“Fat Elvis” Cupcakes!

This past weekend, I had to bring something to an author’s picnic that Minnesota Historical Society Press – the publisher of Sweet Corn Spectacular was putting on. Being kind of corned out at the moment, I decided to bring something other than the delicious corn-filled foods I’d been talking to the media about for the past few weeks.

Inspired by the excitement that one of my friends was expressing over this particular cupcake flavour, I decided make a blast from my past – Fat Elvis Cupcakes. This is an amazing flavour combination: a moist banana cake, combined with both peanut butter and chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream!

It was a popular flavour on my cake menu back in the day, done up as cupcakes and sold at farmer’s markets, and it’s been popular with those who have copies of “Evil Cake Overlord“, where it was also featured.

It went over so insanely well at the picnic – I’d almost forgotten how wild people get about that flavour! I’d also forgotten that Swiss Meringue Buttercream still isn’t widely known about / used here in Minneapolis, so it was a lot of fun exposing people to it, once again. It’s creamy and smooth and perfect – nothing at all like heavier, gritty American buttercream.

Normally, this is done as a torte, with alternating layers of frosting. As a cupcake, I’ve always loved to swirl the two frostings together, for flavour AND appearance. Aren’t they gorgeous? I figure it’s about time I blogged the recipe.

Enjoy!

Fat Elvis Cupcakes
Makes 18 regular sized cupcakes

2 cups Cake flour
1 1/2 cup Sugar
4 tsp Baking powder
1 tsp Salt
1 small (3.5oz) box Instant vanilla or banana pudding mix*
4 Eggs
3/4 cup Water
1 cup Pureed bananas
1 cup Butter, melted
1 Tbsp Pure vanilla extract

1 batch Swiss Meringue buttercream
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup chocolate chips, melted and cooled to almost room temperature

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare cupcake pan with cupcake papers, or spray with nonstick baking spray (I prefer liners)

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and pudding mix in a large mixing bowl. Add in eggs and water, beating until smooth. Carefully add pureed bananas, melted butter and vanilla to the mix, mixing on medium speed until smooth.

Divide batter among prepared cupcake pans. Bake until golden and knife inserted into center of batter comes out clean and cake springs back – about 20-22 minutes.

Allow to cool to room temperature

Prepare either swiss meringue buttercream, divide into two equal portions. Beat peanut butter into one portion until fully incorporated and smooth. Beat melted and cooled chocolate into the other portion.

To Frost:

Have 3 large frosting bags on hand. Fit one with a large coupler set and tip of your choice – I used used a 4B, large star tip. Fill the other two bags with one each of the two frosting flavors. I like to tie them off with a little bit of twine, as it keeps things cleaner:

I filled them a bit more full than you really should – I was making a double batch!

Cut about 3/4″ off the end of the two frosting bags and CAREFULLY insert them into the third frosting bag, so that the two open tips insert almost all the way into the coupler (NOT all the way into the tip, though!)

Be gentle, you don’t want to squeeze frosting out of one or both of those bags yet!

Use the frosting bag as you normally would, piping a swirl of frosting on top of each cupcake.

* I use vanilla pudding with this, as I prefer to see it only as a moisture ingredient… however, feel free to substitute banana pudding mix for an even more intense flavor.

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Paneer Burgers… or “Indian Cheeseburgers”

A while back, one of my prison buddies MasterChef friends – Duckie – posted a photo of her dinner on Facebook. While that in itself isn’t anything special – my FB news feed has been FLOODED with dinner pics, since coming home from this MC adventure – man, that photo was the stuff that dreams are made of. Well, most of her photos are – they always have everyone drooling – but this really stood out to me.

It was a burger that featured not a meat patty, but a big chunk of paneer that had been breaded with corn flakes! As she described it on her blog, Duckie’s Dine-asty:

“Paneer Burger! Fried paneer on a garlic roll with cabbage, carrot, and a sweet and spicy tamarind chutney…accompanied by sweet potato fries and curried ketchup!”

