Monday, November 22, 2010

Pumpkin cupcakes with brown butter icing

Oh Martha. Ohhhhhhh Martha. You've done it again. Pumpkin cupcakes with...brown butter icing. Gah!

I baked these in repayment for a coworker who was kind enough to bring in Alonti breakfast burritos for the whole office. He picked them, but to be honest, I've had my eye on them for a while. Plus, I have a few canning / pie pumpkins lying around the apartment from my CSAs (yes, one left over from summer), so I wanted to use those up.

I have to tell you, this was probably the most complicated cake recipe I've ever made. Many of Martha's cupcakes are a challenge, but let me walk you through these puppies. (I don't have the book in front of me, so all of these are approximate.)
  1. Melt 1 1/2 sticks of butter.
  2. Chiffonade sage leaves until you have 1/4 cup. (Also from CSA.) Throw into butter mixture and heat at medium-low heat until butter turns golden brown.
  3. Meanwhile, steam canning pumpkin halves for 20-30 minutes until flesh is tender. Scoop out and blend to make a puree. (You can buy this in a can, but I had pumpkins on hand.)
  4. Blend butter, pumpkin, eggs, granulated sugar, and brown sugar.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves.
  6. Blend all ingredients together and pour into muffin tins. Bake, turning halfway.
I guess I made it more complicated by using the real pumpkins, but it was totally worth it. My stuff looked just like the canned stuff, and it was organic and fresh. Plus, the cupcakes turned out pretty well:

They sat overnight in an airtight container, and I did the icing this morning. Brown butter is basically burnt butter. The butter that went into the cupcakes wasn't quite burnt / dark enough to be called "brown butter," but this morning's batch for the icing definitely qualified. You take 1 stick of butter and heat over medium heat for 10 minutes, or less - as soon as the butter turns brown and basically stops bubbling, you know it's ready.

There are little flecks of burnt deliciousness in there, trust me. Then you mix in 2 cups powdered sugar, 2 tsp. vanilla extract, and some milk (to get consistency). The book said that the icing "tends to separate," which is a bit of an understatement. The moment you stir this to the right consistency, the butter starts to weep out of it and it looks like congealed pig fat. Then you need to put it into a double boiler and add a little more milk until it gets to the right smooth consistency again.

You top the cupcakes immediately. I'm not joking - IMMEDIATELY. Instead of dipping the cupcakes in the icing, I poured a bit of icing on them. It looked nice on some of them, and not so nice on others.

They are really, really, really good. A few of my coworkers have tried them and so far everyone has liked them. I had one for breakfast to console myself after running six blocks through the pouring rain without an umbrella. The pumpkin is perfect, and I'm going to have to make some of these to freeze. Without the icing, I think they would make nice muffins, too.

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