don’t be cruel

I’ve been watching a lot of Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” lately, and I noticed in two consecutive episodes, contestants made what they called “Elvis cupcakes.” Pshhh. I made that ish months ago. (Anyone about to tear me apart: I’m being facetious.)

A little while back, I wrote about the mini-BLT-ish sandwiches I made for my friends’ potluck dinner. Feeling ambitious for the event, I also made these chocolate-filled banana cupcakes with peanut butter frosting. And feeling overambitious, I opted to make them miniature so if everyone felt full post-feast, they could certainly find room for an itty-bitty cupcake. In retrospect, I wish I had stuck to 12 standard-sized cupcakes and let everyone fight to the death if we ran out.

The banana base flavor of the cupcake really came through, and the chocolate filling soaked in nicely; it was like a little chocolate surprise inside. The frosting was the most disastrous part of the project. It was supposed to be a mousse, but it was so thick, it ended up feeling like dollops of straight peanut butter atop the tiny cakes. I’m not really sure what went wrong. I found the peanut butter a little overwhelming, but I’m also one of those people who doubles the jelly and halves its counterpart in my PB&Js.

post-coning, pre-frosting

FOR CAKES
1/2 c. mashed ripe bananas

1/2 c. buttermilk1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt

4 tbs. unsalted butter
3/4 c. sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, mash ripe bananas until no chunks remain; add buttermilk to bananas, mix and set aside. Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg, then vanilla. Add half of the flour mixture, the banana mixture and then the rest of the dry ingredients. Scoop mix into lined cupcake pan. Bake 18-25 minutes at 350 degrees.

FOR FILLING
1/3 c. heavy cream
2/3 c. semisweet chocolate chips

Combine cream and chocolate chips in microwave-safe bowl, and heat mixture on high for 1 minute. Stir and heat again in 15-second intervals until fully melted. Once cupcakes are cool, cut out a cone in the center, pour in cooled filling, replace cone and frost. (I also drizzled some of the extra topping across the frosting dollops to break up some of the peanut butter-ness.)

FOR FROSTING
♦1 c. creamy peanut butter
5 tbs. unsalted butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 c. heavy whipping cream
1 to 1 1/2 c. confectioner’s sugar

Total time? 25 minutes prep, 20 minutes bake, 25 minutes frost
Cost? $1 banana, $2 buttermilk, $2 heavy cream, $1.25 peanut butter
Overall success relative to expectations? 6 out of 10 Despite my trials, these were pretty successful. It yielded more than 30 cupcakes, and I went home with only about 10. These were a bit more work than your average cupcake — cutting little cones out of each cupcake, angling in the chocolate and — in my case — using every ounce of strength in my body to push out little chunks of peanut butter “frosting” from my piper. I gave myself a bonus point for busting out some fancy liners and edible gold flecks, but to make this a true hunka-hunka “Elvis cupcake,” I think I’ll add some candied bacon next time.


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BLC? BLOT? BOCT?

Lessons learned from this adventure:

  1. Cooking bacon is terrifying.
  2. Crescent roll containers are not foolproof.
  3. Dollar store clear wrap costs a dollar for a reason.

My friends, Scott and Christina, recently hosted a potluck dinner in Scott’s newly refurbished backyard. Feeling ambitious, I volunteered to make two dishes — one savory and one sweet. This post focuses on the former: mini BLT crescent sandwiches.

(Note: I’m not even sure which acronym to go with here — hence this entry’s title — as the finished product was devoid of lettuce, but replete with cheese and onion. Also, some of the sandwiches were sans tomato, at certain party-goers’ requests. Quite the conundrum.)

As with most of my adventures, this undertaking was motivated entirely by the weekly supermarket circulars. (My friends harass me for the joy flipping through the sales brings me.) A few weeks ago, I capitalized on a Pillsbury deal (3/$5), and hit the Pillsbury website, which has thousands of creative recipes centered around their products. I settled on this one because it looked fairly easy, but utilized the crescent dough in a different way.

First of all: Why did no one tell me that frying bacon is the single most dangerous thing you can do in your kitchen? Up until this point, I had cooked only the minimally unctuous and completely harmless turkey bacon. But this ‘normal’ bacon? Not so much. Sizzling, crackling, burning grease flying everywhere. I was utterly terrified with each strip I flipped.

pre-puncture wounds

In another shining moment of culinary acumen, I failed to follow the easy-to-open crescent roll directions, i.e. “expose line to open can.” Somehow, I pulled off the entire wrapper — exposing the line — and nothing happened. Ignoring the “contents under pressure” warning, I began stabbing the container with a fork, which brought the dough oozing out of the puncture wounds. Thankfully, my roommate came to the rescue.

Also important to note: There are certain things you can get away with buying from a dollar store, but plastic wrap is not one of them. Serving trays? Sure, but clear wrap? Steer clear. I literally needed Scotch tape to make this stuff work.

♦1 can Pillsbury crescent rolls
♦1/2 c. Monterrey-Jack shredded cheese
♦8 slices of crispy bacon
♦2 tbl. chopped green onions
♦1/3 c. mayonnaise
♦1/2 c. shredded lettuce
♦8 cherry tomatoes, sliced thin

Unroll crescent dough, and press into 12-by-8-inch rectangle. Cut into 24 squares. Bake according to package (8-10 minutes at 375 degrees).

In the meantime, mix together cheese, onions, mayo and crumbled bacon in a bowl. When dough is baked and cooled, place a little bit of lettuce (or if you’re doing what I did, don’t) on 12 “slices,” followed by a small helping of the bacon-etc. mix. Top with two thin slices of tomato (or don’t), then add a second bread rectangle (or, if you burned two like I did and/or prefer these open-face style, don’t).

sandwiches and pinwheels

These are great little hors d’œuvrs, and the mix has unexpectedly great flavor for something so simple. Because this recipe yields 12 sandwiches, I doubled it to have enough for the potluck, but I switched it up a bit to offer the guests a few iterations of my dish — hence the pinwheel BOCs, at left. (Break the dough into the traditional crescent strips, add a dollop of the bacon-etc. mix at the end and roll. They came out much better than I expected, and flew off the tray faster than the standard sandwiches.)

Total time? 55-ish minutes (includes dangerous bacon frying)
Cost? Wait for the Pillsbury sale so you don’t pay more than $2/tube. Green onions for $1, bacon for $2.50, cheese for $2, cherry tomato sack for $2.50, mayo from the fridge.
Overall success relative to expectations? 10 out of 10. I started feeling leery about this in the 11th hour of preparation, but these exceeded my expectations based on flavor and versatility. I would definitely make them again.

And the potluck? Great success. My friend Jay (at My Nose Knows) had his own wok station, we toasted s’mores over Scott’s fire pit and everyone left full and happy.