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
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)
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!