Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Gluten Free Almond Caramel Cookies

Today, I have another recipe for you! These cookies are AMAZING. Very good with a cup of coffee. And gluten free! You all are going to LOVE them! I promise!

You're going to need some almonds for this. You will be grinding some and making your own almond butter. You will see how absolutely easy making your own nut butter can be. A lot of recipes will call for added oil, but I never add any. Just keep your food processor running until the almonds (or other nut) release their own oil. Not only is it healthier, but it tastes fantastic! Also, the oil doesn't separate from the butter, so no pesky and annoying stirring to get the oil back in like with the natural nut butters you can buy in the store.

Okay, I'll end the infomercial on homemade nut butters now! :)

You will also have a chance to make your own caramel for this recipe. It sounds intimidating, but it's really not hard. You will need a candy thermometer, though. I use one just like this one and I love it.

If you just don't want to make your own caramel sauce, though, don't worry. Melted store-bought caramels will work too! Just add a little heavy cream (also sometimes called "whipping cream") to the melted caramels to thin them out a bit if you need to. Drizzle leftover caramel sauce over ice cream, on top of hot chocolate, on a slice of cake, or on just about anything! It is also excellent by the spoonful. Or so I've been told...

These cookies are also very good without the caramel sauce on the top. Yum! Enjoy with a nice glass of milk.

Here is the recipe! Enjoy!

Almond Caramel Cookies
For the Cookies:
1-2/3 cup (4-1/2 ounces) almond meal/flour, lightly spooned and leveled
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
2-1/2 cups raw almonds
1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup packed (5-4/5 ounces) light brown sugar
1/2 cup (3-1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the Caramel:
3/4 cup (5-1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 cup (4 liquid ounces) heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

To make the cookies, first preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk together the almond meal, baking powder and the salt; set aside. Place the raw almonds in a food processor and process until coarsely chopped. Remove approximately 3/4 of a cup and set aside. Continue to process the remaining almonds until the oil is released and it turns into almond butter. This may take 5 minutes or more.

Place almond butter, butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on medium speed with the paddle attachment until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in the egg and the vanilla. On low speed, gradually mix in almond meal mixture and reserved chopped almonds.

Drop tablespoon-sized balls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. If the dough or dough balls are getting too warm, briefly chill in the refrigerator. They should not spread at all before baking. Bake in preheated oven for 6 minutes, then gently flatten the cookies with the bottom of a glass. Bake an additional 6 minutes or until bottoms are golden. Let cool on sheets for 2 minutes then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

While the cookies are cooling, make the caramel sauce. Combine the sugar, water, lemon juice and salt in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture just barely begins to simmer. Stop stirring and boil undisturbed until the mixture turns a medium-dark copper brown color. While it is boiling, brush the sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush to get rid of any sugar crystals.

Remove the pan from the heat, immediately and carefully add the cream, which will cause the mixture to bubble vigorously. When the bubbling subsides, add the butter and stir until the butter and cream are fully combined with the sugar mixture. Clip on a candy thermometer and return the pan to the heat. Boil the caramel until the temperature reaches 240 degrees F. Pour immediately into a glass jar or other open container.

Using a spoon, drizzle the caramel over the cooled cookies. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for one week or freeze for one month. Store extra caramel in an airtight container in the refrigerator for one month.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Gingerbread Cupcakes

It's another cupcake post! Don't you all just love cupcakes? I especially love mini cupcakes. They are so cute and little. And easy to eat.

You will love these mini cupcakes. They are easy to whip up and sure to impress.

I made these little beauties for Christmas, but I think they would be delicious any time of the year!

You can also make these into a cake. That would also be delicious.

I topped my mini-cupcakes with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream (see the recipe here) and some candied ginger. You can make your own candied ginger. That does sound like something I would do, doesn't it? Stop laughing, those of you who know me! :) I did not make my own, though. I love the candied ginger pieces made by The Ginger Poeople and I always have some on hand. I get mine at Williams Sonoma. Remember that a little goes a long way!

Once your cupcakes are baked and cooled, top with a swirl of the buttercream and a sprinkling of the candied ginger. Yum!

Here is the recipe for the cupcakes! Enjoy!

