APPLE PIE – Best Ever!

apple pie textThere is a reason people say, “easy as pie”.  Making a pie IS easy.  Of course, making a great pie is as easy as making a bad one, so it’s important to have a great recipe.

There are 3 components to pies:  crust, filling, and topping.

  1. Crust:  You want it flavorful, but not overpowering.  You don’t want soggy-bottoms, but you don’t want crunchy (unless it’s a graham cracker crust, of course.) Yes, you can buy pre-made and it will be okay, but homemade is so easy and world’s better…with the right recipe.
  2. Filling:  The key to apple pie filling is…apples.  There is a myth that you should use Granny Smith or some other crisp, tart apple for apple pie. NOOOOO! Why would you want a tart and crunchy apple pie? I’ve found that the absolute BEST variety is Red Delicious (or possibly Golden Delicious). It will NOT get mushy, as some people seem to think. The pieces will soften somewhat during the bake, but will still retain their shape and individuality. And they’re sweet!
  3. Topping:  I’m not a fan of the double crust – a bottom crust is enough for me. A streusel topping provides added flavor (apples really don’t have that much flavor), with a nice crunch.
  4. Caramel drizzle: I guess this is optional, but drizzling on caramel adds an additional layer of flavor.

CARAMEL APPLE PIE

  • 1 par-baked 9″ pastry crust (suggested recipe follows)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 T + 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 6 Red Delicious apples
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats (either old fashioned or quick-cooking)
  • 1/4 cup butter, cold
  • about 1/3 cup caramel ice cream topping

Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit.

Have ready a cooled, par-baked pastry crust. The best recipe I’ve found is America’s Test Kitchen’s Vodka Pie Crust (Don’t worry – the vodka evaporates away.) Recipe follows at bottom.

In a very large bowl (use large so you don’t spill as you stir in the apples), mix together the granulated sugar, 3 T flour, salt, and cinnamon. apple pie6Working quickly, peel and core the apples. Cut 3 of the apples into 1/8″ thick slices, and the other 3 a little thicker. Make sure they’re bite-sized for ease of eating – you don’t want long strips of apple. apple pie9Add apples into the flour mixture and blend well. apple pie7Pour into the cooled pie crust – there’s a lot of filling, so you’ll have to pile it high towards the middle. Make sure none of the apple pieces sit on the crust edge.apple pie8 To prevent over-browning, cover the pie edge with foil or purchased pie edge protectors (see photo of what I use).apple pie3 Bake at 375º for 25 minutes.

While pie is baking, prepare the streusel topping. Into the food processor put the remaining 1/4 cup flour, brown sugar, and oats. Run machine about 20 seconds to grind the oats and break up any hard brown sugar lumps. Cut cold butter into about 5 pieces or so, and add to processor. Pulse about 10 times to blend. apple pie5When the pie has cooked for 25 minutes, remove from oven. Evenly sprinkle on streusel and remove the edge protectors. Return pie to 375º F oven and bake another 20-25 minutes. Don’t let the top get too brown or it will make slicing difficult to cut through. apple pie4Place pie on a rack or stovetop and drizzle on the caramel topping. Let set at least 1 hour, preferably longer, or you’ll have a lava flow when you slice it.

VODKA PIE CRUST (AMERICA’S TEST KITCHEN RECIPE – amended) – makes 1 crust

Note: This needs to be made in a food processor.

  • 3/4 cup + 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1½ T granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6 T butter, cold
  • 4 T Crisco (or any shortening), cold
  • 2 T vodka
  • 2 T water

In the workbowl of your food processor, pulse together 3/4 cup flour, sugar, and salt. Add in the butter and Crisco. Run the machine (don’t pulse) 15 seconds. The dough will come together into a creamy mass. Add in the remaining 1/2 cup flour and pulse about 8 times. Empty into a bowl.

Pour in the vodka and water. Gently (so it doesn’t splatter) fold together to incorporate the liquid into the dough. This is a very well dough. Press it together into a lump, cover, and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Empty the cold dough onto a very well floured, flat surface. Sprinkle flour on top and on your rolling pin. Begin rolling dough from center outwards.  Keep flouring the dough and the rolling pin lightly, so there’s no sticking.

