Sunday, July 29, 2012

Oatmeal-Raisin Cupcakes

I messed up. I knew it was going to happen, but frankly I thought it would happen with a seemingly more difficult cupcake. Apparently I've met my match with oatmeal raisin. I don't think my final product was that far off. As you can see they do still look like cupcakes.

Basically what happened was I skipped over a line in the recipe. Before you ask, yes, I did read it through once beforehand. But, once I got into the recipe I became sidetracked and missed a step. I do have an excuse, it's not great, but it's an excuse nonetheless. Long story short, in the middle of my baking a thunderstorm rolled in and I kept getting distracted having to run around the house closing windows and making sure we weren't taking on water. Oh, and the power went out once. I know it's not the best excuse but in the words of my dad... excuses are like a certain part of the body, (I'll let you guess which one) everyone has one. So what I missed is crystal clear, please note the highlighted portion from the recipe below.

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and both sugars until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Beat in sour cream. Stir in raisins by hand. Transfer 2 3/4 cups batter to another bowl, and stir in remaining 1 3/4 cups oats and the coconut; reserve for topping.

In other words I went right from beating in the vanilla to beating in the sour cream. Then I stirred in the raisins, transferred the batter and stirred in the remaining oats and coconut. While clearly I can't read it was almost like I was trying to tell myself something when it came time to transfer the batter. I was looking at the counter and contemplating what bowl to put the batter in. The Pyrex bowls I hadn't used yet weren't going to be big enough to hold the batter with the oats and coconut. I even remember thinking to myself, "Man, if only I was done with the flour mixture I could use that bowl." Hello! See, I knew something was off, my brain just didn't get me there in time.

When I got to the part of the recipe where I was supposed to fill the cupcake liners, but still had my flour mixture to put into the batter my brain finally caught up. I realized that somewhere along the line I had missed a step. I backtracked and realized what I had done. After cursing myself (I have seriously never done this before) I started thinking if there was any way to fix the problem without completely trashing the batter and starting from scratch. There wasn't. I didn't have enough ingredients on hand to make a whole new batch, and I wasn't interested in taking another trip to the store (it was still storming outside). So I carried on. I had the "topping" done minus the portion of the flour mixture that was supposed to be in it. And, I had the regular batter without any flour mixture at all. I left the topping as it was and combined the flour mixture with the rest of the regular batter knowing that it would probably be really stiff, and end up being more dry than it was supposed to be. But at this point everything had become an experiment to see if I could come up with an edible finished product.

With my 2 different types of batter I followed the recipe like I was supposed to the rest of the way. I probably used more batter than I was supposed to to fill the liners, but again, I was pretty much off the script at this point. I baked the cupcakes according to the recipe, 20 total minutes with a turn halfway through the baking time. The tops of the cupcakes were starting to get a little brown at that point, and the toothpick tester came out clean so I figured that was enough baking time. I let the cupcakes cool completely in the tins to give them as much baking time as possible.

They looked nice and full so at the very least I gave myself some style points, but the truth would be in the taste test. Truthfully, they weren't terrible and had I followed the recipe correctly they probably would have turned out pretty close to awesome. The flavor was good, the bottom portion was just a little dense and dry. Like I figured it would be since there was too much flour in that portion of the batter. The tops were pretty crumbly and probably would have held together better had they had more flour than they did. Again, something that would have happened if I knew how to read and follow directions.

I was happy that this wasn't a total loss, but to be honest when I first realized the mistake I had made I was pretty mad. Because it was such a waste of money, time and energy. Because I had done so well up to this point and because part of me thought I would get through this whole project and each cupcake would come out exactly as it was intended. Yes, I know that last part is ridiculous, but I have great expectations. I'm hoping these cupcakes will just be a minor blip on the radar and that I won't inadvertently deviate from any future recipes. At some point I may try to make them again the right way, but for now, it's full steam ahead for project cupcake.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Forgive me cupcakes for I have sinned. It's been several weeks since I last baked one of you...

Who knew getting married would monopolize so much of my time? And I fear it's only going to get worse from here since we're now 41 days away. Holy crap. I find that when you say it out loud (or read/write it) it really hits home how close it is. I'm not even panicking, at least not yet. We're pretty well organized, unless there's something major that I forgot. We'll see.

While I have been busy with wedding events and preparations and real-life things the past couple weeks this week I'm back! Did you miss me? My goal is to not take another cupcake hiatus until the wedding. I can't promise I won't, but I'm going to try not to.

When I left you last I had made a couple cakes for some birthdays, but my last cupcake adventure from Martha's book were these chocolate chunk cupcakes. The first of three in the cookie cupcake series in the third section of the book. I had high hopes for them, but they were disappointing, mostly because the chunks were so chunky they sunk and didn't make for very good looking cupcakes. I was hoping the second installment in this section, peanut butter cupcakes, would yield better results.

From the onset I wasn't very excited about these cupcakes because in my previous experience with peanut butter cupcakes I didn't enjoy them. The cupcakes were a bit too heavy, dense and peanut buttery for my taste. I feared that I would get the same result from this recipe. I didn't. Phew.

Let's break down the recipe, shall we? It was easy, plain and simple. I did get a bit thrown when it came time to fill the liners. The recipe said to fill the liners with 3 scant tablespoons of batter. I still don't know what that means, but because I was able to successfully make the cupcakes without that knowledge I didn't bother to look it up afterward. I used a tablespoon to fill the liners and filled them roughly three-quarters full. I just eyeballed it. The recipe said I should yield 20 cupcakes. I ran out of batter at 20 cupcakes so I figured my measurements were pretty close to on point.

However, when baking time came and they took longer than the recipe said they should have, I thought I might have made them a little too big. Martha said to bake the cupcakes about 13 minutes with a turn halfway through the baking time. I ended up baking them for 19 minutes. They were good size, but they certainly weren't too big. In fact they were the perfect size for my taste.

I let the cupcakes cool completely and then began work on the frosting (recipe can also be found with the link above). I let the cream cheese and butter get to room temperature while I was baking the cupcakes so it wasn't too difficult to work with. The frosting was also easy to make and didn't take long. Once I was done with that I used my new, small offset spatula that I got at my recent bridal shower (thanks Laney!) to frost the cupcakes. I had quite a bit of frosting left over. Enough that I probably could have frosted 20 more cupcakes. I threw the excess away. Wasteful yes, but also good for my waistline. We're 41 days out people, it's all about the waistline right now.

After all the cupcakes were frosted I put them in the fridge for 10 minutes to set so I could finish them off with my favorite detail of the cupcakes, the criss-cross fork pattern! I just think it looks really cool, like they're peanut butter cookies, but they're actually cupcakes... boo-yah! Even though I put confectioner's sugar on the fork it still stuck a little when I pressed it into the frosting. Most of the cupcakes came out ok, but some lost a little frosting to the fork tines. Perfection is boring. Imperfection is what builds character, and I thought the cupcakes turned out looking really nice.

They also turned out tasting really nice. Relax, stay calm, I ate less than half of a cupcake. Truthfully I almost always only eat half a cupcake when I bake and that's usually the one that I take the pictures of. I am dedicated to shedding for the wedding... most of the time. I was expecting the cupcake to be very heavy, dense and peanut buttery like the peanut butter cupcakes of the past. While these cupcakes were heavy in weight, the texture of the cake was actually quite light and fluffy. I really enjoyed them. The frosting wasn't even too much. I was so pleasantly surprised and it took some willpower to only eat half.