Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sticky Toffee Pudding Cupcakes

I get the sticky part. I get the toffee part. I get the cupcake part. But, I don't get the pudding part of these sticky pudding toffee cupcakes (please note this recipe isn't the one that's in the cookbook, but it's as close as I could find). Maybe after we're done here, you'll be able to tell me.

When I read through the recipe and the ingredients I would need, 2 things immediately jumped out at me. One, I once again had to deal with dates. And two, I needed to buy some booze as the recipe requires brandy. I suppose the timing is rather appropriate since St. Patrick's Day was yesterday. But along with not being a drinker, I'm also not Irish. 2 strikes against me already. Anyway, from the few trips I've made to the liquor store (Crazy Bruce's is my store of choice if you're in the Connecticut area) I know that they keep the airplane-sized bottles of liquor near the registers and I knew I would probably need just a couple nips of brandy since the recipe only required three-quarter cups of it. It took awhile to find, apparently brandy isn't a very popular liquor, but again, I wouldn't really know. I found what I needed and purchased 3 bottles. Mission accomplished. The only other thing I had to buy was dates. I did have some left over from the time I made these date-nut mini cupcakes but not knowing much about dates I was worried they would be stale, or bad, or whatever you call dates that are no longer usable. So I threw the old ones out and bought new. Just in case you were wondering, dates still look just as creepy and slug-like as they did the first time I baked with them. So gross.

I'm starting to get the impression that just about every cupcake in this section is going to require me to butter and flour the cupcake pans, which we've already established as being one of my least favorite things. This recipe was no different. Because I don't like to do it, I got that out of the way first. My next step was to chop the dates in half. I made it a priority to purchase dates that had already been pitted to save myself some work, and from having to touch the dates any more than necessary. Once the dates were cut I cooked them down in the brandy and water and prepared the dry ingredients for the batter. The worst part of this whole recipe was the smell that came from the water, brandy and dates while they were cooking. Even with the lid on the pot while they boiled, when I caught a whiff of the smell it was extremely unpleasant. So much so that I held my breath when I was in the area where the steam was coming out of the pot. Yes, it was that bad. Or yes, I'm that much of a baby. You can be the judge.

The dates didn't take that long to cook and when they were "very soft" I was supposed to puree them in the food processor until smooth. Since the mixture was pretty liquidy (technical term) I thought the blender might be a better idea. But, if Martha said I should use a food processor then I was going to use a food processor. It didn't take long for the mixture to become smooth, or to become what I decided was smooth enough. When the date mixture was smooth enough I let it cool for 15 minutes.

While the dates cooled I combined the rest of the ingredients which was almost no work at all. Once the date mixture was cool enough I combined that, and the dry ingredients with the rest of the wet ingredients. Everything came together nicely, but the batter was pretty thick and there was no way I was going to be able to pour it into the cupcake pan. Since the recipe said I would only get 14 cupcakes I decided to use all the batter for one batch and get 12 instead. I didn't want to have to butter and flour another pan for only 2 cupcakes.

I used all the batter to fill the pans which filled each of them about three-quarters full. They were baked for 24 total minutes with a turn halfway through the baking time. The cupcakes were a little big for my liking, but not too bad. While the cupcakes were baking I made the toffee glaze (this isn't the exact recipe from the cookbook either, but it's close). Since it had to be poured into the cupcake pan as soon as the cupcakes were done baking and used immediately after it was made I was feeling the pressure to get the timing just right. The glaze was easy to make even though I put all the ingredients in at once instead of waiting to put in the brandy and salt (oops!). That's what happens when you don't read the directions all the way through. Still haven't learned that lesson, but it didn't matter anyway. I ended up finishing the glaze a couple minutes before the cupcakes were done. I just gave it a couple stirs before I poured it into the well of each cupcake.

Before pouring in the glaze I was worried that the cupcakes were going to stick to the pan because they were still going to be pretty warm, but to my pleasant surprise they all came out quite nicely. I was able to tilt each of them up enough to pour in 2 tablespoons of the glaze for each cupcake. Once each cupcake received it's dose of the glaze I let them sit for 10 minutes to soak it all in before removing them from the pan and applying the next dose of glaze.

When it was time to remove the cupcakes from the pan almost all of them came out nicely. Parts of some of the bottoms were stuck in the pan, but it wasn't enough to be upsetting. It was enough to eat. After all the cupcakes were removed I applied 2 more tablespoons of glaze to each and let it set until finally it was time to taste test. My favorite. They were delicious. I loved them, and they're definitely my favorite from this section so far. I especially knew they were good because after I was finished photographing one I gave the rest to Bobby so he could try it. Normally he takes a bite and gives it back to me, but this time he ate the whole thing. Then he told me to start giving them away so he wouldn't eat anymore. He's shedding for the wedding too.