Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cupcake Camp Recap: Brown Sugar Praline Cupcakes

As you saw in yesterday's post, while my first batch of cupcakes ended up as a miserable failure, I did successfully end up making eight dozen batches of cupcakes in two flavors.  I had my eye on making praline cupcakes (inspired by the pralines a coworker brought back from New Orleans around Mardi Gras) and I bookmarked this recipe with the intent of making it for Cupcake Camp Boston.  I liked the fact that it was out of the ordinary, included the praline flavor and texture (yum!) and wasn't chocolate.

It was a bit risky to try a new recipe without a test run, but I had faith that it would all work out, and thankfully it did!

Brown Sugar Cupcakes
Ingredients
3 cups cake flour

1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
6 oz. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup milk
4 eggs, at room tempurature
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions
Preheat oven to 350F. In mixing bowl sift in cake flour, salt, baking powder, and brown sugars and mix for 30 seconds on low speed to combine. Add in butter and sour cream and mix for about 30 more seconds. In a seperate bowl whisk together milk, eggs, and vanilla and add it to the flour mixture in 2 parts mixing thouroughly and scraping the sides after each addition. Line cupcake pans with paper liners and fill 2/3 way full. Bake for 18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. Makes approx. 30 cupcakes

The batter looked nice and thick when I filled the cupcake liners using my handy dandy new cupcake dispenser, a Christmas gift that I busted out for the occasion (highly recommended):














They came out of the oven perfect, slightly domed but flat enough to frost evenly:


I had high expectations for the flavor of the cake but it was pretty neutral, I'm guessing to balance out the sweetness of the praline frosting and topping. It also reminded me more of cornbread in texture, but was sturdy enough to hold up the weight of a heavy topping.

Next step was to make the praline topping. It's a delicate process that requires a candy thermometer because you only have a short window of time to scoop when it hits the perfect soft ball temperature.  From the sugaring you can see in my pralines, I overcooked the pralines but they still looked decent and tasted great! 













Pralines
Ingredients

1 1/2 cup pecan halves
1 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions
In a 300F oven toast pecan halves on a foil lined cookie sheet for about 8 minutes checking often because they burn easily! Let cool and chop roughly.

In a medium heavy bottomed sauce pan combine brown sugar, sugar, heavy cream, and salt. Cook over medium heat until the sugars dissolve and mixture starts to come to a boil, making sure to stir occasionally.

Continue cooking until mixture reaches 235F-240F on a candy thermometer or soft-ball stage when small amount is placed in water, about another 15-20 minutes. Be very careful with this step, as overcooking will cause a grainy texture!

Remove from heat and add butter, vanilla, and pecans. Stir with a rubber spatula contiuously for approximately 3-4 minutes until mixture thickens enough to be scooped out and not be too runny.I used my Oxo small cookie scoop to quickly create uniform pralines on my Silpat sheets. Let cool (I had them sit out for eight hours before I used them).

Finally, the slightly labor intensive praline frosting.

Brown Sugar Praline Buttercream

Ingredients
4 large egg whites
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
1 tsp vanilla
8 pralines chopped finely (from the ones you created above)

Directions
In a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a pan of simmering water, whisk together egg whites, sugar, and salt. Cook, whisking constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch.













Transfer to the clean bowl of an electric mixer with whisk attatchment. Beat on medium speed until fluffy and cooled, about 15 minutes. This is the part where I say "Presto, Change-o!"

Raise speed to high; beat until stiff peaks form. Switch to paddle attatchment and reduce speed to medium-low; add butter, 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time, until fully incorporated. Add in vanilla. Fold in praline pieces with spoon.

This is what the mixture looks like before you start beating it:











 

Ta - da! After fifteen minutes of beating (props to my Kitchenaid mixer for the hard labor):

To be honest, I'm not sure if I made the frosting correctly because it resulted in a very light and airy, almost foamy-in-texture frosting. Everyone who tasted it enjoyed it, but I was expecting more of a buttercream texture.

So as you know by now, this how the cupcakes looked once they were decorated. In hindsight, I would cut each praline in half and prop them upright on top since a whole praline just kind of sits there and looks meh.
So for inspiration, I'll leave you with The Frosted Cake 'n Cookie's perfect version of the Brown Sugar Praline Cupcake:
Photo credit here

2 comments:

Jeanne said...

My grandmother makes killer (and I mean, killer) pralines. You pronounce them "prah leans" NOT "pray leans" btw! I hear it mispronounced way too often!

Great job, Joyce. These look incredible!

bcallegra said...

Thanks Jeanne! I LOVE pralines and look forward to perfecting the recipe over time to meet the standards of a LA grandmother! :) Also, I'll fully admit to pronouncing them wrong and I will mentally remind myself it is "prah leans" from hear on out.