The Right Move & Caramel Corn Cupcakes

IMG_7377If you‘re off to Philadelphia this morning

And wish to prove the truth of what I say

I pledge my word you’ll find

The pleasant land behind

Unaltered since Red Jacket road that way.

Still the pine woods scent the noon

Still the cat bird sings his tune

Still autumn sets the maple-forest blazing.

Still the grapevine through the dusk

Flings her soul-compelling musk

Still the fire flies in the corn make night amazing!

They are there, there, there, with Earth immortal

(Citizens I give you friendly warning).

The things that truly last when men and times have passed.

They are all in Pennsylvania this morning”

~Rudyard Kipling

One of the more dramatic decisions I (we) made within a year of William’s death was to move to Pennsylvania. Twenty three years of happy memories came to a sudden halt with a single knock on my kitchen door by a US Navy chaplain. It was clear at the time that the constant reminders of him in the house were not allowing me to move through my grief with any sort of dignity. It was hard to function, but would leaving feel like a betrayal? It was a hard decision to say good-bye to the only home he ever knew. I had to trust my instincts. It took courage.

Will

I am 100% certain William would love where we live now in Chester County, PA. First, I am within a short driving distance of his sister. William was most happy when surrounded by those he loved. Family being his top priority, he’d be glad that I can see Caitlin and Sam at the drop of a hat. Second, he would adore this natural setting away from the big city. With hiking trails right off the backyard and a healthy pond to fish in he would have felt right at home. With permission, I believe, one can bow hunt the land, so it’s a certainty he would have paid a visit every hunting season, too.

“I whistled to confuse him, mom, and then took the shot”. Will’s first deer.

Now, I am not suggesting that a dramatic change like a move is right for every grieving person, but looking back and forward it was the right move for me. Have courage and just do what you need to do to take care of yourself and the rest of your family. Trust your instincts and make the right move.

IMG_7359

Today, I am making another right move. I’m not jumping on the “fall”-on court blog press of every recipe containing pumpkin or squash. I’m just not ready for pumpkin-palooza. Maybe next week, but not now. I have decided to ease into autumn a bit slower since sweet corn is still available here in Pennsylvania. I am making the most of it with this corn cupcake.

IMG_7351

Make no mistake this is a corn cupcake and NOT a crumbly muffin or bread. While the caramelized butter adds a nuttiness to the batter the pureed corn adds moisture and sweetness. The caramel frosting doubles the pleasure and can be piled on for those with a big sweet tooth or if you are anything like me…just enough to kiss the cake.

IMG_7369

Caramel Corn Cupcakes

For the Cupcakes

1 and 2/3 cups (210g) all-purpose flour (King Arthur Flour recommended)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup cooked sweet corn kernels (from 1 fresh ear of corn)

3/4 cup (180ml) buttermilk

1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, melted and caramelized*

1 cup (200g) granulated sugar

2 tablespoons bourbon, optional

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 egg whites

Frosting

½ cup unsalted butter

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/3-cup heavy cream

1-tablespoon bourbon or 1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line a standard 12-count muffin pan plus 4 more cups in another pan with cupcake liners. In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside. In food processor or blender, combine corn and 1/2 cup buttermilk; process until smooth. Strain mixture thru a fine sieve pressing down to collect as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids in the sieve. Combine the pureed corn mixture and remaining buttermilk (you should have 1 full cup of liquid). *To make the caramelized (or brown butter) melt the butter over medium low heat in a light colored pan, swirling the pan often. After about 5 minutes the butter with start to foam and “spit” as it evaporates water. The milk solids will fall to the bottom of the pan and turn a nutty brown. Immediately pour butter into a mixing bowl; let cool 5 minutes. Whisk in sugar, bourbon, vanilla and corn-buttermilk mixture until blended. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients blending just until dry ingredients are moistened and no lumps remain. Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks; gently fold into cupcake batter. Divide batter among prepared muffin cups. Bake 22 to 24 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Transfer cupcakes to cooling rack and cool completely before frosting.

