Monday, March 1, 2010

What's the difference between a muffin and a cupcake?


I was given the Martha Stewart Cupcakes book a while ago, and even though I immediately spent a half hour carefully perusing the recipes, I've never actually made anything from it. Until last week, when I remembered last-minute that I needed to bring cookies for a DAR meeting. So I started flipping through Cupcakes again (as well as another book called Cupcakes, that I bought on super clearance at Barnes & Noble over the summer), and a recipe for Roasted Banana Cupcakes caught my eye- mostly because I had 3 spotty bananas in the fruit basket.

When I first baked the cupcakes, I was out of powdered sugar, so they remained unfrosted for a couple days- and I have to say, I really preferred the unfrosted to the frosted. For 6 regular cupcakes and 48 minis, there were 3 bananas, 1/2cup of reduced fat sour cream, and 1 stick of butter. That's really not that much fat. And only 3/4 cup of sugar, which I'll reduce to 1/2 cup next time. All the moistness and sweetness came from the banana. So they were healthy.

That implies a muffin! (and not a cake-by-a-different-name muffin speckled with a freeze-dried blueberry here and there, like you'd find at the grocery store or Dunkin Donuts, but a proper, healthy muffin)

I added the honey cinnamon buttercream frosting later, and voila, cupcake. What a nice, versatile recipe (and is delicious with coffee).

Roasted Banana Muffins
3 ripe bananas, peels on
2 cups flour
1.5t baking powder
1t baking soda
1/2t salt
1 stick (1/2cup) softened butter
3/4cup sugar
1t vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream (regular or reduced fat)

Heat oven to 400oF, and roast 3 bananas (unpeeled) for 15 minutes. They'll puff up and turn brown. Note (which Martha failed to mention): do this on a rimmed (and foil-lined is even better) baking sheet. The banana peels will split and some banana juice will seep out, which I imagine would be quite annoying to clean up- especially in a 400oF oven. I was very glad I happened to have some old parchment still on a cookie sheet.

Then cool the bananas, and peel when you can handle them.

Sift 2 cups of flour, 1.5t baking powder, 1t baking soda, and 1/2t salt, and set aside. Cream 1 stick of softened/room temperature butter with 3/4cup of sugar until fluffy. Beat in 3 egg yolks (one at a time) and 1t vanilla.

Add the flour mixture, alternating with 1/2cup of reduced fat sour cream (may try fat free yogurt next time), beginning and ending with the flour. Then beat 3 egg whites until they form soft peaks, and gently fold in to the batter (first fold in 1/3 of the whites until combined, then the rest. Alton Brown demonstrates the proper way to fold very nicely in his chocolate mousse episode).

Fill cupcake-wrapper-lined muffin/mini-muffin tins. Bake for 15-20 min at 350oF (15 min for minis, 20 for regular cupcakes). I highly recommend the mini muffins, since you can sample them fresh from the oven without much guilt.

Eat like that, or, if you must, add frosting.

Now, this is the frosting recipe included with the cupcake recipe. However, I'm not a fan. I think it has good flavor, but the base is far too buttery for me. I need to tweak this. I'm tempted to do a Swiss meringue buttercream (the kind with egg whites, granulated sugar, and butter) instead, which I think would be an interesting pairing with the healthy-ish banana muffin.

Cream together 2 sticks of room temperature butter, 2T honey, 1/2t cinnamon, 2.5 cups of powdered sugar. Beat until fluffy, and frost cupcakes. Martha suggested placing a thin slice of banana on top of each frosted cupcake, which I just didn't have time for- but I wish I had.

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