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    Entries in little things are cute (22)

    Sunday
    Feb012015

    We're a Big Blog Now!

    That’s right, we’re turning 4 today! It doesn’t really feel like it’s been that long, until I stop to think about all that has happened in that time.  Seeley nearly liquefied her brain with never ending crazy math, but survived, and even graduated! (See we are all grown up!) I moved from Utah, to Massachusetts, to Virginia, and eventually back to Utah again.  (Always in May, mind you.  What’s with me moving in May?) And on top of all of that, in the four years since Authors Kitchen was born, we’ve posted somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 recipes! That’s a lot of cooking and food porn!

    The inspiration for this recipe comes from a place in Virginia called The Icing. They make the most amazing cupcakes, and my very favorite flavor was grapefruit. I know, grapefruit cupcakes sound more weird than wonderful, but trust me, they are fantastic. Since I can no longer just run down to The Icing and pick some up, it was time for me to figure out how to make my own.

    Here’s what you’ll need: 

    • 1 ⅓ cups flour
    • ½ teaspoon baking powder
    • ½ teaspoon baking soda
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
    • ¾ cup sugar
    • ½ cup whole milk
    • 6 Tablespoons butter
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 2 eggs
    • 2-3 grapefruits depending on size
    • Grapefruit buttercream (recipe below) 

    Everything for this recipe should be at room temperature, including the fruit. First up, pour ¾ cup sugar into some kind of a container with a lid.  I like to use a 1 pint mason jar for this purpose. (Add that to the long list of uses for those.) Set that aside and zest your grapefruit.  I like to use organic citrus when I know I’ll be eating the zest.

    Give it a good wash, and make sure you just take off the very outside layer.

    Now, because grapefruits vary so much in size, I was diligent and actually took measurements as I worked. You want 2 Tablespoons of zest. And when I say Tablespoon, it should look something like this. Don’t pack it down or it will just all stick together. 

    Add that to your sugar, put on the lid, and give it a good shake. (remember the lime sugar?)  Not only does this mix the sugar and zest together, but it also makes the zest release some of its oil, which is where all the flavor is, so don’t wimp out. Shake, shake, shake. 

    Now on to the juicing. Grapefruits are too big for my press juicer, so I like to use one like this for them. You need 1 ½ cups of juice. That took 2 medium sized grapefruits for me, but if yours are very small, you might need 3.

    When you’ve got the juice, pour it through a mesh strainer to remove any pulp.

    Then, in a small saucepan over medium high heat, bring it to a boil.

    You want to cook the juice down from 1 ½ cups to ¼ cup. The reason for this is to concentrate the grapefruit flavor while reducing the amount of water that will be added to the recipe. This process will probably take about 15 minutes, and you’ll need to stir almost constantly. I like to use a silicone spatula for that. They do a good job of scraping the bottom and moving stuff around without making a lot of noise. As you near the ¼ cup mark, it will start to become somewhat syrupy in consistency. You’ll know you’re close when the bubbles start to stack up on each other like this:

    Pour the grapefruit concentrate into a glass measuring cup.

    See, it really did cook all the way down to ¼ cup.

    While that’s cooling, go ahead and drop paper liners into your muffin pan and turn your oven to 350°. Then, in your mixing bowl, whisk together all of your dry ingredients, including the grapefruit sugar.

    To that, add the milk, butter, vanilla, and 3 Tablespoons of the grapefruit concentrate (the remainder is for the frosting).

    Mix on low speed until everything comes together, then scrape everything down really well. Increase the speed to medium and allow it to mix for 2 minutes, after which, the batter should be fluffy and beautiful. 

    Give it another scrape and add the eggs. 

    Mix until they are fully incorporated, then one more scrape, and a quick final mix. Gorgeous!

    Scoop the batter into your prepared cups, filling them just over half full. The scoop I use is about 3 Tablespoons. 

    When you place the pans in the oven, increase the temperature to 425°.  After 5 minutes (set a timer) turn it back down to 350°, and continue baking for an additional 15 – 18 minutes. That’s a total bake time of 20 – 23 minutes. When they’re ready, they’ll be beautifully domed, and a toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean. After just a couple minutes, transfer them to a rack and allow them to cool.  Aren’t they lovely?

    Otto found some sun under the dining room table and decided to have a nice nap while I was baking. I already had the camera in my hand, so I couldn’t just pass up the opportunity to capture the aww. As you can tell by all the white in his face, he’s no spring chicken anymore, so I try my best not to take these precious moments for granted. 