For frosting: In a heavy bottom medium saucepan, over medium heat, combine butter, brown sugar, heavy cream and bourbon, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Bring mixture to a boil and let boil for about 3 minutes or until darkened in color but not burnt. Transfer mixture to a heatproof mixing bowl. Stir in salt. Let cool for 20 minutes or to room temperature (don’t refrigerate). With electric mixture, beat in just enough powdered sugar to desired thickness for frosting. Makes enough for 16 to 24 cupcakes depending how much frosting you like.

IMG_7364

Good Days & Bacon Days

puffy pancakesI spent a significant part of my day yesterday creating this recipe for a contest only to realize I had missed the deadline. It has been that kind of week or should I say month. It is embarrassing to say, but there was also an episode of putting my shorts on backwards and not realizing it until many hours later and an episode of trying to get into a car in the parking lot that did not belong to little old me. Clearly, I am distracted.

William in the sunglasses

William in the dark sunglasses at Taft

Brain misfires like these make me feel like I am taking a few steps backwards. It is an upsurge in grief. I know why it is happening. It is June and there are lots of graduation parties going on. Some of my proudest moments in life were seeing my children graduate from high school and Caitlin from college. I so looked forward to William going to college, too.

Will & Cait at Wake Forest University

Will & Cait at Wake Forest University

I don’t know about you, but as a parent I marked my life by the events and accomplishments of my children.  From the time they took their first step, to getting a good report card, to making the team or not, graduating, getting married….all these things reinforced my role as a parent. I love nothing more than being a mom.

There are times I yearn for William. Truly, I am happy to see his friends graduate or getting engaged or having children, but at the same time it can be excruciating. I am growing up with a loss. I have a lot to learn, but I know I will survive these brief upsurges of grief. And you will, too.

ebelskiver

Now for the recipe. It is far from a misfire and rather far out of my comfort zone. Puffy little pancakes with caramel and bacon; the perfect balance of salty, sweet and savory. I think it is a winner.The ebelskiver pan can be yours from where else but Williams-Sonoma.

Salted Caramel-Bacon Ebelskivers (puffy pancakes)

6 slices thick cut apple wood smoked bacon

20 caramel candies, unwrapped*

¼ cup heavy cream

pinch of kosher salt

½ cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon sugar

¼ teaspoon baking powder

1 egg, separated

½ cup milk

1 tablespoon melted butter

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 200F. Cook bacon until crisp. Transfer bacon to paper towel to drain; reserve bacon grease. Crumble bacon into bowl of a food processor; pulse until finely chopped. In small saucepan, over low heat, stir caramel candies, cream and salt until melted and smooth; keep warm. In small bowl, whisk flour, sugar and baking powder. In another bowl, whisk egg yolk, milk, butter and vanilla. Pour wet ingredients and ½ cup bacon into dry ingredients; blend well with a spoon. The batter will look lumpy. Beat egg white until stiff peaks form. Fold 1/3rd of egg white into batter to lighten it up. Fold remaining egg whites in until fully incorporated. Brush the wells of an ebelskiver pan lightly with the reserved bacon grease; place over medium-low heat. When the bacon grease is hot, spoon 1 tablespoon of batter into each well. Working quickly, spoon ½ teaspoon of warm caramel into center of each pancake. Top each with another tablespoonful of batter. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until the bottom of the pancakes are golden brown and crisp. Using two wooden skewers or chopsticks, turn the pancakes and cook for 3 more minutes or until golden brown. Transfer pancakes to an oven-safe platter and keep warm in oven while making the second batch. Arrange pancakes on platter. Drizzle with some warm caramel and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon bacon. Serve passing remaining caramel sauce. Makes 14 ebelskivers.

*note: ½ cup of high quality prepared caramel sauce may be substituted for this homemade sauce