A few weeks ago, I got an email with an offer for a product to review on Playing House. These emails land in my inbox regularly, and I always pass; reviewing products just isn't my cup of tea. This particular email, though, happened to be offering something I couldn't ignore. Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.
If you're a long-time Playing House reader, you know that Baked: New Frontiers in Baking is one of my most used, most adored cookbooks. This followup has already joined those ranks. I love how the Baked boys make recipes simple and approachable but still require that bakers' 6th sense that I'm always trying to nurture in myself. Some highlights of the book that I'll be sharing with you soon: Pumpkin Cheddar Muffins, Chocolate Peanut Butter Fondue, Nutella Scones, Black & White Cookies, and Strawberry Jell-O Salad (a kitschy concoction complete with pretzel crust and a layer of cream cheese).
This cookbook couldn't have arrived at a better time. My friend Wendy had just sent me some straight-from-the-tree maple syrup from her home in upstate New York (best gift ever), and as soon as I saw this Maple Cupcake recipe, I knew I had to make them.
These cupcakes are divine. If you have access to real maple syrup, I highly recommend incorporating them into your fall repertoire ASAP. And as for the book, if you're looking for a high-quality creative spin on classic desserts you know and love, then take a look. I'd be willing to bet you'll love it.
My past love for Baked: Baked, Lemon Lemon Loaf, Pumpkin Whoopie Pies, Root Beer Bundt Cake, Baked Brownies
Maple Walnut Cupcakes
From Baked Explorations
Makes 24 cupcakes
For the maple cupcakes:
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, slightly softened,cut into chunks
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, at room temperature
2 cups pure maple syrup, preferable Grade B
3 egg yolks
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped, plus extra for garnish
For the cream cheese maple frosting:
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
12 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons maple syrup
Baked Note: Do not, I repeat, do not use imitation maple syrup in this recipe. Actually, avoid imitation maple syrup at all times. It is usually composed of corn syrup and food coloring and, sadly, contains very little, if any, real maple syrup. In short, it’s hard to think of a more disingenuous grocery store product.
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two 12-cup cupcake pans with paper liners or spray with nonstick baking spray.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
3. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening until ribbonlike. Turn the mixer to low and stream in the maple syrup. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is nearly uniform in color, about 3 minutes.
4. Add the egg yolks and egg, one at a time, and beat until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add half of the flour mixture and mix on low speed until incorporated. Stream in the milk. Stop the mixer, add the rest of the flour, then turn the mixer on until just combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and fold in the walnuts.
5. Fill the prepared cupcake pan about three-quarters full. Bake the cupcakes for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Note: These cupcakes take longer to bake than traditional cupcakes due to the maple syrup.
6. Allow the cupcakes to cool for 15 minutes in the cupcake pan, then turn them out onto wire racks to cool completely.
7. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the softened butter until it is completely smooth. Add the cream cheese and beat until combined.
8. Add the sugar and the maple syrup and beat until smooth. Be careful not to overbeat the frosting or it will lose structure. (At this point, if you want to, you can tightly cover the frosting and refrigerate it for a day. Let it soften at room temperature before using.)
9. If you have a pastry bag, simply fit with the largest tip, fill the bag with frosting, and pipe enough to cover the cupcake in a big mound. If you do not have a pastry bag, use an ice cream scoop with a release mechanism to scoop the frosting and dispense it onto the top of the cupcake. You can also use an offset spatula to frost the cupcakes. Sprinkle with chopped toasted walnuts.
Refrigerate any leftover cupcakes in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Bring cupcakes to room temperature before serving.
Fine print: I received a copy of Baked Explorations for review purposes. I am under no obligation to provide a favorable review. I just liked it a lot.