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Food + Recipes

Sweet Potato Pie Cupcakes With Maple Bacon Frosting

January 26, 2020
Sweet Potato Pie Cupcakes With Maple Bacon Frosting

Growing up, I wasn’t that interested in sweet potato pie. My grandma, mom, and older cousins loved it because it reminded them of Mississippi and the women who made it for them.

Sweet potato pie beats the pants off  any pumpkin pie, but given a choice, I’d rather have Aunt Fannie’s chocolate meringue pie, Uncle Clarence’s German chocolate cake, or my Grandma Dorothy’s banana cake.

Sweet potato cupcakes with sugar sprinklesBut as it’s gotten harder to hold onto memories of my relatives, I’ve been craving those original family recipes.  I found it in a delicious pour-and-bake sweet potato pie batter from Mamie & Makhi’s. The founder Lois grew up in Berkeley, but her Grandma Mamie is from Mississippi, just like my family and it tastes just like I remember.

I’ve been making pies, smoothies, pop tarts, and pancakes with her batter, which led me to  these Sweet Potato Pie Cupcakes With Maple Bacon Frosting. They capture the flavor of sweet potato pie pancakes with maple syrup and bacon. I made them as mini cupcakes, because they’re so cute, and you don’t feel as guilty about eating them.

Start by making a few  pieces of thick applewood smoked bacon–the better the bacon, the better the flavor. I found a Fluffy Maple Frosting recipe on The Spruce Eats, and replaced a tablespoon of butter with a tablespoon of bacon grease. The cake recipe is from Mamie & Makhi’s website. Try the recipe and let me know what you think:

For the Frosting

  • 3 slices thick applewood smoked bacon, cooked until browned, oil reserved
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (light or dark, packed)
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light cream (or half-and-half, milk, or evaporated milk; more as needed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon bacon fat

    1. Cook the bacon over medium heat until brown on both sides, but not burned. Blog the bacon and reserve the grease. When the bacon is cool, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch slices.

    2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter with the maple syrup, bacon fat, and brown sugar. Bring to a boil while stirring constantly.

    3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring, for about 3 to 5 minutes, or until the brown sugar has dissolved.

    4. Remove the syrup mixture from the heat and let stand until completely cooled.

    5. Pour the cooled syrup mixture into a mixing bowl. Gradually beat in 2 1/2 cups of the powdered sugar and the evaporated milk. Add the vanilla extract and beat until smooth. Add more confectioners’ sugar or more milk, as needed to make a spreadable frosting.

    The frosting makes enough for a two-layer cake, a rectangular cake, or about 18 to 24 cupcakes.

For the Cupcakes

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 2-1/2 cups Mamie & Makhi’s Sweet Potato Pie Batter
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup evaporated milk (only as needed)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Combine the sweet potato pie batter, the egg and the vanilla, then fold into the dry ingredients to form a moist batter. If the batter is too thick to pour into your cupcake liners, add 1/4 cup milk, up to 1/2 cup only as needed.

3. To bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake mini cupcakes for 15 minutes, being careful not to over cook or they will be dry! Stick a toothpick into one and if it comes out clean, they’re done.

4. When the cupcakes are cool enough to handle, frost them with the Maple Bacon Frosting. Top each one with a little slice of bacon and garnish with gold decorative sugar if you like.

Makes about 6 dozen mini cupcakes

Cocktail Recipes

Tropical Storm Cocktail Recipe + 5 Rum Fest Discoveries

October 12, 2019
tropical storm, stolen rum, oleo saccharum

Of all the spirits, my favorite is rum. I love the way they’re made in so many styles, with flavors that reflect their origins.  Few other spirits have a subculture devoted to them. Rum inspired the tiki movement, which celebrates a mythical, tropical land that doesn’t exist except in the minds of expats. But mostly, I love the flavor of dark rums from the Caribbean. An old rum has all the deep, dark and delicious nutty, candied, brown sugar, spicy notes of an old whiskey, but for a fraction of the price.

So late this summer, I went to my first Rum Fest in San Francisco. It’s pretty festive with men and women in vintage tiki attire, tropical plants and leis. But it’s a serious exploration too, with seminars on rhum agricole, and creating sustainable distilleries.