… I knew I’d have to do my own version, and SOON. The idea of just frying a big patty of paneer as a burger just seemed so hedonistic, it kind of made me giddy to think about it. I don’t usually get like that over something… vegetarian. LOL!

So, I thought about which direction I’d want to go with it. I decided that, rather than a cornflake breading, I’d go for a giant version of a paneer pakora. Rather than using my cilantro-mint chutney with it, I’d make a mayo based on that idea, for a creamier texture. Then, to top it off, a mess of quick pickled veggies for some color, brightness, and acidity!

YES. It was every bit as awesome as it looks. My husband claims “I could eat that again and again!”, and that it ranks right up there with my Apple Chicken Burgers with Basil and Gouda. Given how completely buts he is about THOSE.. that’s saying something!

So freaking good. Yum!

Duckie is ALL kinds of awesome, even beyond her cooking. She was one of the first people I met in LA, very friendly, outgoing, hilarious, and .. inclusive. On a personal note – she even publicly ripped a bully a new one on my behalf! I mean… in a spectacular fashion. I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone do that for me. This whole thing has been filled with unique experiences for me, but I digress – Duckie is awesome. That is all. 🙂

Paneer Burgers with Quick Pickle and Cilantro-Mint Mayo
(Makes two big burgers)

1/3 cup mayo
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
2 Tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped

1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1/2 – 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 green onion, thinly sliced on a long diagonal
1 small carrot, peeled
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt

Oil, for deep frying
1/2 cups garbanzo (chickpea) flour
2 Tbsp cup rice flour
1 1/2 tsp hot curry powder
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp salt
pinch tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
1/2 cup water
12 oz brick of paneer, room temperature
1/4 cup additional garbanzo flour

2 burger buns of choice

Mix together mayo, cilantro, and mint. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.

Place sliced peppers and green onions into a bowl. Using a vegetable peeler, peel long strips of carrot into the same bowl, until you have as much carrot as you would like (I used about as much carrot as I did red pepper). Whisk together vinegar, sugar, and salt. Pour over the vegetables, tossing to coat well. Cover and set aside.

Start heating your oil to 375F – you’ll want at least 2-3″ of oil in your pot or deep fryer.

In a large bowl, combine flours, spices, salt, baking powder, and cilantro. Add water, stir well to form a thick batter. All batter to sit for 5 minutes or so, to soften the bean flour.

Slice your paneer into two “patties”. Sizing will depend on what shape your paneer loaf is in – we got two square patties, and a couple of extra sticks as a “side”. Toss patties with additional garbanzo flour, then dredge in the batter.

Carefully transfer paneer patties to the preheated oil. Fry for a few minutes on each side, until golden brown. Use a slotted metal spoon to transfer fried paneer to paper towels.

To construct the burgers:

Split the buns, toasting if desired. Spread cilantro-mint mayo on bottom half of each bun. Top with burger, and a generous helping of quick pickled veggies. Crown with top bun, enjoy!

How to Make Compound Butters – Easy & Versatile!

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking/working on my upcoming corn cookbook. It still feels weird to be on contract with a publisher (or, as I call it.. “Minnesota Historical Society Press owns my ass til December”), but I’m having fun with it. My corn freak husband is, as well – any excuse to move more corn through our kitchen is GREAT, by him!

In preparing foods to photograph for this cookbook, I had to make a bunch of compound butters. Oh, I love compound butters – they’re a great thing to have on hand, and SO versatile. Truth be told, I went a bit crazy with it… so here’s a blog entry to share!

Compound butter is an extremely simple thing – you take a soft stick of butter, and mix STUFF into it. Spices, fresh herbs, zest, finely chopped vegetables… whatever.

Literally – WHATEVER… if you can think of some sort of flavorful aromatic, odds are you can make a compound butter with it. This post isn’t so much a recipe, as it is a springboard for your own ideas and recipes.

