Friday, November 20, 2009

Banana Butterscotch Cupcakes

This is going to be one of the desserts we're going to serve at Thanksgiving next week. I didn't make them tonight but I wanted to get the recipe up on my blog so I don't have to worry about bringing a hard copy with me down to my sister's. The internet is a wonderful thing - take advantage of it.

My Thanksgiving dessert menu is coming together and I think I've got all the recipes posted here:
Pumpkin Upside Cake with caramelized pecans and cranberries
Butter Pecan Tarts - that'll be our mini "pecan pie"
Chocolate Wafer Sandwich Cookies - for the kids and general cuteness factor
Apple Cobbler with vanilla ice cream
Banana Butterscotch Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Caramel Frosting - in the mini size for easier consumption

Since Thanksgiving comes with so much food and I don't believe in people eating themselves ill, I'm focusing on making bite-size, individual-sized desserts so people can sample a little of each without being committed to devouring a huge serving. If they like something, they can have another piece or serving but they don't have to struggle with finishing the first one because they're already full.

I don't usually make a lot with butterscotch chips but since I've tried the banana and butterscotch combo, I was hooked. I still don't like a lot of butterscotch or by itself as it's too sweet for me but together with banana, it's fantastic. To the point that I don't like chocolate and banana flavors together anymore. I'd rather pair banana with butterscotch. I used regular-sized butterscotch chips for these but I cut them up into thirds, halves and quarters. Yes, each individual chip. It was time consuming so I either do it ahead of time when I have time or I cut really quickly. Why? Well, when you have something as cakey as a cupcake is meant to be, it's got a soft texture. It's a little jarring to eat it with big chunky chips in the way. What's good in the comparatively dense texture of a cookie doesn't play so well in something lighter and cakier. Not to me anyway. They do sell mini butterscotch chips but the only place I've found them is mail order from King Arthur flour and I don't want to take the time or spend the money for it when I could just cut up a bag of Nestle Tollhouse butterscotch chips that I bought on sale for $2 a bag.

This is also a crowd pleaser if you want an alternative to chocolate. I brought these into work twice - the first time as regular size cupcakes and they vanished in the blink of an eye. The second time as mini cupcakes and the only complaint I got about them was they were "too small" as people used that as an excuse to have more than one. These cupcakes don't rise very much so fill the cupcake liners close to full, using up all the batter for only 12 cupcakes. Don't forget to use uber-ripe, nearly blackened skin bananas for the best flavor.

Banana Butterscotch Cupcakes from Cupcakes by Elinor Klivans - first baked 8.22.09

1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 medium bananas, broken into 1-inch pieces
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup buttermilk (any fat content)
1 cup (6 ounces) butterscotch chips

¼ cup half-and-half
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Make the cupcakes: Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line 12 muffin tin cups with paper cupcake liners.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until blended and creamy, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing. Add the banana pieces, mixing until they are blended into the mixture; you will still see some small pieces of banana. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is blended. Add the vanilla and beat for 1 minute. On low speed, add half of the flour mixture, mixing just to incorporate it. Mix in the buttermilk. Mix in the remaining flour mixture until it is incorporated and the batter looks smooth. Stir in the butterscotch chips.
3. Fill each paper liner with a scant 1/3 cup of batter, to about ¼ inch below the top of the liner. Bake until the tops feel firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool the cupcakes for 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack.
4. Carefully place the wire rack on top of the cupcakes in their pan. Protecting your hands with pot holders and holding the pan and rack together, invert them to release them onto the wire rack. Turn the cupcakes top side up to cool completely.
5. Meanwhile, make the frosting: In a medium saucepan, heat the half-and-half and brown sugar over low heat, stirring often, until the brown sugar melts. Increase the heat to medium-high, bring to a boil, and boil for 1 minute, stirring often. Pour into a small bowl and refrigerate until cool to the touch, about 45 minutes.
6. In a large bowl, beat the butter and powdered sugar with an electric mixer on low speed until smoothly blended, about 2 minutes. At first the mixture will look crumbly, but then it will form a smooth mass. Add the vanilla and brown sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute.
7. Use a small spatula to spread about 1 ½ tablespoons of frosting on top of each cupcake.

The cupcakes can be covered and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Yield: 12 cupcakes

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