Once the dough is rolled out large enough to cover the pie plate, with an inch to spare for crimping, you’re going to have to transfer the dough. Take your time – this is a wet dough! My favorite method is to take my bench scraper and go around underneath the dough a little at a time, lifting up the dough and pushing some flour underneath as I go. Once I get to the center, I lift up one side and fold dough in half. Then I carefully lift folded dough from sides and place in pie plate (Make sure you have it very close by!)

Unfold the dough and nudge it into the corners (don’t press the dough down – you’ll stretch it). Arrange the dough so it’s not folded anywhere. Fold over-hanging dough and crimp. Refrigerate 1 hour to prevent shrinkage.

Preheat oven to 375º.

Line cold dough with waxed paper or parchment, then fill with pie weights. (I use metal washers topped with uncooked beans.) Bake for 10 minutes. Remove paper and weights by grabbing the 4 corners of paper and gently rocking the weight package back and forth to loosen, then rocking it up and out.  Return dough to oven and continue baking until browned – about 15 minutes.  Keep an eye on dough, particularly when you return it to the oven to make sure the crust stays flat. If you notice it rising, gently press down with the back of a fork.

Once the crust is golden brown, remove from oven and let cool to firm up.

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FAT-FREE BLUEBERRY MUFFINS – Easy As Pie…or Muffins!

blueberry muffin nonfat text2Being the loving husband his is, my friend, George, was whipping up a batch of fat-free blueberry muffins for his wife, Kathy, while we were visiting. I was curious about his recipe and what was used instead of the fat.

Turns out he uses a boxed mix. Sigh!!!  Besides being costly, boxed mixes contain 12-letter ingredients that can only be pronounced by a chemist. I knew I could do better! All I had to do was come up with an easy, tasty, and fat-free muffin. Piece of cake….or muffin!

After several batches, I had a winner. I’m not going to lie and tell you this Fat-Free Blueberry Muffin is the same a the full-fat kind. It’s not. It has a spongy texture – which isn’t a bad thing…just different than the crumbly texture of regular muffins. But if you’re watching your cholesterol and calories, this works great.

NOTE:  The calorie count per muffin is between 125 – 140, depending on how much sugar you sprinkle on top.

ADDITIONAL NOTE:  When I’m making something that only calls for an egg yolk (custards, cookies, etc), I always freeze the unused egg whites.  This is a perfect recipe to use them up. Conversely, I believe you can freeze unused egg yolks, but I’ve never actually tried it.

FAT-FREE BLUEBERRY MUFFINS – makes 12 muffins

  • 2 cups (9 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1¼ nonfat milk
  • 1 T lemon zest, packed into spoon
  • 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup small blueberries (I use frozen)

Preheat oven to 400º Fahrenheit.

Grease well a 12-cup muffin tin with vegetable oil.

In medium bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. blueberry muffin nonfat5In a larger bowl combine whites, milk, zest, 1/2 cup sugar, and vanilla.  Beat with an electric mixer on low, a hand-crank egg beater, or whisk until bubbles form on top – it takes about 30 seconds. blueberry muffin nonfat3Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and gently combine, until most of the flour is incorporated. Don’t overmix or you’ll get tough muffins. blueberry muffin nonfat6Add in the blueberries and fold in, just to combine. (Frozen blueberries – which I use – tend to bleed.)blueberry muffin nonfat7 Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tin, dividing batter equally. (An ice cream scooper is perfect for this.) Sprinkle about 1 tsp of sugar onto each. blueberry muffin nonfat9Bake in preheated 400º F oven for about 16 minutes, rotating them halfway through to cook evenly. They should be firm with slightly browned edges.blueberry muffin nonfat8 Remove from oven and let set in tin about 2 minutes. To remove, run a rounded knife around sides, then start pushing in around the bottom with the knife to help release the muffin. blueberry muffin nonfat4 Set muffins on a wire rack to cool a bit before eating.

 

LEMON BUNDT CAKE – Bursting With Flavor!

lemon cake1 TEXTWhen it comes to lemon desserts, I want to know I’m eating lemon! No faint hint of flavor for me – bring it on!!!

This LEMON BUNDT CAKE gets raves from everyone who eats it. It’s has a tender crumb, which is unusual for lemon cakes. Where bakers go wrong is they tend to add more lemon juice to increase the bang for their buck. But all that does to cakes and quick breads is make them mushy. Yuck! Yes, one needs some lemon juice for the liquid and flavor, but the biggest lemony taste comes from the zest (the very outer skin).