The casual nature of that description doesn’t really do justice to compound butter’s place in cuisine – it’s a very basic part of fine French cooking. Compound butters were made ahead of time to add flavor to almost any dish. Melted compound butter would serve as a substitute for a sauce, while room temperature butters would be served alongside steak, vegetables, seafood. Anchovy butter was (is?) quite popular, along with flavors such as truffle, tarragon, garlic… even wine.

Beyond historical use, compound butters are great in any modern kitchen. Given that compound butters can be made either sweet or savory, the possibilities are endless.

– Melt some as a sauce. I recently crated a rice/bean based gluten free flatbread type… thing. (I know, the name REALLY sells it…). Fresh off the griddle, ripped up and dipped into a melted, curry flavored compound butter? Amazing.

– Use compound butter on hot ears of fresh corn.

– Spread on bread, alone or as part of a sandwich.

– Melt over popcorn! Seriously… probably our favorite use for it. You’ll never want to use powdered popcorn seasonings ever again!

How do you make it? Simple!

Take a stick or two of butter, allow it to come to room temperature – you’ll want it nice and soft. Stir in whatever flavoring agents you like (see below), mixing and matching as desired. I like to go 2-3 Tbsp of solids (fresh herbs, zest, whatever) or around ~1- 1.5 Tbsp of powders per stick of butter, as a rough guide… but there’s a lot of room to play. Make sure to pack a lot of flavor into it (1/2 tsp of, say, curry powder will NOT cut it!). Also, I try to vary colors to make it look pretty – for instance, mint and cilantro in with the curry powder!

Whip it until everything is well distributed. Refrigerate for about 10 minutes, or just long enough for it to firm up slightly – but still be workable. Dump it out onto a section of plastic wrap and roll it into a log. (Alternatively, mush it into an appropriately sized ramekin or other vessel.) Chill until firmly set.

Try to use the butter within one week, if stored in the fridge. If you’d like to hang on to it for longer than that, it can be stored in the freezer for about a month.


Pesto compound butter on popcorn

Now, as far as what to put in it…

For a sweet compound butter (Awesome on French toast, hot cinnamon buns, grilled fruit, etc…), I like to use berries, along with either honey or maple syrup. You can mix cinnamon and brown sugar.. maple and brown sugar.. pureed fruit (mangoes!), citrus zest, etc. Try finely chopping dried fruits, soaking them for a day or so in some booze, and using that. (Whiskey raisins, amaretto and dried apricots, grand marnier and dried cranberries, etc). Yum!

For savory, you can really run wild. Basically, any fresh or dried herb or spice is fair game, as well as other items: crumbled bacon, dried mushrooms, anchovies, mustard, pesto, crushed peppercorns, etc.

Some other ideas:

– Dijon mustard compound butter is particularly amazing on roasted corn on the cob.

– Caramelized onion.. with or without dried mushrooms.

– Finely chopped canned chipotle peppers, along with some of the adobo sauce they came in.

– Curry powder with mint and cilantro is amazing.

Oh, and be sure to consider sharing the love – logs or little ceramic pots of compound butter make great hostess gifts!

Logs: Peel the plastic wrap off your well chilled – FIRM – log of compound butter. Wrap tightly with a clean pieces of plastic wrap, before rolling it up in a piece of something more decorative – parchment paper, cellophane, craft paper, etc. Tie off either end with some twine or ribbon, and label it with a flavor if you want. Done!

Pots: press your still-soft compound butter into a ceramic ramekin, right after mixing it up. Use the back side of a spoon to create a pretty swirl on top of the butter, chill till firm. Place chilled ramekin in the middle of a large piece of cellophane, draw all of the sides and corners up, and secure on top of the ramekin with a bow – ribbon or twine.


From left: Mushroom & Rosemary, Jalepeno, Cilantro, Lime (with a splash of tequila!), Chipotle-cilantro, orange zest & tarragon, basil pesto, curry with cilantro and mint.

If you’re already a fan of compound butter, what are your favorite flavors? If you’re new to this, what do you think you’d like to try out?

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