Friday, June 13, 2014

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Filling

On a trip to PasarBella one day, I found really reasonably-priced vanilla pods. 4 for $8.90 (I seem to recall) I grabbed, without really know what I would do with them. It has then been on my mind to try a vanilla bean cupcake. Everyone needs a basic cupcake recipe. I've my go-to recipe for chocolate cupcakes from ThePioneerWoman. My favourite fruit-based cupcake is definitely the Hummingbird or the Sticky Date. Now and then, I like a banana walnut muffin. Guess it's time I venture into the realm of a classic vanilla cupcake. Hopefully one that is soft, light and slightly crumbly yet moist. 

Google for vanilla cupcakes and many versions of "the Best vanilla cupcake" & "the Perfect Vanilla cupcake" popped up. Taste is subjective after all. I supposed I would have to test out a few recipes like I did for my chocolate cuppies. Decided on the recipe by My Baking Addiction. She has many cupcake recipes under her belt and all looks great! In addition, hers is one of the few recipes that uses seeds from vanilla pod. Being a newbie to this pod and vanilla business, I decided to go safe and chose that I can follow, rather than use my own judgement. This is also a white cake recipe which means it omits egg yolks and I've seen many recipes using white cakes which seem to give a lighter and fluffier crumb. 

Took the recipe, did accordingly except to reduce the sugar content as with all US/European recipes I follow as those tend to be too sweet for the typical asian palate (or could be just me!). Then, I brought the remaining of my salted caramel sauce to room temperature and spooned a teaspoon of it into each cupcake, cover back the cup cap and frosted with a vanilla bean SMB. The cake is slightly on the dry and tough side; I wonder if it's the reduced sugar content. Though the salted caramel made up for the dry cake, I would still prefer a softer crumb with more moisture on its own. It could be me baking this for the first time or could be the reduced sugar. May try again by increasing the milk or egg next time. However, the whole flavour combination went quite well, with the salted caramel adding a sweetness to the light and fragrant with vanilla seeds buttercream. Probably worth another try!

Vanilla Bean White Cupcakes (from my baking addiction. Make around 20 cupcakes)
2.25cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon seasalt
1.25 cup milk, room temp
4 egg white, room temp
113g unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
seeds from 1 vanilla bean
2 teaspoon vanilla essence

1. Beat softened butter with sugar and vanilla bean seeds until light and fluffy. 
2. Add in vanilla extract and beat till combined
3. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Add 1/3 to the butter mixture and beat on medium speed.
4. Whisk together sugar and egg whites. Add 1/2 to the mixture and beat on medium speed. 
5. Beat in half of remaining flour mix, then milk mix. 
6. Add the last flour mix and continue to bear. Add the last of the milk mixture and beat until combined. Increase speed to high and beat for 3 minutes. 
7. Pour into cupcake holders and bake at 180C for 22 minutes. 
8. Cool thoroughly.

Salted Caramel Filling (from Kelsey Nixon)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup heavy cream
50g unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sea salt

1. Combine sugar and water in a saucepan or pot.
2. Keep mixture on low heat until sugar is dissolved.
3. Bring to a boil, do not stir.
4. Boil until the mixture turns amber (for around 5minutes)
5. Remove from heat and whisk in the heavy cream. Be careful of sputters. 
6. Stir in the butter then the salt.
7. Cool to room temperature before keeping. 
Note: This will make a large portion. Keep the rest in the fridge up to 2 weeks and bring to room temperature or re-heat before using.

Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream (from Sweetapolita)
5 large egg whites250g granulated sugar340g unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes1 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or essenceseeds from 1 vanilla podpinch of salt
Note: You will probably use less than half of this portion. Keep the rest in the fridge for 1 week or freezer for up to 1 month. Remove from fridge and rewhip with paddle attachment to make it smooth before using again.

Steps:1. Place egg whites and sugar in a clean and dry metal mixer bowl, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
2. Using the whisk attachment of mixer, immediately start whipping until the meringue is thick and glossy. The mixture should be at room temperature by now (It may take around 10 minutes)
3. Switch over to paddle attachment and on low speed, start to add butter cubes gradually, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture. Add vanilla, salt, and seeds from vanilla bean. Continue to beat on low speed until well combined.

1. Cut a small hold on top of cupcake, dig out some of the cupcake crumbs, insert a dollop of salted caramel.
2. Frost with vanilla bean swisss meringue buttercream.
3. Serve at room temperature so that the salted caramel oozes and is not a chilled ball.

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