NOTE:  As Queen of Freeze, I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t point out that zest can be frozen. So if you’re only using the juice from a lemon (or any citrus), go ahead and zest it (do this before juicing), then freeze those little flavor jewels for future use.

ADDITIONAL QUEEN OF FREEZE NOTE:  Cake freezes extremely well, so don’t be daunted by the size of a bundt cake. If it’s too much to finish off in a few days, simply cut it into hunks and freeze.

LEMON BUNDT CAKE

  • 1 T butter
  • 1 T all-purpose flour
  • 3 T lemon zest
  • 3 T + 2 T lemon juice, divided
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 18 T butter, soft
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 yolk
  • 3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 T milk or buttermilk
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit. 

To prepare the bundt pan, melt 1 T butter and mix in 1 T flour to make a paste.lemon cake11 Using a pastry brush, paint the interior of the pan, getting deep into the crevasses. (I’m going to be buying a new bundt pan soon!)lemon cake12In a small bowl, combine the zest with 3 T lemon juice. Let set 15 minutes.lemon cake10 Combine the 3 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. bundt2In an electric mixer, cream together the 18 T butter and granulated sugar. Beat on medium/high for 3 minutes. (Don’t short-change this.)lemon cake14 In a small bowl, lightly beat together the eggs and yolk.lemon cake13 Pour approximately half of the eggs into the butter/sugar, and beat until just incorporated. Pour in the rest of the eggs and beat in. lemon cake6Combine the buttermilk, vanilla, and lemon zest/lemon juice. lemon cake5On low speed, beat approximately 1/3 of the flour mixture into the batter just until incorporated. Add in 1/2 of the liquid mixture and beat in. Beat in 1/2 of the flour mixture, then the remaining liquid. Finally, beat in the last of the flour mix. Don’t overmix – beat until flour has been incorporated and no loose flour shows. lemon cake7Pour batter into prepared bundt pan. (I cover the hole to prevent spillage – just be sure to remove it before baking – I speak from experience.) Smooth batter.lemon cake8Bake about 45 minutes at 350º F. Check for doneness with a toothpick. Remove from oven and let set in pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack. lemon cake9While cake is still in the pan, make the glaze. To make glaze, sift powdered sugar to remove lumps. Stir the sugar with 1 T milk or buttermilk, and 2 T lemon juice. You want the glaze to pour, but not so thin it runs off the cake. Adjust thickness of glaze by adding more sugar to thicken or more lemon juice to thin out.

Run a rounded knife around edge of cake and flip onto a rack. Flip again so it’s right side up. Pour half of the glaze on hot cake. Let set for 1 hour. Pour on remaining glaze. You can see in the photo that the first glaze is clearer than the second due to the heat of the cake. Let set at least another hour before serving.lemon cake 4

 

LIME BARS – Bursting With Flavor!

lime bars textEvery now and then, even a die-hard chocoholic such as myself craves a little tang.

These Limes Bars are bursting with delectable lime flavor, which is nicely offset by the graham cracker crust. I prefer the original Nabisco graham crackers to the Nabisco Honey Maid grahams – they have a richer graham flavor which pairs well with the lime.

Keep in mind that while this is a very easy, quick to prepare recipe, it needs to be made several hours before serving so it sets and chills properly.

NOTE:  As self-proclaimed Queen of Freeze, I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t suggest freezing the unused egg white for future use.

LIME BARS – makes about 9-12, depending on how big they’re sliced

  • 5 oz (1¼ cups) original Nabisco graham crackers (or Honey Maid, if you prefer)
  • 3 T dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt, divided
  • 4 T butter
  • 1/2 cup lime juice (about 3 limes)
  • 1 T lime zest, packed
  • 2 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1  14-oz can sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk!)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • optional raspberry drizzle (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 325º Fahrenheit.

Finely crush graham crackers either in a food processor or with a rolling pin. Pour into a bowl. Mix in sugar and 1/8 tsp salt. Melt butter and, using a fork, stir into crumbs.lime bars8 Grease an 8″ x 8″ pan (I use Pyrex) and pour in the crumbs. Pat firmly down on pan bottom only, as evenly as possible. To make the edges nice and compact, use a spoon to press down along sides. lime bars9Bake in 325º F oven until lightly browned – 18-20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow crust to cool about 15 minutes.