Gingerbread Cake

1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter
1-1/2 cups (11-2/3 ounces) brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons molasses
3 whole large eggs
2-3/4 cups (9-2/3 ounces) sifted cake flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare cupcake tins by lining with cupcake wrappers. Or prepare 2 8-inch round cake pans by greasing them with shortening and lining with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and the molasses and blend well. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing just until blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and spices. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture alternately with the cream, beginning and ending with the flour and mixing after each addition just until blended.

Fill each cupcake liner halfway (or divide evenly between the two cake pans). Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 15 minutes for mini-cupcakes, 20-25 minutes for regular cupcakes or 35-45 minutes for cakes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Remove cupcakes from pans immediately and allow to cool completely on wire racks before frosting. If baking as cakes, allow to cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then remove from pans and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Chocolate Peppermint Mini Cupcakes


I want to share with you all some cupcakes I made for an event at my church before Christmas. They were absolutely fantastic. Lest you think I'm tooting my own horn, everyone at that little party kept telling me how much they liked these little beauties.

Yes, I did just use the phrase "tooting my own horn." Because that's how I roll. :)

I dare you to say you don't crave chocolate now!

Take a decadent brownie-like cupcake and top it with vanilla bean swiss meringue buttercream, crushed peppermints and rich chocolate ganache. This is what you get. Perfect for the holidays, of course, but also for any time of year and any occasion. Maybe you could whip some of these up for your sweetie, or just for yourself, on Valentine's day.

And ... drumroll please ... here is the recipe! Please go right now and make these cupcakes. You will not regret it! This recipe also works well as regular cupcakes. The cake recipe I posted here would also work very well as these cupcakes. Enjoy!

Midnight Mini-Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream, Crushed Peppermint and Chocolate Ganache

1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
1 cup (7 3/4 ounces) brown sugar
3/4 cup (2 1/4 ounces) dutched cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup water
2 teaspoons espresso powder
3/4 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
3 large whole eggs
1 3/4 (7 3/4 ounces) all purpose flour
3/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a heavy medium saucepan, whisk together the sugars, cocoa, baking soda and salt. In a separate small saucepan, heat water with espresso powder to boiling. Once boiling, pour the water a little at a time into the cocoa mixture, stirring constantly to prevent sticking. Continue stirring and bring the mixture to a boil. Turn off the heat and allow to stand in the hot saucepan for 10 minutes.

Pour the hot cocoa mixture into a large mixing bowl or into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the oil and extracts; beat on low for 10 seconds. Add the eggs and mix on low just until combined. Add the flour alternately with the cream, beginning and ending with the flour, and mixing after each addition just until combined. The mixture will be fairly thin.

Spoon or pour the mixture into lined mini-muffin cups three-quarters full and bake in the preheated oven for 9 minutes or until the center springs back when touched lightly with your finger, being careful not to over-bake. Let cool for a minute or two, then remove from pan and cool completely on wire racks.

Top with a swirl of buttercream, a sprinkle of crushed candy canes, and a drizzle of dark chocolate sauce.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

3 large egg whites (3 ounces)
6 ounces (by weight) granulated sugar
Pinch salt
9 ounces unsalted butter, very soft but not melted (I leave mine out overnight)
1-2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract or vanilla paste

Whisk together the egg whites, sugar and salt in the top portion of a double boiler, or in a pan set over (not touching) boiling water. Heat, whisking constantly until the mixture reaches 165 degrees F on a candy thermometer. The sugar will be completely dissolved by this temperature and will become frothy. Once the mixture reaches 165 degrees, pour through a strainer into the bowl of a stand mixer. You can mix this by hand, but it's much much easier in a stand mixer! Begin mixing on low, then on high until it comes to stiff peaks and the bowl is completely cool to the touch. Add the softened butter in all at once and mix on LOW speed until it comes together and becomes very creamy. This will take awhile and it may look curdled in the meantime. Don't worry, just keep mixing! Don't try to speed up the process by turning up the speed on your mixer. You will only ruin your buttercream that way. When the buttercream comes together and becomes creamy, add in your vanilla and mix on low until well-combined.

Dark Chocolate Sauce

1 cup (8 ounces) heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
8 ounces good-quality dark chocolate, chopped

In a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, heat the cream, espresso powder and sugar until steaming. Whisk in the chocolate until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.