Champagne Cupcakes

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My very good friend asked me to make a mini-baked good for her bridal shower dessert table this past weekend.  Trying to think of what to make for a lunchtime bridal shower was a little tricky, since baking is not my strong suit.  My first thought was cake ball pops, they are so darned cute and always a hit at parties.  Upon further thought I decided they would be a bit too time consuming and probably wouldn’t look as I imagine them being.  Instead, I started looking for a cupcake recipe that involved champagne.  When I get together with this group of girlfriends we drink almost exclusively champagne, so why not eat it too?  I found a recipe on the food network website for champagne cupcakes and a separate recipe for champagne buttercream frosting…perfect!  When it comes to baking I know better than to make my own adjustments.  Especially when baking for a crowd, who cares about fat and calories.  For the frosting I did add some almond extract to give it a little extra pizzaz.  Be prepared, this recipe makes a LOT of cupcakes.  I ended up with 50 mini-cakes and 20 large cupcakes.  If you aren’t baking for a crowd you may want to half the recipe.

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I didn’t frost the extra cupcakes so they could sit out, I’m not comfortable letting the buttercream frosting sit out for too long.  To make them presentable for a fancy bridal shower I wanted to pipe the frosting.  I found a piping set at marshalls for $5 and got a mini-cupcake pan and liners to make these mini-sized.  They turned out great and so adorable with the Lego bride and groom topper (thank you to my brother and his beautiful wife in Denmark)!  Pop some bubbly and lets get baking!

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Cupcake Ingredients: 

4 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups sugar
5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 2/3 cup of milk (I used almond milk since I forgot to pickup regular milk)
1 cup shortening
1/2 cup champagne
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
8 egg whites

Buttercream Frosting Ingredients:

1 pound of unsalted butter, room temperature
6 cups of powdered sugar
4 Tbsp of champagne
1/2 tsp almond extract

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  I made these in my KitchenAid standing mixer with the whisk attachment, otherwise you can use hand beaters to blend.

2. Add together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Slowly add the milk, shortening, champagne, and vanilla extract, beat on medium speed for 30-60 seconds.  Add egg whites and continue to beat for 2 minutes.

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3. Line cupcake pan and fill half full with batter.  Bake for 12-14 minutes until center is springy when touched.  Let cool on cooling rack.

4. Make your frosting while cakes are cooling.  I made this in the KitchenAid standing mixer as well with the whisk attachment.

5. Whip butter in mixer on medium/high speed until creamy.  Start to add the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time and mix in champagne/almond extract until you have the flavor and consistency you are looking for.  It should be smooth and creamy.  I didn’t add all 6 cups of sugar, I stopped around 5 so it wasn’t so sweet.

6. When cupcakes are cooled pipe the frosting on with the tip shape of your choosing.  I used the smaller star looking tip and piped in a circle starting at the outside working toward the center.  They look pretty fancy to me!

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Enjoy!

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White Wine Braised Lamb Chops

 

2014-01-12 19.38.22Winter weather cooking is all about comfort foods that are full of flavor and warmth.  Lately I have been playing around with braising cheap cuts of meat.  The flavors are incredible, the meat is insanely tender, and braising is really very easy to do.  Technically braising is just searing then slow cooking a cut of meat that has a tough quality or connective tissue that needs broken down.  Adding wine, beer, or tomatoes with broth then covering to finish cooking for a long period of time completes the braising process.  Of course time is a factor and planning in advance will only help enhance the flavors, try this for a fancy weekend meal.  For tonights braising I got the lamb chops at Paulina Meat Market and decided to go with a white wine and beef broth cooking liquid, fresh herbs, and vegetables to enhance the lamb.

I chose lamb shoulder chops that are blade cut, the least expensive cut of lamb in stock at the market.  I decided to keep the flavors soft using leeks instead of onions with the white wine.  Starting on Saturday I rubbed the lamb down giving it a day to soak in, I definitely recommend this with this recipe.  Thyme goes so nicely with dry white wine and I happen to have a lot growing right now, so I used that primarily with a little fresh rosemary and parsley to round out the flavors.  You can use other herbs that you have fresh or dried (use a little less if using dried herbs as they are more potent) sage or oregano would be lovely as well.

Ingredients: 

Rub:
2 tsp of garlic powder
2 tsp of pepper
2 tsp of salt
2 tsp fresh thyme, minced and heaping
2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
1 tsp fresh parsley, minced

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2 8oz cuts of lamb with bone in and marbled with fat/connective tissue
4 carrots, diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
1 Leek, halved and sliced
1/2 fennel bulb, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, pressed
1/2 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp of ground pepper
4 sprigs of thyme, center stem removed
2 bay leaves
1 cup of white wine
1 cup of beef broth

Directions:

1. At least one hour in advance (up to 12 hours in advance) mix together rub ingredients and pat onto lamb chops, refrigerate until 30 minutes before browning.
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2. Choose a large heavy pan with an oven-safe lid to make the meal in.  Heat on medium-high, coat with olive oil and brown lamb chops 5 minutes on each side.  Remove from pan and set aside.

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3. Lower heat to medium-low, add a pad of butter to pan and saute carrots, celery, fennel, garlic, thyme, and bay leaves.  Saute for 8-10 minutes before adding white wine, beef broth, and chops to pan.  The liquid should come about 2/3 of the way up the side of the meat, I added a little more wine and broth after taking this picture below.  Bring to a boil.

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4. Once boiling, cover pan and place in oven at 285 degrees for 3 hours.

2014-01-12 19.27.46In the end the meat is literally falling off the bone and that tough connective tissue has melted into a soft smooth consistency.  The smell is incredible and the taste is so flavorful, words cannot do justice.

To serve this I boiled some cauliflower until very tender, mixed it in the kitchenaid standing mixer with butter, roasted garlic, salt, pepper, and a little milk.  It made a rice-like consistency that was a perfect bed for the lamb and vegetables.  You can also use rice or mashed potatoes, but I wanted to make this paleo friendly.  Fresh green beans for a side and you have yourself a restaurant quality meal at home.

Enjoy and Stay Healthy!