Keep oven on at 325º F.

In a bowl, mix the lime juice, zest, remaining 1/8 tsp salt, and cream cheese by hand. lime bars10Whisk in the condensed milk and yolk. lime bars4Pour mixture into cooled crust and bake in 325º oven for 15 minutes. lime bars5Remove from oven and let cool on stovetop at least an hour. Then place in refrigerator a minimum of 2 hours before serving.

Pour on Raspberry Drizzle, if desired.

RASPBERRY DRIZZLE

  • 10 oz raspberries (frozen or fresh)
  • 3 T granulated sugar
  • 2¼ tsp cornstarch

Combine raspberries, sugar, and cornstarch in a small saucepan. lime bars6Over medium heat, bring to simmer. Cook until raspberries break down – about 10-15 minutes, stirring often. lime bars7Strain out the solids by placing a sieve over a bowl and pouring in the raspberry mixture. Use a spoon to press out all of the juice. lime bars11Chill the juice in the refrigerator to thicken. (You can use the remaining solids in yogurt or cereal.) Place the thickened sauce in a piping bag and drizzle onto the chilled Lime Bars.

 

CRANBERRY TART: A Tasty Way To Say “I Love You!”

cranberry tart text2Cranberry Tart is a beautiful dessert that can be served year-round. But I thought it particularly appropriate for Valentine’s Day…even though the only chocolate in it is the white chocolate I sprinkled on top (which doesn’t really count).

Making this tart was my excuse to finally purchase a tart pan. It’s not absolutely necessary, but it does make a pretty presentation with the fluted edges. However, a 9″ regular pie dish (like Pyrex) will work fine. By the way, I didn’t grease the pan and the tart still released perfectly.

CRANBERRY TART

Crust:

  • 2/3 cup slivered almonds
  • 3 T granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1¼ cup all-purpose flour (1¼ oz – it’s always better to weigh, if you can)
  • 10 T butter, soft
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit.

Toast almonds either in the oven or a dry skillet until lightly browned. Let cool.

Place almonds, sugar, flour, and salt in the food processor with the steel blade. (You can use the blender, but you’ll have to mix the rest by hand or with an electric mixer.) Pulse until the almonds are a fine crumb – about 8 pulses. cranberry tart12Add in softened butter and almond extract. Pulse until mixture clumps together. cranberry tart11Place a 9″ tart pan on a cookie sheet – this is important since tart pans have a removable bottom and you don’t want to accidentally push it up when you lift the filled tart. (You don’t need the cookie sheet if you’re using a regular pie plate.) Scatter pieces of the dough around the tart pan (or regular 9″ pie pan), putting more near the edges. cranberry tart10With fingers, press down the dough starting with the sides so it evenly covers the sides all the way up the top, and the bottom of the pan. Pay special attention to the corners – push them in so you have a nice sharp inside edge with more room for the filling.cranberry tart5 Place a piece of waxed paper over crust and fill with pie weights, uncooked beans, or rice. Bake in preheated 375º F for 12 minutes. Remove waxed paper and weights by bringing corners together and carefully rocking it out – you don’t want the crust to stick to the paper. (If some of it does stick to the waxed paper, scrape it off and replace it in crust.)

Continue to bake the now-uncovered crust for another 5 minutes or so until lightly browned. Carry the cookie sheet with the tart pan on top to a rack and completely cool.

Filling:

NOTE: As Queen of Freeze, I encourage you to freeze the unused egg whites from the required egg yolks in the filling for future use. Waste not, want not!!!

SECOND NOTE: I wanted a deeper red color but don’t like to use commercial food colorings. So I made my own red coloring using a red beet. It’s quick to do and doesn’t affect the flavor of the curd. But, you don’t need to color the filling – it’s a pretty pink on its own – or you can use purchased coloring, if you want.

  • optional for deeper red color: 1 red beet
  • 12 oz cranberries (either fresh or frozen), rinsed
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate juice (I use Pom)
  • 2 T lemon zest
  • optional: 2 tsp beet juice extracted from the beet
  • 8 T butter, cold and cut into pieces
  • 2 eggs, whole
  • 2 yolks

Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit.

