Sweets are not really my forte–I much prefer to do the intensive chopping and sauteing involved in creating a savory dish to paying attention to the persnickety details of baking. But events have conspired recently to force me to make two desserts–both of which turned out well and made me glad I had made the effort.
The first of these, Coconut Cupcakes with Pineapple Curd, was a three part recipe, but one that could be spread out over several days, so the work involved didn’t seem so bad. If you were going to have to make them all in one day, you would probably be cursing yourself for choosing this recipe–at least I would. But by making the pineapple curd one day, the cupcakes the next, and then making the frosting and assembling them on the third day, I was left with nothing but fond feelings for these. When I tasted them, I decided they will go into the permanent file.
The pineapple curd is definitely the fussiest part of this recipe.
To make it, stir the mixture together in a pot over low heat, and stir, stir, stir. The egg yolks will make it thicken, but they also need a lot of attention if you don’t want scrambled eggs. After the curd is made, it is important to force it through a sieve. No matter how careful you were to stir constantly, you will still get some set egg whites in there–and no one wants to get a mouthful of that. Here’s what my sieve looked like after I strained the mixture. All those white bits are curdled eggs. Maybe that’s why they call it curd. Anyway.The pineapple curd tastes divine. As the recipe states, you will have more than you need for the cupcakes, but it is so good you will have no problem using it up. I loved it on crackers, but it would be delicious on toast, pancakes, English muffins–mmm. It only took me a couple of days to finish it off.
Put the pineapple curd in the refrigerator to chill; it thickens considerably. Then you need to bake the cupcakes, which are pretty much your usual yellow cake but with coconut milk in place of regular milk. They have a very subtle coconut flavor.
After the cupcakes are baked, the fun part begins. I pulled out my cupcake corer, which I bought for a recipe a while back but haven’t used again. Alton Brown prohibits gadgets which only have one use, a position I generally agree with, but this gadget was cheap, and doesn’t take up much room, and besides, it’s FUN. To use it, just press it into the center of the cupcake, twist, and remove the core. Push the plunger to release the core. Then it’s time to fill the cupcakes. The easiest way is to put the pineapple curd into a ziplock bag, seal it up, snip the corner off, and squeeze some in each cupcake. After that, just top with the center piece, and you have filled cupcakes.
The frosting is a simple cream cheese frosting. I piped my frosting in circular swirls, then topped the finished cakes with coconut and a piece of pineapple. Yum!The other dessert that I made is called Cashew Caramel Cracker Bars–though I guess to be accurate I should say that I made Almond Caramel Cracker Bars. You can top them with any kind of nuts you like, but almonds were what I had on hand.
I first made these over the Christmas holidays to give away, and every single person I gave some to asked for the recipe, so I guess they were a success. I have made a variation of these before, which did not have the sweetened condensed milk, but the addition of that ingredient takes them to a whole new level.
To make them, melt butter in a pot, and remove about 1/4 cup to brush on the foil that lines your pan. Even though I followed this step, my foil always sticks a little. After buttering the pan, lay out Saltine crackers so that your pan looks like this.Then to the remaining butter in the pan, add brown sugar, and clip on a candy thermometer. Bring it to a boil, and when the temperature reaches 248, remove from the heat and add the can of sweetened condensed milk. Pour this mixture over the crackers and bake until the topping is brown and bubbly. Sprinkle on a package of chocolate chips and let them sit for a bit to get warm and soft, then spread them out.
And sprinkle with nuts while the chocolate is still soft. Put the whole pan into the freezer for 30-45 minutes, before breaking them into chunks. And try to resist the crunchy caramely deliciousness.