But most people came for the chance to taste favorite rums from all over the world, and discover new ones. Here are my top 5 discoveries from Rum Fest 2019.

bacoo rum

  1. My favorite rum discovery was Bacoo, a new range of rums from the Dominican Republic. Valerie Sansevero, who created the brand with her husband, explained that the Bacoo is a genie like spirit who lives in a bottle, according to folk tales from the Caribbean and Africa. He can grant wishes or he can be spiteful, depending on how you come at him. The line of 5-, 8- and 12-year old rums all showed delicious caramelized brown sugar and fruit aromas you might expect. But Bacoo’s new rum aged in sherry casks, with its floral character and lingering finish, was the showstopper for me.
    Boukman rhum agricole
  2. The most unique spirit was Boukman Botanical Rhum from Haiti. This rhum agricole (made from fresh sugarcane juice instead of molasses) is spiced, but with bitter orange and allspice, so it’s floral, and green like a gin. Founder Adrian Keogh says it’s modeled after the street drink clairin trempé, rhum agricole mixed with bark, citrus and spices. The name on the apothecary-inspired bottle comes from Dutty Boukman, the enslaved man who started the Haitian revolution in 1791. With its social mission–10% of proceeds support education charity Haiti Futur and reviving sugarcane–it’s an attractive alternative rum that’s winning acclaim.Calbert Francis English Harbour
  3. The island of Antigua (it’s pronounced Ann-tee-guh) has only one distillery called English Harbour, established in 1932. Calbert Francis, the affable brand ambassador, says their rums are made in small batches and then aged in bourbon barrels. Not surprisingly, the 5-year-old rum was sweet, spicy and lean, like whiskey. That unlabeled bottle he’s holding is their newest release, the Coeur de Sauvage, their first rum bottled at 148-proof cask strength. I found it pretty aggressive sipped neat, but rum collectors are already angling to acquire one of just 400 bottles being produced.montanya rum
  4. I loved learning about Karen Hoskin, the chief distiller and founder of Montanya Rum in Colorado. So far she’s trained five other women as distillers, and they’re paying it forward while making fine spirits of their own. Colorado doesn’t seem like rum country. But Hoskin’s built a business that’s an expression of her commitment to environmental sustainability. Her entire operation is wind powered, plastic is forbidden and all paper is recycled or composed. And every vendor from the American sugarcane grower to the glass producer has environmental bona fides.
    Pusser's Rum
  5. Tasting Pusser’s Rum was like reminiscing with an old friend I hadn’t seen in years. I discovered Pusser’s in college (I think it was on sale) and fell in love with its deep caramel, vanilla and warm spice notes.  Pusser’s Black Label Gunpowder Proof Rum has a similar flavor profile, but it’s more potent at 54% alcohol. Did you know that British sailors received a half pint, or tot, of Gunpowder rum every day as part of their diet?  The practice ended in July 31, 1971, after someone realized that large seagoing vessels and alcohol weren’t the best combo.

tropical storm rum cocktail gil batzri

Earlier that week, Pusser’s starred in a delicious cocktail called the Tropical Storm that guest bartender Gil Batzri served at a party in Alameda. It was one of those drinks that Dave Wondrich would call “more-ish,” with a beguiling  balance of tangy passionfruit tempered by a bitter edge from two rums. He was nice enough to share the recipe.

Tropical Storm
Makes 1 cocktail

1 ounce passion fruit juice
1 ounce lime juice
1.5 ounces Pusser’s Gunpowder Proof Rum
1/2 ounce Stolen Overproof Rum
1/2 ounce oleo saccharum*
1/2 ounce orgeat** (like Small Hands’)

Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well until well chilled. Then strain into a rocks glass filled with ice.

*Oleo Saccharum is a mixture of citrus peels and sugar that’s been used as a flavoring since ancient times. It means “oily sugar” in Latin. Food 52 says to make it by using a vegetable peeler to remove thin strips of skin from clean oranges and lemons. You need about a cup. Mash the peels into a cup of sugar until it becomes an oily syrup. Makes about 1/2 cup that can be bottled and refrigerated for a week. (This quickie recipe from Saveur mashes uses grapefruit peels and mashes everything together in a plastic bag.)

**Orgeat is an almond syrup with a hint of orange blossom water. It’s most often used in the Mai Tai cocktail.

Affiliate Link Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because I like them,  not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. Whether or not you decide to buy something is your call.

 

 

 

Food + Recipes, Wine + Food Pairing

Cheddar Cheese Coin Recipe

May 6, 2018
cheddar-cheese-coins-recipe

I needed hostess gifts for a couple Sunday visits, so I decided to race to Sunshine Market and grab the ingredients for some Cheddar Cheese Coins.

The friendly checker, sizing up the content of my basket, said “Enjoy your cookies!” When I told him I was making savory cheese crackers to pair with wine, the woman in line behind me jumped in with “I want some of those.”

If you think you’re too busy to bake or don’t always like the way your creations turn out — trust me, these Cheddar Cheese Coins are foolproof, easy and deliciously worth your time and effort. I like to make the dough ahead of time, keep it wrapped up in the freezer, and then slice and bake a log or two when I need something for a party or surprise guests.

A former co-worker named Elizabeth shared the original recipe. They’re basically classic savory shortbreads. Over the years, I’ve added some of my own touches — and you should feel free to do the same.

