The glorious snow day! Especially the one that falls on one of Andy’s few days off! So, I have a surprise, three-part project to share with you.
Today, I will share with you my two-day adventure with Blood Orange cupcakes topped with Honey Almond Buttercream Frosting and Candied Blood Orange pieces.
This project goes into the heart of why I started to write about my cooking (and eating) adventures. Sometimes, I want a challenge and to try something new. Often, I see a recipe and want to change it because I’m lazy, don’t want to buy the ingredient, don’t feel like venturing out to the store AGAIN, or just don’t care for the flavor. Those are the main reasons for omissions and changes, anyway. Mostly, I like trying things, talking about them after a few bites, and thinking about how to do things differently next time. This project has several opportunities for one’s own personality. Everything from the size of your candied orange slices, how many oranges to candy, whether or not to add food coloring to your cupcakes, or dashing an extract flavor in your frosting are examples of little personality gems that stick out at the right moment.
I challenged Andy to come up with an ingredient and a gadget that I should focus on for this project. “LIKE IRON CHEF??” he asked me. Seeing as I don’t have cable, I just had to nod and smile. But I did catch one episode at the gym one time featuring our very own Jose Garces and Michael Solomonov (my former bosses, oddly. Yes, plural.). The ingredient was passion fruit. I don’t remember all the crazy stuff they did, exactly, but I immediately went into challenger mode. Garnishes for cupcakes? Yes, Obviously. Candied fruit? Sure, why not?
Of course, it was after our first failed attempt to candy the blood oranges that Andy told me that sugar is one of the most temperamental and difficult things to work with in the pastry world. Thanks for the heads up, butthead. But I was determined! I did more research – watched a few videos and read several more recipes with different sugar/water/orange dimensions – and came up with a hypothetical best recipe. Or at least, it was the one that I felt best about. Ultimately, the candies came out as a great garnish – necessary to the sweetness of the cupcakes – but there is room for improvement. I’ll speak on those improvements and next-time hypotheses later on.
The candied blood oranges are the reason this is a two-day project. They take 7 hours including their necessary drying time (which is the majority of the tedium).
CANDIED BLOOD ORANGE SLICES
This was tricky, and we actually had to make two attempts. The first (unsuccessful) batch overcooked and the syrup became more of a darkened caramel. I believe this was because we did not blanch the oranges before putting them in the sugar and water mixture to simmer, so the pith (white part) of the orange wasn’t translucent until it was already overcooked. The second issue was the amount of water we needed. If the water evaporates too quickly (if it’s simmering too high), then it will surely caramelize and burn the oranges. We used a hybrid recipe, therefore, after consulting several sources (including Andy’s boss, who is a pastry chef at a local new American restaurant in Rittenhouse area).
Here is what we did:
Total time: 7 hours*
- 1.5 Cups Water
- 1.25 Cups Sugar (granulated, white)
- 1 organic orange (sliced to between 1/8″ or 1/4″ then quartered)
- about 1/4 additional sugar for coating finish
- A large bowl for an ice bath after blanching.
- A sheet pan with parchment paper for drying.
- A second sheet of parchment paper after second sugar coating.
- Slice your orange, then cut it into quarters. If you wish to have larger slices (half or whole), the same steps apply.
- Blanch your oranges by placing them with cool water in a pot and bringing it to a boil. Simmer for 3 minutes.
- Repeat blanching process by draining the oranges, replacing water and bringing to a boil again for 3 minutes.
- Remove oranges from pot and place them in an ice bath (a bowl of ice and water mixed).
- While oranges are chilling in the ice bath, mix your 1.5 cups water and 1.25 cups sugar into a skillet or saucepan large enough to have the orange pieces maintain one layer as they cook.
- Bring sugar water to a boil then add oranges in one layer.
- DO NOT STIR.
- Let the oranges heat just below a simmer for 40-50 minutes, depending on how thick the slices are.
- Remove pan from heat once pith is translucent on your oranges, before the sugar turns dark. If it looks like your oranges need more time to be come translucent at the pith, add a little bit more water (slowly!) to the pan.
- Remove oranges from the syrup and place on parchment paper to dry for about 3 hours.
- Dip orange pieces into additional sugar to coat on all sides.
- Place a new sheet of parchment paper on a sheet pan.
- Preheat oven to 180-200 degrees.
- Place sheet pan with oranges in oven to dry them out for an additional 3 hours.
* Due to the tedious nature of drying your orange slices, you may wish to order takeout and create a movie marathon. This is why this is a great snow day recipe. We had nowhere to go!
Now, on to the cupcakes! We started this after the initial drying, sugaring, and oven-drying was underway. If you don’t want to wait or monopolize your oven, you can take the oranges out at any time and let them air dry until the oven is available again. We had ours in for about 2 hours before we decided to make the cupcake batter.
TRUE “BLOOD – ORANGE” CUPCAKES
From Cupcake Rehab with adjustments, omissions, and photos by EmCa$h
- 1 ¾ cup cake flour, sifted
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ teaspoons salt
- 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 2 large eggs, separated and whites beaten until stiff
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon of almond extract
- ½ cup blood orange juice
- 1 stick of butter, softened
dash of orange food coloring dash of red coloring
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Line muffin tins with liners.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, beat egg whites until stiff. Set aside. (Personally, I would do this after you step 3)
- Cream butter, sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla in a mixing bowl until fluffy.
- Mix flour, salt, and baking powder together in a separate mixing bowl, and do a quick sift with a whisk. Add dry ingredients to creamed ingredients a little at a time alternating with adding portions of the orange juice to the creamed mixture. Add two dashes of food coloring until the batter is desired color (remember, it’ll get lighter once the egg whites are folded in!)
- Fold in beaten egg whites gently, one half at a time.
- Spoon batter into cupcake liners.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Be careful if using mini-cupcake tins not to overcook. Check after 10 minutes and then every minute thereafter with the toothpick for fluffy, soft cupcakes!
HONEY ALMOND BUTTERCREAM FROSTING
Recipe from Cupcake Project with additions, substitutions, and photos by EmCa$h
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 1/4 cup full-fat sour cream or greek yogurt (I dared to use non-fat! It still came out great, so there!)
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat butter for three minutes with an electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy.
- Mix in powdered sugar a little bit at a time until fully combined.
- Mix in honey, almond extract, and sour cream or greek yogurt until combined.
- Spread or pipe onto cooled cupcakes.
Thoughts on modifications: I might dare to add a pinch of salt to this next time. It was quite sweet, especially with my almond extract addition.
And now we have: Blood orange cupcakes with almond honey frosting and candied blood oranges!
So, I really don’t think putting this into a Weight Watchers calculator would benefit any of us. Just know that if you make mini-cupcakes, 4 of them equal about one regular cupcake.