Wednesday, December 22, 2010
So perhaps shopping for gifts is now out of the question, what with just a handful of shopping days to go. If that's the case, I strongly suggest that you make these cupcakes, as they surely count as a gift.
Egg nog-Hazelnut Cupcakes with Nutella Buttercream Frosting
makes 12 cupcakes (with a little leftover frosting, which you can then dole out as you see fit - you know how we're always missing the frosting once the cupcake top is gone, right?)
1 cup + 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons ground toasted hazelnuts (see note below)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup egg nog
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Nutella Buttercream Frosting:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup Nutella (which can also be measured out of the jar as 4 tablespoons if that makes it easier/leaves you with less things to clean in the end)
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon egg nog
*This is the Big, Important Note: toast 1/2 cup of whole hazelnuts at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes, allow them to cool, rub them between two kitchen towels to remove loose skins, then grind them just until they're coarse bits, like tiny pebbles. It's okay, too, if a portion of the ground nuts are to the point of being paste-like, so long as the majority of the bits are coarse. You'll end up with 1/2 cup plus 2 scant tablespoons of ground nuts, and that's all good. OR, if you're really pressed for time, go ahead and grind 1/2 cup of untoasted hazelnuts instead.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a standard-sized muffin tin with cupcake liners, maybe ones like these.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, ground hazelnuts, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, and stir well to be sure all of these bad boys are evenly distributed.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together the butter and sugar until the sugar is well-blended into the butter. Pour in the egg nog and vanilla extract, and mix until they are combined with the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each egg is just combined with the egg nog concoction.
Now, add the flour-and-friends to the egg nog concoction, and mix until the dry ingredients have been incorporated into the egg noggy ingredients.
At this point, the batter looks an awful lot like runny peanut butter (yep. just like above in that there photo). In the very best possible way. However, this runny-ness makes it slightly more temperamental to move from the mixing bowl to the liners.
Use a spoon to transfer the batter to the cupcake liners, and fill each of the twelve cupcake liners almost to the top. The best method I've come up with for this batter-to-liner transfer is to scoop enough batter into the liner to fill it half-way. Then, gently, and almost as though you're about to putt to win The Masters, meaning you need to keep your eye on the ball - or, um, batter-filled liner - (for those of you non-golfers: taking your eye off the ball in golf is sure to cause some dreaded issue, such as a whiff) because if you take your eyes off of the liner while making this transfer, you could spill batter out into the cupcake tin. I know this, for I have done it. Multiple times. And recently, at that.
There. That confession is done. What causes kitchen foibles of this type is that sometimes (ahem) I get chatting while baking (or cooking) and take my eyes off the prize. If by sharing this story, one person - just one person - is spared the somersaulting cupcake liner disaster, my confession won't be for naught.
Once the cupcake liners are all filled nearly to the top (again, please see the photo of the batter above) while nestled into their tins, place the pan in the oven and bake until the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, 22 to 25 minutes.
Cool the cupcakes in the pan on a cooling rack until they are cool enough to be handled without hurting yourself. Transfer the cupcakes to the cooling rack, and allow them to cool completely before frosting them, lest your buttercream melt.
For the buttercream:
You'll want to use an electric mixer for this task, unless you have some serious arm strength and loads of stamina. Oh, and a giant whisk.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter, Nutella, confectioner's sugar, and egg nog and beat at medium-high speed until you have a light, fluffy, creamed frosting. This should take somewhere in the 3 to 5 minute range.
I'm all high-class over here, so I use my store-brand storage bags to pipe frosting. Simply transfer the frosting to the storage bag, pressing it toward one corner of the bottom of the bag, then snip the corner of the bag to create an opening, and pipe the frosting out of said opening.
Estimated cost for 12 silly-good cupcakes: $8.76. The flour costs 26-cents. The hazelnuts cost $6.99 for a package containing 1 cup, so this is our splurge item at $3.50 for these 12 cupcakes. Well-worth it, though, might I add. The baking powder costs a penny. The nutmeg and cinnamon cost around 8-cents each. The butter for both the cupcakes and the frosting costs $1.23 for a stick and a half of Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value brand. The brown sugar costs 60-cents, the granulated sugar costs 18-cents. The eggnog for both the cupcakes and the frosting costs 41-cents. The vanilla costs around 22-cents, and the two eggs cost 52-cents total. The confectioner's sugar costs 17-cents, and, last, but not least, is our other big-ticket item, the Nutella, which costs $5.99 for a 500g jar. I used about a quarter of the jar (though maybe some of that was eating it off the spoon once the 4 tablespoons were measured out for the frosting. Hmmmm.), so that's $1.50. On a side note, I prefer the Italian-produced Nutella over the US-produced Nutella. Maybe it's all in my head, but it seems that the Italian version is creamier. You'll know it when you see it because the label e scritto in Italiano. It probably even has some great Italian promotion being offered as well, but none great enough to get us to Italy for free. Oh, but I digress. As usual. So, for $8.76, you either have a very thanks-worthy gift (at the last-minute, no less), or you have cupcakes that cost 73-cents each for your holiday potluck. Either scenario sounds good to me - how 'bout you?