Cheddar Cheese Coins

Make 7 dozen

  • 1 pound butter, softened
  • 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated and at room temperature
  • 4 cups unbleached flour
  • 2 cups pecans, toasted and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon piment d’Espelette

In a large mixing bowl, add the butter, cheddar cheese, flour, pecans, salt, cayenne, ancho chile powder and piment d’Espelette. Using your hands, mix well until all the ingredients are well-combined and it forms a dough.

Working on a lightly floured surface, take a hunk of dough and roll it into a 10 to 12 inch long log the diameter of a quarter. Wrap log in plastic wrap. Repeat with the remaining dough. Put the dough you don’t plan to bake into the freezer, stored in a resealable plastic bag. Let the dough you plan to bake chill in the refrigerator for an hour or two.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Using a sharp knife, slice the chilled log of dough into discs one-eighth inch thick. Place discs ¼-inch apart on a baking sheet that’s been greased lightly or is covered by a Silpat baking mat. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, until the coins are golden and the kitchen smells like toasty cheddar cheese and butter. Remove pan from the oven. Let the coins cool completely before removing them from the pan, or they might fall apart.

You might be tempted to cut the recipe in half so you won’t have so many on hand, but I don’t recommend it. Once you taste them, you’ll need more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bubbly Girl Cocktail Recipes, Drinks

Make My Bittersweet Naughty Negroni

February 1, 2018

Anyone who loves classic cocktails or things Italian knows the Negroni. It’s a bracing and bittersweet cocktail that stars Campari, sweet vermouth and gin.

Lately, I’ve noticed that riffs on this traditional Florentine cocktail have been making the rounds.

count-camillo-negroni

From camillonegroni.com

Just the other day, GQ Magazine penned a love letter to the Negroni Sbagliato, a version that adds a sparkling wine, such as Prosecco, to the mix. The name “sbagliato” roughly means broken or incorrect, as if adding Prosecco is a bad thing.

The original Negroni is named for Count Camillo Negroni, an esteemed patron of Caffè Cassoni in Florence. He usually drank Americanos (Campari, sweet vermouth and club soda), but one day in 1919, he asked barman Fosco Scarselli to swap the soda for gin!

What may have started as libation to erase a bad day has become an Italian contribution to the classic cocktail pantheon.  The Count even has his own tribute site and inspired a couple books.

Judging from the drink, I bet he liked other bitter elixirs like Italian espresso. I found my first Negronis a bit too bitter and viscous for my palate. So while I was developing recipes for my book The Bubbly Bar back in 2007, I made a softer version.

My Naughty Negroni includes a splash of Moscato d’Asti. This refreshing sparkling wine from Piedmont adds freshness and lightens. But it’s still a perfectly bittersweet aperitif  and a great way to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

The Naughty Negroni 

1 ounce Campari
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce gin
3-4 ounces Moscato d’Asti, chilled
1 orange peel spiral, for garnish

Add the Campari, vermouth and gin to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until your hands are cold, then strain into a champagne flute. Top with Moscato and garnish with the orange peel.

Makes 1 cocktail

© By Maria C. Hunt – Author of The Bubbly Bar. All rights reserved.

Dinner Tonight, Food + Recipes

Cauliflower: My Vegetable of the Moment

August 31, 2017
true_food_kitch_mediterranean_cauliflower

When I’ve made the same vegetable for dinner twice in one week, it’s more than a matter of convenience; I’m officially obsessed.

Right now, I’m fascinated with cauliflower. Sure, this milky member of the crucifer family lacks the superfood sexiness of kale, the exoticism of eggplant or even the sweet crunch of carrots. No, this mild-mannered vegetable is a quiet superhero of the vegetable world with the ability to be anything you want it to be.

It started with a gorgeous Food 52 image of this deep chestnut brown cauliflower steak. In case you’re wondering, you get a cauliflower steak by slicing it about 3/4-inch thick. Here’s a Dan Barber recipe for cauliflower steaks that I spotted on Food 52.

And when True Food Kitchen opened in Walnut Creek, I went to visit their super chef Nathan Coulon. We shared the Mediterranean roasted cauliflower with tahini, harissa and mint, and it’s been one of my favorite dishes there ever since. I can’t find the real recipe online, but there are a few good copycat versions, like this one by Alyssa of Her Modern Kitchen.

I’ve made cauliflower mashed potatoes, and they turned out just as creamy as the ones from the actual tuber, with a fraction of the simple carbs. And buffalo chicken cauliflower, with a tangy hot pepper sauce mellowed with a hint of sweetness, is pretty tasty, too.

But I’ve drawn the line at subbing cauliflower for a pizza crust. You may even like that sort of thing, but there are some places a Chicago girl just won’t go.