21 March 2009

Cloud cupcakes

I have to admit that I am a late convert to coconut. I think it all stems from the time in 3rd grade when I traded chips for a Kudos bar (which is something that my mom didn’t buy), and I broke out into hives on the way home in the car. After consulting the ingredient list, coconut was the only thing that I didn’t eat with any regularity. So we blamed it for making me itchy, and after that coconut was considered a taboo food.

Looking back on it, it probably wasn’t the coconut, but something else, some preservative or whatever. But from that point on, I avoided all coconut and coconut products like the plague, which is really too bad. It took me a long time to get over the fact that I am not, in fact, allergic to it. (It could also simply be one of those childhood allergies that I grew out of like strawberries and blueberries. Thank god those are over. Seriously.)

As an adult, though, I love coconut stuff—flaked into a toasty granola, baked into a chocolate chip cookie, coconut milk-based Thai curries (man, I could eat those every day), coconut milk dals, coconut macaroons (especially especially especially if they are dipped in chocolate)—you name it. If coconut is a main player, I’m there. So when I saw a recipe for luscious-looking coconut-vanilla cupcakes, I just couldn’t resist. Vanilla and I, particularly if the vanilla is true and comes in a bean, get along like two peas in a pod. So to add it to coconut, and to make a cupcake that would be darling and white, well… I just couldn’t resist.

And you know what? These totally hit the spot. Creamy, fragrant with coconut and flecked with sparkling grains of vanilla, these cupcakes are like a delicious, dreamy cloud. Yes, that’s it. They really should be named Cloud Cupcakes, because that’s what they really are. They are in my book, anyway.

Vanilla Bean-Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Frosting, adapted from Bon App├ętit

reduced coconut milk
1 13-14 ounce can unsweetened coconut milk

1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
½ + 3 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
seeds scraped from ½ split vanilla bean, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup reduced coconut milk, room temperature

½ cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ¼ cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons reduced coconut milk, room temperature
seeds from ½ split vanilla bean, or ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
¾ cups sweetened flaked coconut, lightly toasted (for garnish)

1. reduced coconut milk Bring coconut milk to a boil in a large, deep saucepan over medium-high heat (coconut milk will boil up high in pan). Reduce heat to medium-low; boil until reduced to ¾ cup, stirring occasionally, about 25-30 minutes. (I had to pour it into a 2 cup measure to check at about 25 minutes, and still had a few minutes to go. I recommend doing this to be sure.) Remove from head and cool completely.
2. cupcakes Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350 degrees F. Line 9 1/3-cup muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk flour baking powder, and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add sugar, bead on medium-high speed until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add 1 egg, beating well and occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Beat in seeds from vanilla bean and remaining egg. Add half of flour mixture, mix on low speed just until blended. Divide batter among muffin cups.
3. Bake cupcakes until tops spring back when gently touched and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer cupcakes from pan and cool on wire rack.
4. frosting Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add sugar, 3 tablespoons reduced coconut milk, seeds from vanilla bean, and salt. Beat on medium-low speed until blended, scraping down sides ob bowl. Increase to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy.
5. Using pastry bag fitted with large star tip, pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes. (Alternatively, top each cupcake with 2 tablespoons frosting. Using small offset spatula, swirl frosting over top of cupcakes, leaving 1/2-inch plain border.) Sprinkle with coconut.

makes nine lovely cupcakes

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