I feel like it wasn’t all that long ago, my girlfriends and I were sitting around at lunch, deciding how we were going to squeeze 8 girls into a hotel room barely big enough for 1… but cost like it should hold 39. Discussions of grabbing odds on who’d be the first Hand Grenade victim, who’d be the first back to the hotel (I wanted the bed!), and who wouldn’t stumble back ’til day break because she couldn’t remember the name of the hotel (ahem, yeah… I’m so sure that’s why she was out all night).
Only it really was that long ago. And I’ll be honest. I’m totally okay with that. Most of the time
So I took my friend Erica’s King Cake recipe and made just a few changes to end up with King Cake Cupcakes. The dough in this recipe is on the lighter side and that made it ideal to form into individual king cakes. You get a sweet, light pastry dough that rises and domes beautifully as a cupcake. (They’re “cupcakes” in name only, they definitely have a more pastry/cinnamon roll-like texture than cake-like).
Filled with a cinnamon-cream cheese mixture and topped with a light glaze, they’re a far safer and much cheaper way to celebrate Mardi Gras.
Where there are no Hand Grenades.
King Cake Cupcakes
Cupcakes inspired by the Mardi Gras favorite: sweet pastry dough filled with cream cheese and cinnamon.
For the dough:
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup sugar, divided
1 pkg (2 1/4 tsp) yeast
1 egg yolk
4 Tbsp butter, melted
3 1/2 cups flour, plus more for dusting work surface
1 tsp salt
Oil or cooking spray, for coating bowl
For the cream cheese filling:
8 oz cream cheese, softened (I used reduced-fat)
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla
1 rounded tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp melted butter
For the glaze:
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
3-4 tsp water
Decorating sugar in yellow, purple and green
Add water and 1 Tbsp sugar to the bowl of your stand mixer. Sprinkle yeast over top and let stand for 10 minutes. (If your yeast doesn't get puffy, don't keep going - buy new yeast.)
Add melted butter, egg, egg yolk, remaining sugar, 3 cups flour, and salt, and then turn the mixer to low.
Add only enough extra flour to get the dough to clean the sides of the bowl but not come completely off the bottom - it should be only slightly sticky when you touch it.
Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled (45 minutes-1 hour in my 100-degree oven). While dough is rising, make the filling.
Place filling ingredients into the mixer bowl (minus the melted butter) and mix on medium-high until completely smooth, 1-2 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 and line 2 cupcake pans with 18 liners.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times.
Stretch to a rectangle about 18x12 and brush with 2 Tbsp melted butter, leaving the top 1-inch dry.
Spread cream cheese filling over the dough evenly, leaving the top 1-inch dry.
Starting with the long side of the dough closest to you, roll jelly-roll style, pinching the last inch of the dough onto the roll and placing seam-down on the counter.
Lightly pat/pull so that the roll is even diameter down its length.
Trim the scraggly ends and then slice into rounds that are ~3/4-1 inch thick. Take care that they don't get any thicker than that, the rolls should sit level/just below level of the cupcake pan. Any taller and they'll grow too tall in the oven and fall over.
Transfer the rounds to the cupcake pans and let rest while the oven preheats to 375.
Bake ~25 minutes, until lightly browned and nicely domed.
Remove from the oven and let cool ~10 minutes in the pan.
Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
To make the glaze, whisk powdered sugar, vanilla, and gradually add the water until you get a smooth and thick but scoopable glaze.
Dip the tops of the cupcakes in the glaze (or spoon over top) and then sprinkle with decorating sugar. Like cinnamon rolls, they're best in the first 2 days. If you're bringing them to a party, ice/sugar them the night before. When stored in an airtight container for much longer than that, the sugar and glaze will begin to melt from the pastry moisture. Delicious still, just not as cute.
I’ve done us all a favor and deleted the previous 4 paragraphs. I went all tangenty about the first company I worked for and might have mentioned how they knew exactly how many times you went to the bathroom each day because you had to use a keypad to get from the cube farm to the bathroom areas. Believe it or not, that actually started as a post about apple dumplings. And so it shall be.
The cafeteria at that company served the best apple dumplings. And if you weren’t standing in line before 11:30, you were out of luck. They were softball-sized apples with the empty core stuffed with sugar, cinnamon, butter, and walnuts. Those magical ingredients were wrapped up in a flakey pie crust and just like that, you’ve got dessert for two days. Or two people.