If you want to make a deeper red colored tart:  wash, peel, and roughly chop beet. Place in a small saucepan with about 1/2 cup of water. Bring to boil and cook, uncovered, until water (which is now red) boils down to about 2 teaspoons. Let cool.cranberry tart9 In another saucepan, combine the cranberries, sugar, salt, pomegranate juice, and lemon zest. Bring to a boil and cook until the cranberries start to pop – about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. cranberry tart3Note: Possible suggestion (although I haven’t tried this): To eliminate the above step of separately boiling the beet, try quartering the peeled beet (so you can find them easier), and add them to the cranberries before boiling. Then remove the 4 beet pieces before running the cranberries through the food mill.

Place butter in a medium sized bowl. Set food mill or strainer on top of bowl and pour cranberry mixture through the food mill or strainer. Extract as much liquid as you can. The hot liquid will melt the butter and cool down the liquid. cranberry tart4Beat the whole eggs and yolks together in a small bowl, then slowly whisk into the cranberry mixture. Add beet juice (if using).cranberry tart8 Clean out the saucepan you used for cooking the cranberries. Pour the filling through a strainer (to remove any bits from the egg and/or cranberries) into the empty saucepan. This takes some time since it’s thick! You don’t HAVE to do this step, but the curd is silkier if you remove the bits. You can see what would have been left in the curd if I hadn’t strained.cranberry tart7Over medium heat, cook until thickened, stirring often – about 5 minutes.cranberry tart6 When oven is preheated, pour filling into cooled crust. (Make sure tart pan is still sitting on a cookie sheet – you really don’t want to chance pushing up on the bottom!)

Bake at 350º F about 8 minutes, until center 3″ is still jiggly but sides are firm. Don’t wait until center is firm or it’ll be overcooked. Remove from oven. cranberry tart1While tart is still hot, remove tart pan side by very carefully scooting the tart pan from the cookie sheet onto a wide can or bowl. (Make sure the diameter of the bowl is smaller than the tart pan opening.) Gently press down on tart pan edge and it should fall right down. Don’t move the tart yet – let it completely cool before moving it. cranberry tart2Once tart is completely cooled, remove tart pan base – it may crack if it’s still warm. To remove base, run a thin, long implement (or maybe unflavored dental floss – I haven’t tried that, though) between crust and tart pan bottom. Carefully, nudge tart onto a serving plate.

Chill at least 6 hours. Making it the day ahead is best.

ENGLISH TOFFEE BARS – Sweet Indulgence!

english toffee textWhen I harken back to Christmases past, one thing that stands out is the English Toffee Bars my best friend’s mother made every year. Besides my mom’s fudge, English Toffee Bars were a favorite.

Not only are they very easy to make, but they freeze well. As Queen of Freeze – this is a major bonus for me! And, while we’re on the subject, don’t forget to freeze the unused egg white that comes with the used egg yolk.

ENGLISH TOFFEE BARS

  • 1 cup butter, soft
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed (I use dark brown)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • about 7 oz milk chocolate candy bar, broken into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped well & lightly toasted

Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar for 3 minutes. englishtoffee8Add the yolk, vanilla, and salt. Beat 1 minute. english toffee9Add the flour and mix on low speed, just until flour is incorporated. english toffee10Place dough on a piece of parchment paper, and pat it out to 11.5″ x 11.5″, trying your best to keep it of even height.english toffee2 Slide parchment on onto a rimless cookie sheet. Place in preheated 375º F oven. Bake 11-14 minutes, rotating once, until browned. Remove from oven. english toffee3Immediately, top hot dough with chocolate bar pieces and let sit for 2-3 minutes , until chocolate softens.english toffee5Spread chocolate. english toffee6Sprinkle with toasted nuts, pressing very lightly so nuts adhere to chocolate.english toffee1 Cool bar on cookie sheet about 20 minutes so it sets. Slide parchment onto counter. Slice off uncoated edges, then cut slab into squares while still soft (if you wait until they’re hard, they’ll break when cut). Once bars are completely cool, refrigerate to firm up.

NOTE: The cut-away edges still make good eating – they’re just not very pretty.

CARAMEL FILLED CUPCAKES – A Tasty Development!

caramel filled cupcakes text2Every now and then I get an idea for a recipe that I think will be a piece of cake (pun intended!) to develop. It never is.

The saga of my CARAMEL FILLED CUPCAKES began with an inspiration from Hostess Cupcakes and Cadbury Caramel Eggs. I envisioned biting into a firm cupcake filled with, not white fluff, but with creamy caramel. The recipes I found called for baking a chocolate cupcake, digging out divots from the tops, and filling with caramel sauce.

