Cupcake Throw Down: Mini Southern Hogs Cupcakes 

I was invited to participate in the 3rd edition of the Vancouver Cupcake Throw Down held last week at The Chapel, in the Downtown East Side. It was a benefit bake-off for H.A.V.E. Culinary Training Society. With plenty of time to develop a recipe, I readily accepted. I’ve wanted to have fun with bacon in a dessert recipe for quite a while. Here was my chance. An episode of Eat St. set my own wheels turning with bacon pralines. My love of salted caramel set the tone for the rest of the recipe. I tried a couple of bases, a brown sugar base and a blue corn meal base.I brought samples of both to my office and some of my co-workers provided some good feedback. Personally, I liked the corn meal-based one better. It had a bit of a tang to it, and some crunch, but the majority of my colleagues opted for the brown sugar one. So, brown sugar it was in the end.

The event had a great turnout. Some 22 bakers were there and the flavours were quite something to see and taste. Great venue too. It was nice to see so many young families there — nothing like young kids hopped up on sugar. 🙂

Mini Southern Hogs Cupcakes

Bacon Pralines

1 pound thick-cut bacon
2-1/4 cups light brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/4 cups toasted pecans, roughly chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon bourbon
1/4 teaspoon table salt

Special equipment: candy thermometer

Toast pecans in a preheat 350F oven for 10 minutes.

Cook bacon until crisp. Drain bacon on paper towels, then line bacon on a parchment-covered pan.

Place 2 cups brown sugar into a 3-quart heavy saucepan, being careful to not get sugar on the sides of the pan. Add the cream, the 2 tablespoons butter and cook over very low heat (do not let simmer), stirring frequently with a rubber spatula, until the sugar is dissolved, 10 to 15 minutes. Wash down any sugar crystals on the side of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Clamp on a candy thermometer to the saucepan and boil the syrup over moderately-high heat until it registers 236 degrees F.

Remove the pan from the heat, leaving the thermometer in place, and let cool until the syrup registers 220 degrees F, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour mixture over lined bacon and let cool and then place in fridge to harden. Once harden, chop into small pieces.

Salted caramel fudge
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
1 stick (1/2 cup) fresh unsalted butter
1/2 cup fresh heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoon bacon salt (available at Edible BC on Granville Island)

Cook the sugar and water together over low heat until just dissolved. Add the butter and bring to a slow boil. Continue cooking at a low boil until the mixture turns a deep, golden brown color, almost copper.

This process can take awhile depending on the heat source. Keep an eye on it, if the caramel begins to smoke, you’ve burned it and you’ll have to start over.

Once the mixture has turned a copper color, remove it from the heat and immediately add the heavy cream – the mixture will bubble rapidly and steam – be cautious as the sugar will be very hot.

Whisk the final mixture together well over low heat and sprinkle in the bacon salt. Cool in fridge overnight.

Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups (188 gms) flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
115 gms unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed (125 gms) + 2 tbsp brown or raw sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp bourbon
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp milk

Preheat the oven to 350°F and line the muffin trays with paper cups.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl and set aside.

Cream the butter, vanilla and brown sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until well incorporated into the above butter and sugar mixture.  Remember to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating it with two additions of buttermilk and milk.  Beat until well combined.

Spoon batter into the lined muffin tray cups, filling each to about half. Bake for about 25 minutes (20 if you make the small cupcakes).

When cooked, let them cool down in the tray for 10 minutes, then put them on a wire rack to cool down completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting
300 g Icing sugar, sifted
50 g Unsalted butter, room temp
125 g Cream Cheese, slightly softened
5 ml vanilla
Buttermilk to taste and texture

In a food processor or electric mixer, beat the icing sugar and butter until well mixed.

Dice the cream cheese into smaller cubes then add to the mix, beating until completely combined.

On medium-high speed, add vanilla and continue beating the frosting until it becomes light and fluffy. This takes around five minutes.  Add buttermilk if you want a creamier frosting.

Assembly

When the cupcakes are cool, scoop a small chunk of each cupcake (small melon scooper works well), and spread a small dab of the salted caramel fudge. Replace the cupcake chunk on top of the fudge. Pipe the cream cheese frosting on cupcake and sprinkle bacon praline on top. Refrigerate.

Sources:
Cupcake recipe adapted from: Manu’s menu website: http://www.manusmenu.com/triple-salted-caramel-cupcakes

Salted caramel recipe from: Cooking Channel’s Four Twenty Blackbirds Salted Caramel Apple Pie recipe: http://www.cookingchanneltv.com/recipes/four-and-twenty-blackbirds-salted-caramel-apple-pie-recipe/index.html

Bacon praline recipe adapted from: Food Network – New Orleans Bacon Pralines: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/claire-robinson/new-orleans-bacon-pralines-recipe/index.html

Cream cheese frosting recipe adapted from Good to Know Recipes: http://www.goodtoknow.co.uk/recipes/475341/Red-velvet-cupcakes

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