Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Chai Latte Cupcakes... and Catastrophes..

 The catastrophe has nothing to do with the cupcakes. The cupcakes are in fact, pure heaven. The catastrophe comes by way of family. More specifically family at Christmas.

 I'm not going to bore you with the details. More so, just throw it out there into the "blogoshere" and ask, why? Why does every Christmas turn into Stress City? Why can't it just be easy? Just one day. Not every day. I don't need everything to go smoothly for the other 364 days of the year, (I should say 360 because we all know Christmas is a 4 day venture minimum).

 I do not find myself to be one of "those people" incessantly complaining. I'm just asking for one day, or 4. Just give me 4 days to be in 'Happy Christmas Land'. I LOVE CHRISTMAS. I listen to Christmas music on the radio the second it is aired. I bring the tree out on American Thanksgiving weekend. There, I said it. So make fun of me or whatever you want to do, I've heard it all before and I can take it.

 So because  of my love for it, I just want it to be... Well... Christmas. My ideal of Christmas.

 To me, Christmas means Family. Family meaning: Whoever it is you surround yourself with, who you cherish. Friends, laughs, late nights. People you don't get to regularly see, that are in town for a few days. Time. Time you don't usually have to really sit down and catch up with the people you love. The "spirit" that somehow flows so freely out of people at Christmas. All the sudden you're thanking the guy at the gas station for always offering you coffee and wishing him and his family all the best. You find yourself helping with insanely crazy school functions of your children's, and dealing with 50 kids all having no clue what a bird feeder is, let alone what the heck this 'Crisco' stuff is we're using on the feeder,  (don't even comment on it. It was not my idea). Coming home with a huge smile on your face, happy and so grateful for having the ability to be that involved with your child's life. Spending an impromptu entire day baking at the last minute because you can't bare not being able to give everyone you love something that's going to make them smile or have a inkling of just how important to you they really are.

... Ok maybe that's just my life, but you get it, right?

 I just love Christmas. Always have, and I guess after writing this I have just reminded myself of what to hold on to. What not to get caught up in.

 I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday, whatever it may be. Whatever your traditions are, stick to them. They're important. They're what make us special. What keep us human.

 This is a recipe that I have made for loved ones only, actually. It's only been my Mother-In-Law, one of my best friends and my Mother.

 It's not a difficult recipe, but it takes some time and the icing it is needing of a hand or stand mixer.

 I actually made them with a different recipe the first time and I didn't love the buttercream frosting. Maybe I did something wrong but it was just to much to me. It tasted like I was eating straight up butter. So this swiss meringue icing was a huge improvement. It's like a whipped, lighter version of buttercream.

 They really are delicious.

 Just a tip: you can get the Tazo Chai concentrate at Starbucks for about $7.

 1/2 cup milk
 1/2 cup Tazo Chai Concentrate
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract

For frosting:
1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg whites
 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Measure the chai in a measuring cup; add milk. whisk in cider vinegar. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. Pour in milk mixture, along with oil, sugar, and vanilla, and stir just until no large lumps remain.

4. Fill cupcake liners until they are 2/3 full, and bake for 20-22 minutes or until puffed up and nicely browned. Transfer and allow to cool completely before frosting.

5. For the swiss buttercream: put the sugar and egg whites in a large heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping mixture over the heat until it feels hot to the touch, about 5 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like marshmallow cream.

6. Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and beat on medium-high speed until it cools and forms a thick and shiny meringue, about 5 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment and add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, beating until smooth. Once all the butter is in, beat the buttercream on medium-high speed until is is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes. Add the vanilla and cinnamon and whip for another 30 seconds until incorporated. Spread or pipe on cooled cupcakes.

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