    Now for the buttercream… Here’s what you’ll need: 

    • ½ cup butter, softened (1 stick)
    • 2 cups powdered sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 1 Tablespoon grapefruit concentrate
    • 1 – 3 Tablespoons cream (or the highest fat dairy you have on hand) 

    Put the butter in a mixing bowl.

    Give it a whirl until it’s nice and soft and fluffy.

    Sift in 1 cup of the sugar.

    Starting on low speed, stir until it all comes together, then scrape it down and give it a good mix on medium high speed for 45 seconds or so. Add the grapefruit concentrate and vanilla and mix until they are thoroughly incorporated.

    If you used pink grapefruit, it’ll give the frosting just a hint of color.

    Sift in the remaining cup of powdered sugar and go through the stirring, scraping, mixing process again.  Add the cream, 1 Tablespoon at a time, until you reach buttercream perfection. 

    Then just spread or pipe it onto your waiting cupcakes.

    So, how do they compare to the ones from The Icing? I’m going to say, equally fabulous, but different.  They use a regular vanilla buttercream which makes for a fairly subtle flavor, whereas my grapefruit version has a fabulous citrusy of tang to it. The cake itself is probably almost a dead ringer. Just look at that texture. The crumb on this recipe couldn’t have been better.

    What’s your favorite flavor of cupcake?

     

    Wednesday
    Jan292014

    Little Cheese Balls for the Big Game

    I got the inspiration for these when I was scrolling through Pinterest one day, and thought the idea would be perfect for the Super Bowl.  To be honest, I barely glanced at the recipe because I could tell right away it would have to be completely revamped for my purposes.  Theirs were sweet, I wanted savory.  Theirs were rolled in nuts, but Hubby is allergic to nuts.  And theirs were fairly large balls of cheese on the ends of tiny little pretzel sticks.  Blech.  So basically, I just used the words “mini cheese ball” and started from square one. 

    Here’s what you’ll need: 

    • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
    • ¼ teaspoon pepper
    • ¼ cup chopped chives
    • ½ cup extra sharp cheddar, freshly grated
    • Bacon 

    In addition to that, you’ll need something to serve as your edible stick.  Since I like my cheese balls with crackers, I chose these mini club crackers. 

    Put your softened cream cheese into a mixing bowl. 

    Mix until it nice and smooth and creamy. 

    Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the salt and pepper, and mix some more. 

    Add the chives and cheese. 

    Stir until everything is evenly distributed.  Put the cheese mixture into a container with a lid and into the fridge for a couple hours, or overnight. 

    When the cheese mixture is nice and firm, you can start on the bacon.  Spread the slices on a foil lined sheet pan.  Place the pan into a cold oven, then turn the temperature to about 300°. 

    The time it takes for the bacon to cook really depends on how thick the slices are.  Usually something like 20-30 minutes for mine.  You’ll want to flip the slices after the first 15 minutes.  When the bacon is nice and crispy, move it to some paper towels to drain.  When it has cooled completely, stack a few of the slices on a cutting board. 

    Then chop it finely. 

    Move the bacon crumbles to a smallish bowl. 

    With my first batch, I sort of followed the idea I had seen online.  I rolled the cheese mixture into what looked like bite sized balls, rolled those in the bacon, and pushed in a cracker.  Cute, yes? 

    Then Hubby and I tasted them.  Wow that’s a lot of cheese for one bite. Do you ever wonder if people actually taste the food they post online? Well, I always do.  Not only was it too much cheese, but because the bacon got in the way when pushing in the crackers, the balls fell off easily.  And trust me, you don't want your balls to fall off.  Ok, back to the drawing board.  Take a small amount of the cheese mixture, like a teaspoon, and shape it into something sort of log shaped.  Then push the end of a cracker into it and it should attach itself nicely. 

    Now press that in the bacon crumbles.  As you place each one onto your serving plate, press down gently to give them a flat bottom so they don’t fall over.    

    Ah, now that is what a mini cheese ball should be.  A single bite of cheesy deliciousness balanced perfectly by the cracker it comes on.  Serve them with a little bowl of extra crackers, just in case people want them.  And if you want a little something sweet, these little chocolate footballs would be the perfect addition.     

    What do you like most about Super Bowl Sunday?  The food, the commercials, or the actual game?