Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Spiced Apple Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting

Not to wish summer away, but I love that fall is in the air here in Boston! Autumn is absolutely my favorite season and it makes me miss my home in Upstate NY terribly. I am currently alternating between three fall scented Yankee candles and digging out my fall decorations. (See my new Current Obsessions for more fall things.) So since two of my best friends' birthday were this month, I made them both a batch of these autumn-inspired cupcakes.

As you can see, I had trouble resisting them during the photo shoot. I knew I wanted something apple-y, but I was afraid apple cupcakes would fall too quickly into the muffin category. That's why this recipe is so great - it has texture and consistency of cake, but with all the warm flavors of fall. The caramel frosting is delicious and fun to make, but don't add the cream too soon (like I did the first time) or you'll end up with a hard piece of caramel candy... Whoops. For cupcakes this recipe is a little time-consuming, but well worth the effort. Enjoy!

Spiced Apple Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting (Adapted from Chow)
Makes: 24 cupcakes  Prep: 25 minutes  Total: 1 hour, 20 minutes

3 Gala apples, grated
2 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
3/4 cup low fat buttermilk

1/4 cup sugar
2 tbs water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup butter
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup powdered sugar

Peel, slice and grate apples with a food processor or by hand. Place grated apples in a colander, sprinkle with salt and let sit while you prepare the rest of the batter. (This will help dry out unwanted moisture.)
In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and ginger. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and add sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, eggs and buttermilk. When the wet ingredients are fully incorporated, add dry ingredients into the mixture and combine until smooth. Lastly, squeeze out the grated apples to rid of excess moisture and add to the batter.
Pour into greased or papered cupcake tins and bake for 25-30 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely before icing and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Combine 1/4 cup with water in a small pot and bring to a boil. Cook at medium-high heat for about 5-8 minutes until the mixture turns and dark caramel color. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes, then slowly mix in the heavy cream in small increments. Add the vanilla, mix well and let sit until the mixture is cool to the touch.
In a separate bowl, cream the butter with the sea salt and then add powdered sugar. Add the caramel and mix well. Store in the fridge for 30 minutes before icing.

Alaskan Smoked Salmon Dip

This recipe is a bit delayed, but better late than never! At the end of the summer my family and I traveled north to Alaska and it was by far the coolest vacation we've ever taken. My uncle Bill has been in Anchorage for the past few years, so we stayed with him and traveled to a few other cities. Here are some highlights from the trip:

K2 Aviation Flight with glacier landing
Bear spotting at Denali National Park
Glacier hiking at Matanuska
Glacier boat cruise in Seward
On top of all the fun sightseeing, we ate some really good food and drank some great locally-brewed beer. On one of our last nights in town, we made a feast with Bill's freshly caught caribou from his hunting trip the weekend before. He seasoned each slice with salt and pepper, wrapped them in bacon and grilled them until tender. I added this smoked salmon dip to the meal with Alaskan salmon Bill had caught himself and brought to a smokehouse. I don't think I can ever eat store-bought smoked salmon again. It was unreal how amazing the fresh salmon was, and combined with the caribou it made for a perfect Alaskan meal!

Alaskan Smoked Salmon Dip (Adapted from Ina Garten)
Yields: 6-8 servings  Prep: 20 minutes  Total: 20 minutes

8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tbs lemon juice
1 1/2 tbs horseradish
1 1/2 tbs fresh dill
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 lb Alaskan smoked salmon, shredded

Combine softened cream cheese, sour cream, lemon juice and horseradish in a medium bowl. Mix in dill, salt and pepper. Shred the smoked salmon using two forks and remove any small bones. Mix the salmon into the dip. Serve immediately with crackers or refrigerate.
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