Monday, May 23, 2011

A gift to Eat, Write, Retreat - Chocolate Bourbon Toffee Cupcakes

I'm a very lucky lady. I mean that statement in its most honest form. I'm filled this morning with swells of happy sappiness. Thick, gooey, need-a-harsh-chemical-to-get-it-all-off, kind of sappiness. The kind that people think is cute and then wonder what's wrong with you, kind of sappiness. I can't help it. It's who I am.

Sleepy, eyes ringed in dark circles, but with a brain energized, I got home to Boston from Washington, DC, last night. I spent the weekend putting voices to names and photos I only knew from a tweet or an email. Lovely, lilting, laughing voices who are still in my head this morning, making me smile from ear-to-ear. Seriously people, I'm sitting here at my laptop with a massive grin on my face as I write.

I jetted (doesn't that sound fabulous? I jest.) down to D.C. for Eat, Write, Retreat, my first-ever blogging conference. I don't want to recap it entirely for you. I'd never do it justice. I could never catch the spirit of the amazing people I met and from which I learned. I'll say this, I'm blessed to be part of this community of food bloggers. We have so much to learn from one another, and everyone is so eager to share what they know, and what they don't.

When I first sat down to my table for dinner on Saturday night to a table full of people I had never met in real life, several of my fellow food writers said, "You're just like you are on Twitter!". It was probably the most cherished thing said to me the entire weekend. Why? I strive to be honest here, to give you a little slice of something from my kitchen, and from my life. I want people to know the joy my kitchen creates for me, and hopefully for them. You can't go through life pretending you're something you're not. It's exhausting. This is me, you get the whole deal.

I have a lot to say about this weekend, but it's still marinating in my brain. It's not ready to be thrown on the grill yet, it needs time to soak up all the amazing flavor it has been given. So instead, I'll give you cupcakes. Don't lecture me on how cupcakes are "so over". Get over it. They taste like birthday parties in elementary school,  they go anywhere, they're classic. Nothing that tastes amazing should ever be passé. It should be cherished like the scrawl on the cupcake recipe card you have stashed in a box, you know, the one your mother gave you.

So to all of my fellow attendees from Eat, Write, Retreat this weekend, the amazing organizers of Robyn Webb and Casey Benedict, the amazing panels that allowed our thoughts to grow, the sponsors who made our suitcases nearly burst at the seams on the way home, this one's for you. A simple cupcake to nibble on and look back on this weekend. Thank you for the journey and I hope there are many more to come.

Chocolate Bourbon Toffee Cupcakes
Yield: 18
Base recipes adapted from: David Lebovitz and Joy of Baking

You might be saying, "where's the local in this?". I've explained before, I believe baking from scratch at home is the ultimate local, but in this case, several ingredients used are local/regional. The flour hails from King Arthur in Vermont, but more importantly the semi-sweet chocolate used in the frosting is from Taza Chocolate in Somerville, MA. They're amazing on all fronts, please check them out. The frosting recipe will make extra, but that's OK, you can never go wrong with extra frosting.

9 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups (195 grams) cake flour (not self-rising)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup strong coffee (or water, but I recommend the coffee), cooled
1/2 cup whole or low-fat milk (I used low fat)
3/4 cup of milk-chocolate covered toffee pieces (such as Heath's baking pieces)

8 ounces (240 grams) semi-sweet baking chocolate
1 1/3 cup (200 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2 cup (250 grams) confectioner's (icing) sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons bourbon

Milk-chocolate covered toffee pieces (such as Heath's baking pieces)
Sea Salt

Set the rack in your oven to the center, and preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Take two cupcake/muffin pans and butter top of each pan and fill the little holes with your favorite cupcake liner, and set them aside. (You'll have one full pan, one half full)

Now, sift together the cocoa powder, cake flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a bowl.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, or by hand, beat together the butter and sugar about a minute until it becomes smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated.

In a glass measuring cup or bowl, combine the coffee and the milk.

Stir half the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, add the coffee/milk mixture and then stir in the other half of the dry ingredients.

Finally, you can stir in your toffee chips. If you do this in a stand mixer, do it on the "stir setting", and make sure they don't get pulverized by the paddle. It's almost easier to simply stir the pieces in by hand.

Now take that batter, and pour it into your little cupcake liners, filling them about 2/3 of the way full. Pop them in the oven and bake until a toothpick comes out of the center cleanly, about 19-21 minutes.

Allow the cupcakes to cool in their pan 5 minutes, and then let them cool completely on a wire baking rack. As the cupcakes cool, let's make your frosting.

In a double boiler (or a heat-safe bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water), melt your chocolate, stirring constantly. Take the chocolate off the heat, and allow to cool to room temperature.

