Friends: Old and New

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“Friends and family are the most important ingredient in the recipe of life.”

This is the time of year when we think of home, family, friends and traditions.  I recently returned from South Dakota where I catered the wedding cupcakes and cake for my beautiful cousin Cindy.  When I was there I enjoyed the hustle and bustle of last minute wedding preparations and I delighted in being able to do my part to make the dessert part of her wedding perfect.  I was also able to spend time with my mother’s side of the family.  What a blessing they are!  I cherish each and every one of them.  It was a wonderful visit and the look on the bride’s face on her wedding day showed me that everything about this day, including the dessert, was perfect.  She was a radiant bride!

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Next on the agenda: Thanksgiving.  Now how does a cupcake girl like myself handle this?  Make pumpkin cupcakes, of course!  And since this blog is about making my way through Martha Stewart’s cupcake book, it would make sense to choose one from the book..duh!   This is where I explain my “new friend”.  I know that Martha gets lots of knocks because of her constant striving for perfection, but hey folks all that work pays off!  Most of the cupcakes in her book that I have tried have been amazing.  So, yes, Martha is my new friend, no matter that she doesn’t know me at all!  My other new friend is browned butter.  Read on and I will explain.

I chose Pumpkin-Brown Butter Cupcakes from Martha’s book.  When I first read the recipe a few things gave me pause.  First, browned butter?!?  Of course, I have heard of it but I just never understood the concept.  I mean why would you want to “cook” butter..wouldn’t it burn?? And burned butter is, for lack of a better term, yucky!  The second thing is the recipe calls for fresh sage..huh?? Isn’t sage a savory herb that usually is the star of stuffing?  Oh well, I will trust you Martha because I decided at the beginning of this quest to try every recipe exactly as written and then modify later.  Also, now that I have moved to a higher altitude, there may be other necessary adjustments.

Here we go, my ingredients are ready:

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I melted butter in a small saucepan    photo 2 (6)

Next, I added the sage. To prepare the sage, it is cut into a chiffonade. A chiffonade is very fine strips. I stacked the sage leaves, rolled them up, and then sliced them very thinly.

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I measured out 1/4 cup and added it to the melted butter
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I continued to cook the butter and sage until the butter turned a golden brown. When it reached this point, I poured the butter/sage mixture into a bowl and was careful to leave behind any burned sediment. The aroma from the butter was incredible! Very nutty and toasty, not what I thought it would be.

While the butter was browning I assembled the dry ingredients and spices.

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I added the browned butter/sage mixture to pumpkin puree, eggs and white and brown sugars.  After adding the dry ingredients, I whisked everything together and poured the mixture into cupcake liners.

I should mention that I did not make any adjustments for altitude the first time.   I was reasonably sure that changes would be necessary, but based on my baking endeavors so far, it helps to see what the final product is like without the changes.

I was right, changes were needed. The first batch came out flat and doughy and heavy.  Not a good thing.

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I re-did the recipe adding a little bit more flour and water and less sugar and baking powder.  What a difference!  As you can see, the cupcakes on the right are higher and they were not heavy at all.   They were moist and flavorful and delicious!

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Okay, cupcakes done now frosting.  The suggested frosting is a brown butter icing.  Yes!! My new friend, brown butter.  The butter was melted in the same way as before.  Then to this mixture, I added confectioners sugar, vanilla bean paste and a little cream.  This is a very thin icing and is not designed to be piped on to the cupcakes.

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I dipped the top of each cupcake into the frosting and let it dry.  As soon as I dipped the cupcake I placed a fondant pumpkin pie piece on to the top.  They turned out very cute.

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To make the fondant pumpkins, I added orange and brown food coloring to fondant to make a pumpkin pie color.  I cut out triangles and then added a beige colored fondant “crust”.  I made a whipped cream dollop from white fondant.

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My review:  Incredible!  I was skeptical, but proven wrong.  The nuttiness from the brown butter and the slight earthiness from the sage compliment the sweet pumpkin in a delightful way.   It’s Thanksgiving in a cupcake!  I am anxious to make them for our family dinner on the big day!


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I hope each and every one of you has an amazing Thanksgiving holiday with friends and family.  We have so much to be thankful for.

I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new.
 ~~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Stay tuned,

Sweet Joan


5 thoughts on “Friends: Old and New

  1. You did a magnificent job on the cupcakes for the wedding. I wish you didn’t have to leave so early, we could have sat around and discussed our favorite kind of confectioner’s sugar. 😀 The cupcakes look magnificent, I love the pie fondant decoration, that’s really cute! Pumpkin is my all-time favorite baking ingredient for some reason – you cannot beat pumpkin bars with cream cheese icing. 🙂

    Until later, Joanie. I hope turkey day is wonderful and your ‘guest’ behaves herself. 😀

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