First of all, cutting out the divots seemed like a lot of messy work. Second of all, what to do with all the divots? (I hate waste!) So, I figured I’d just pour batter into the tins and drop in homemade caramel. FAIL! All that happened was the caramel blended with the batter during baking. Tasty, but not what I wanted.

I tried freezing the caramel into balls and adding it to the batter. Same result as before since it turns out caramel doesn’t freeze. (Who knew?) I tried dropping in the caramel at different times during baking. Same. Finally, I decided I needed to encase the caramel – like the Cadbury Eggs. It couldn’t actually be Cadbury Eggs, though, since not only are they seasonal, but they’re huge.

After scouring the candy departments of various stores (what I won’t do for my blog!), I had a eureka moment when I found Lindt’s chocolate covered caramels. They were just the right size and shape! Getting closer. I dropped them into the batter. They sank to the bottom, leaking caramel. I wanted the caramel in the middle – like Hostess Cupcakes’ fluff. How could I keep the balls suspended?

It finally hit me to bake a wee bit of batter in order to form a solid base for the balls, then add the balls, surrounding them with batter, and complete the bake. Yes!!! The last tweak was freezing the balls first so they remained intact.

NOTE: Just so you know, the many cupcakes that bombed were still eaten. I HATE WASTE!

CARAMEL FILLED CUPCAKES – makes 18 cupcakes

  • 18 caramel filled chocolate 1″ balls (I use Lindt), frozencaramel filled cupcakes 15
  • 3 oz bittersweet chocolate (I use Ghirardelli 60% bar – not chips)
  • 1/3 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup hot coffee
  • 3/4 cup (4-1/8 oz) bread flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp distilled white vinegar
  • 6 T vegetable oil
  • 1¼ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli 60% chips)
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp salt

The first thing to do is freeze the chocolate-caramel balls. (I store them in the freezer immediately when I buy them.) They need to be solid to prevent melting during baking.

Break up the bittersweet chocolate bar into small pieces (so they melt quicker) and put into a bowl (or better yet, a 6 cup or more spouted measuring cup – the spout makes pouring the batter into the cupcake tin much easier). Sift the cocoa powder (cocoa powder tends to get lumpy in storage) into the bowl. caramel filled cupcakes4Pour in the HOT coffee. Immediately cover bowl with a plate to retain heat in order to melt the chocolate. Let sit for 5 minutes to soften, then stir until all chocolate is melted and mixture is well blended. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.caramel filled cupcakes5 Into another bowl combine the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.bundt2 Line your muffin tins with 18 regular-sized cupcake papers.

Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit. 

Into yet another bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, vinegar, and oil. caramel filled cupcakes6Pour egg mixture into cooled melted chocolate and stir. (You don’t want the chocolate to be too hot or it could could cook the eggs.)caramel filled cupcakes7Add in flour mixture and mix well – this is one instance where you want a little toughness to the cake so it holds up to the caramel. caramel filled cupcakes8Pour 1 tablespoon into the bottom of each liner. Don’t put in more or the caramel ball will sit too high. This small bit of batter is going to form a barrier against the caramel, preventing it from seeping into the paper. caramel filled cupcakes9Bake for 6 minutes (SET A TIMER!!!) in the preheated 350º F oven. Remove from oven. Set a frozen caramel ball on top of each baked cake bit, dead center (do your best).caramel filled cupcakes12 Then pour batter around and on top of ball, 1/3″ from top of paper. (This is where a spouted measuring cup comes in handy! Use a spoon to catch the drips.) caramel filled cupcakes13Return to oven and bake at 350º F for another 11 minutes. Remove from oven and keep cupcakes in hot muffin tin 10 minutes to set. Remove cupcakes – with papers – to a wire rack to completely cool.caramel filled cupcakes14 To make ganache frosting, place chocolate chips, vanilla, and salt in a bowl. ganache1Heat cream until bubbles form along sides – don’t let it boil.ganache2 Immediately pour over chips, cover with a plate, and let melt for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth. If the chips don’t completely melt, pour mixture into a small saucepan and, over a very low heat, stir until melted. Allow to cool completely so it thickens, stirring now and then. Pipe ganache on cupcakes, or just frost with a knife.