Apple dumplings are super, super easy to make at home with a handful of ingredients. And since I’m a huge fan of crust, I think the heavy crust:apple ratio is perfect. I actually made apple dumplings for dessert the first night I cooked dinner for The Foodie Groom. Yep, I made homemade apple dumplings for a man that didn’t like apples. Wah wah waaah.
Luckily, his view of apples have changed quite a bit. I put apple dumplings on our Thanksgiving menu after seeing a similar recipe in the latest Williams-Sonoma mailer. You know, to make sure we have a baked apple dessert at both dinners
I typically use whole, medium-sized apples and fill the empty core with a butter-white sugar-cinnamon-chopped pecans/walnut mixture. But we decided that we liked what the brown sugar does for the filling and the half-apple makes the serving size a little more portion-friendly. The apple dumplings come together really quickly, especially if you take the short-cut that I did and pick up a premade pie crust. (Although making the dough from scratch will only take a few extra minutes and I think it’s easier to wrap using a homemade crust.)
Tart Granny Smith apples are baked with a cinnamon and sugar mixture inside a flaky pastry crust.
Pie crust dough, enough for 2 standard pies (I used store-bought)
2 large Granny Smith Apples
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
4 Tbsp butter, softened
Preheat oven to 400. Spray an 8- or 9-inch dish with baking spray.
Prepare your favorite pie crust recipe as directed. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll to a square 1/8-th inch thick.
If using purchased crusts, unroll the crusts on a lightly floured surface, and lightly roll the crust with a rolling pin, 1-2 times in each direction to make them just a bit larger. Cut them in half.
Peel and the core the apples and then cut them in half horizontally.
Stir together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl.
Rub the cinnamon-sugar mixture on the apples. Mix remaining sugar mixture with the softened butter.
Place an apple in the center of a piece of pie dough. Spoon 1/4 of the butter-sugar mixture into the apple core.
Pull the dough up around the apples gently and lightly pinch the top together into a beggar's purse. The store-bought crusts will be longer than wide - I cut off a couple inches of dough from the "long side" and just pinched it together on the "short side" to make it a more equal shape.
Tie a piece of kitchen twine around the dough (or just crimp it really well) and transfer the dumpling to the prepared pan.
Repeat with the remaining apples and dough.
Whisk egg with 1 Tbsp of water and brush over the apple dumplings.
If you ever get the chance to take a cooking class with Rebecca Rather, you gotta do it. And the same holds true for being in the same room as David Lebovitz. You won’t be sorry.
I’ve taken two cooking classes with The Pastry Queen recently and walked away from the last class with my husband’s new go-to breakfast: homemade pop tarts. At the Rather Sweet Bakery, homemade pop tarts are all the rage. They’re served as dessert with a scoop of ice cream. Yum! In this house, we’re mostly eating them for breakfast. And as mid-afternoon snacks. And possibly one was snagged from the cake plate and called dessert.
The Foodie Groom and I had a chance to chat with Rebecca Rather after class for a few minutes. We talked pop tarts, Project Pastry Queen, and olive oil. She is busy, busy, busy working on the accompanying cookbook for a PBS documentary about olive oil production (Texas Olive Trails). We agreed that I would make and blog her pop tart recipe, so here it is. Like all of the goodies at Rather Sweet, it’s a by-hand recipe but I’ve added notes where Cuisinart and I might have automated it just a tad
I have been making half the batch peach and the other half fig. They’re incredibly flaky – nothing this good could ever come out of a box. And no weird ingredients that send you running to Google. I’ve been baking a batch every weekend since getting my hands on the recipe… when they run out, it’s cereal for breakfast again.
Is there anything better than a warm, flaky pastry crust? If you want “authentic,” mix 1/2 cup of powdered sugar with just enough water (think teaspoons) to make a thick glaze. Spoon over the still warm pop tarts.
Homemade Pop Tarts
Nothing beats a fresh, homemade pop tart filled with your favorite fruits and preserves.
2 cups + 2 Tbsp flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (cold)
4 Tbsp ice water
12-14 Tbsp good quality peach preserves/jam (or other favorite fruit)
2 cups chopped peaches
1 egg + 1 Tbsp water
Mix the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl.
