture and process just until dough comes together, no more than 12 seconds. Turn dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and press into a 6-inch disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

3. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a 13-inch round. Transfer dough to a 9-inch tart pan. Mold dough to sides of pan and remove excess off top. Set dough lined tart pan a large plate and freeze for 30 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to middle position. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Set dough-lined tart pan on a baking sheet, press a 12-inch square piece of foil into frozen shell and over the edge, and fill with pie weights. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through baking time. Remove from oven and carefully remove pie weights and foil. Continue to bake until deep golden brown, about 5-8 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

5. Fill the cooled tart shell with lemon curd and spread evenly. Starting from outside and working towards the center, place sliced strawberries in concentric circles, slightly overlapping each other. Chill until ready to serve.

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Peanut Butter Chickpea Blondies

Eating a healthy diet at home has been such a challenge! I’ve been home for less than a week and I’ve eaten a bucket of peanut M&Ms and about 10 pounds of dark chocolate by myself! I wish I was kidding.¬†At school, I rarely bought packaged snacks because I knew there was no way I could control myself around them, but there is an abundance of chips, cookies, and candy in our pantry, and I just can’t seem to stay away from it all!

At least most of my meals have been pretty healthy. My mom always stocks the fridge with a variety of fresh, organic produce and dairy that I never buy at school because I’m too cheap. I love it! The other day I had Greek yogurt topped with chopped mango and kiwi for breakfast. And for lunch, I made myself a humongous salad with kale, carrots, tomatoes, cucumber, celery, and a hard-boiled egg. Yum!

I’m trying to convince my meat-loving family members to eat more veggies too. I put some raw kale on the table for dinner the other day and my dad asked, “What IS that?” with a very skeptical look on his face. Then I made these chickpea blondies for dessert and my sister told me she wanted to throw up (she’s a little dramatic).

I know that most people would agree with her after hearing that these blondies are made with garbanzo beans, but honestly, these blondies are REALLY good!! Obviously they’re not super sweet and buttery like regular blondies, but they’re still quite fudgey and delicious. Plus, they’re vegan, so you can eat as much of the raw batter as you’d like, which I think is even BETTER than the baked blondies. It tastes like Snickerdoodle Dessert Hummus!!

I ate wayyy more than my share of these chickpea blondies, and even my sister ate a couple after I told her that there were chocolate chips in them. She proclaimed them “gross,” but at least she tried them, right? Baby steps! ūüôā

Chickpea Blondies

Source: adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups chickpeas (1 can, drained and rinsed)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • heaping 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup oat flour
  • 1/4 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease an 8×8 inch baking pan.
2. Place all ingredients (except chocolate chips and walnuts) in a food processor and process until completely smooth. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.
3. Scrape batter into prepared pan and spread evenly.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes. Do not overbake.


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