While the chocolate is cooling, beat your butter in a stand mixer (or with a hand variety) until smooth and creamy (about a minute). Add your confectioner's sugar to the mixture and continue beating until fluffy (about two minutes). Stir in your vanilla extract and your chocolate. Beat the frosting on low speed until everything is combined. Finally, add your bourbon and increase speed to medium-high until frosting is smooth and shiny (about two to three minutes).

If you'd like, using a long piping tip and a bag, you can pipe a bit of the frosting into the center of each cooled cupcake, or you can simply frost the top in any fashion you like. Sprinkle some chocolate-covered toffee bits and a touch of sea salt on top and enjoy! Pin It


Heather said...

 Ummm....YUM!  You had me at Bourbon.  :)

Alejandra Ramos said...

These look delicious. I love the idea that anything tastes amazing should never be passe...totally with you on that! So amazing to meet and share with you this weekend. Hope to see you again soon! said...

 Oh you are so lucky to have gone to DC ... I wish I could have joined in on the fun!! 

Bourbon :) in a cupcake :)) ... I'm happy :)))

Wendy @ Celiacs in the House said...

 A beautifully written morning after post, Kimmy. You captured the full hearts, full bellies and bursting suitcases feeling. I can't wait for your marinating thoughts. A pleasure and a delight to meet you and share a ride.

Melissa@EyesBigger said...

The cupcake looks and sounds delectable! I'm glad you had such a wonderful time and  I can't wait to hear your thoughts when they've finished soaking!

Isabelle said...

I hate the cupcake trend specifically because it means that everyone is "so over" cupcakes... which is sad, because a good cupcake will always be a thing of beauty.
And these are definitely good cupcakes... because, really, how could you go wrong with chocolate and bourbon and toffee?
PS - It was wonderful meeting you this weekend.  You really are just like you seem online! :)

Jenn (Cookies Cupcakes Cardio) said...

 Yummy looking cupcake...they're definitely NOT passe!  I'm not a big bourbon fan, but I'm sure I could handle it in icing form!  

Ethan said...

Although, I don't have room for a cupcake, I will eat one because that was the theme of the weekend!
It was so fun getting to meet you and getting to know you. You are indeed exactly who you claim to be :)

Melissa said...

It was great to meet you!  You are so right...these experiences really help you grow and inspire you.  These cupcakes look luscious. 

Kimmy @ Lighter and Local said...

Don't I always have you at bourbon? ;-)

Kimmy @ Lighter and Local said...

Agreed. It was so lovely to hang out with you. We will definitely have to get together soon, you're not that far!

Kimmy @ Lighter and Local said...

We will get together soon. I promise!

Kimmy @ Lighter and Local said...

So great to meet you... it was a wonderful weekend!

Kelly Vass said...

I love this post for several reasons.
1. Your writing matches you so perfectly.
2. Thoughts and words marinating? fitting image.
3. I love cupcakes.
4. The photography is stunning. In my dream kitchen, my walls will be covered with beautiful photos of cupcakes like the ones in this post.

Anyway, it was lovely to meet you this weekend! xo

Bonnie Deahl said...

Kimmy, The cupcake (and photography!)looks so stylin'.  It was nice to meet you at the EWR2011 last weekend.  I am still on such a high.  

MikeVFMK said...

It was great meeting you this weekend and sharing space.  This cupcake is beautiful and the bourbon and toffee will surely have me deraming of cupakes and Washington tonight. MIKE

Shumaila said...

These look so good!Love the photo! And the blogging conference sounds so much fun. Would love to go to one!

Kimmy @ Lighter and Local said...

That was so sweet :-) Thank you so much! It was lovely meeting you as well!

Kimmy @ Lighter and Local said...

I'm on such a high still! So many thoughts dancing in my head from this weekend. Lovely to meet you!

Kimmy @ Lighter and Local said...

I have nothing to add but ditto and :-) and ((hugs))

ElizabethQ @asianinamericamag said...

Kimmy, these cupcakes are the bomb! Oh my, can't wait to try this recipe. Thanks for sharing. What a lovely post! It was nice to meet you, though I wish there had been more time to spend with you and the rest. Maybe this will give us a reason to come back to the next EWR12 ? Take care.

Renee Joslyn said...

I'm so glad we got to meet IRL, Kimmy! The moment I saw you I had to give you a big hug! And there were so many big hugs that weekend, weren't there? Can't wait to do it again! (That would be, both EWR and {{hugz!}}) Oh, and Get thee behind me, Cupcakes! Sooo tempting!

Dan said...

What a great weekend it was! It was so great hanging out with you. These cute little cupcakes are the perfect 'cheers' to the awesome time we all had at EWR! You best believe I'm planning a trip out to Boston! :)

john said...

hmm, nice recipe need to be try at home ,  i saw this kind of recipes on this site..

Briarrose said...

Gorgeous cupcakes.  Bourbon, chocolate, and toffee are a lovely flavor mix.  I would be grinning ear to ear noshing one of these.