Add butter and mix with fingers until it resembles coarse meal.
Add ice water and mix lightly and form into a ball.
Or, shred the cold sticks of butter with your food processor. Remove the grater attachment and place the bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes. Add the the dry ingredients to the bowl fitted with the dough blade and pulse a few times to mix. While running, add ice-cold water by the Tablespoon just until the dough mostly forms a ball. (You might need a little more water.)
Divide in half; shape each half into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 1 hour.
Roll 1 disk at a time on a floured surface to about 13x11 inches. Trim to 12x10 and cut into 5x3-inch rectangles.
Place 4 rectangles on each baking sheet. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of preserves onto the center and top with chopped peaches.
Cover with second dough rectangle and gently press the edges to seal.
Crimp edges with a floured fork and poke a few holes on top.
Cover tarts and freeze for 2 hours or up to 1 week (I froze overnight and then baked the next morning).
Whisk egg and water and brush over tarts right before baking.
Bake frozen tarts at 375 for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.
Sift powdered sugar over tarts or frost with powdered sugar icing.
I bake the entire batch at once. I supposed you could bake them fresh every morning but it's hot. I keep the oven use to a minimum. Plus, they keep really well in a covered cake plate on the counter for 4 days. 2 people + 8 pop tarts = 4 days.
A new week, a new recipe for Project Pastry Queen! Ashley chose Fourth of July Fried Pies for this week’s Project Pastry Queen challenge. Fried pies! As in you take something awesome, make a smaller handheld version of it, and deep fry it. My kind of recipe!
My mom frequently made fried pies for dessert when we were kids. She always used a chocolate filling. I was tempted to call her but I had a big bowl of perfectly ripe peaches that I picked up on the Tour de Brisket. It will still be chocolate season next week!
I made 1/3 of the original recipe (smaller batch shown below) and ended up with 6 pies. Rather than rolling out the pastry scraps for the last two pies, I chose to eat the remaining peach filling with a spoon and made the pastry scraps into sopapillas. You know, because there just wasn’t enough deep-fried pastry going on today
I fried half of the pies and baked the other half. The fried version had big, poofy, airy pastry while the baked version was more dense. I vote for fried. And no worries about the fried version being a grease bomb – my fingers didn’t have even the slightest sheen on them. And I ate mine by hand.
Fried Pies (Hand Pies)
Fried or baked, these hand pies are perfect to fill with your favorite in-season fruit.
1/3 cup butter, very cold
3 Tbsp sugar, divided
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup ice water
Vegetable oil, for frying
1 egg (optional, if baking)
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp milk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375 if baking the pies. Heat ~2 inches of oil in a frying pan or dutch oven.
Pit and cut peaches into 1/4-1/2 inch cubes. Toss with 1 Tbsp of sugar in a small bowl and set aside.
With the grater blade of your food processor, grate the stick of butter. Switch to the dough blade and add the flour, baking soda, salt, and remaining 2 Tbsp sugar. Pulse a few times and turn on while streaming the ice water into the bowl. Process just until dough forms a ball. Turn out onto a floured surface. (You can cut the butter into the dry ingredients by hand/pastry cutter if you don't have a food processor.)
Roll the dough to 1/16-inch thick ("just thicker than a tortilla") and cut into ~5-inch rounds. I used the lid to a 16oz cottage cheese container, which yielded 4.5-inch rounds. Re-roll the scraps and cut additional rounds. Using your fingers, wet half of the edge of a dough round. Place 1 heaping tablespoon of peach filling into the center and fold the dough into a half-circle, pressing around the edges. Use a fork dipped in flour to crimp the edges and seal the pies.
Carefully slip the pies into the hot oil and fry ~2 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spatula/spoon and drain on a plate covered with paper towels. If baking the pies, brush the tops with an egg wash of 1 egg whisked with 1 Tbsp water. Bake in the top 1/3 of the oven for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown.
If making the glaze, whisk the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla together and brush over the warm pies.
Yields: 6 servings
Adapted from The Pastry Queen
Estimated time: 45 minutes
Calories: 216 | Fat: 7.7 | Fiber 1.7
WW Points: 5
Calories: 195.5 | Fat: 7.7 | Fiber 1.7
WW Points: 4