Caramel Apple Cupcakes

Have I mentioned enough times how much I love this little stretch of land that we call home? Sure we love the ocean, and the bay, and the abundance of fresh seafood that comes with both. But you know what I love more than anything? Our community. Good people and great events are always just right on the horizon here on the Eastern Shore!

One event we always look forward to is the suborbital rocket launches out of Wallops Flight Facility. For the past few years our little corner of NASA has been launching resupply missions to the International Space Station, one recent launch (LADEE) even went to the moon! They don’t go that often, a few times a year – but it’s always so exciting for us. We have many friends and family who work at the base, so to say that I’m proud that these folks are launching things into space is kind of an understatement.

Last night we had a catastrophic failure, the rocket exploded about 6 seconds after liftoff. I’ve never seen anything like it, and never hope to again. Thankfully, no one was injured…which, is just a testament to how wonderful our folks at Wallops are.  But, the facility is destroyed. All the work that went into the launch, and the scientific experiments on board – just gone. Wallops will rebuild though, and most certainly relaunch! But please keep our small community in your thoughts and prayers.

So, the cupcakes. I baked these to take to our PTA’s Annual Pumpkin Walk. Families and local buisnesses carve pumpkins to display on one of our nature trails here on the island to create a spooky and fun walk to raise some money for the PTA. They of course have a bake sale as well, so I baked these to donate to the cause. We got to the walk about 30 minutes after it started, and they were already gone – definitely a hit!

I used my favorite vanilla cake recipe, then added some chopped apples, caramel sauce, and fall spices to the batter. Then topped them with a caramel cream cheese frosting. Holy moly, were they good! The spices were not overbearing, allowing the fresh flavor of the apple to really shine through. And I loved having the tender chunks of apples in the cake as well. I’ll most certainly be making this one again and again. I think it would be great as a 9-inch layer cake too! Enjoy!

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
16 Tbsp. butter, at room temperature (2 sticks)
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup caramel sauce

For the Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 oz. block cream cheese, room temperature
12 Tbsp butter, room temperature
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup caramel sauce
pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Whisk together and set aside. Add the butter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high speed for 2 minutes, until light and creamy in color. Add in the sugar, and beat for 2 minutes more. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for one more minute.

For the frosting, cream the butter and cream cheese in a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar until incorporated. 10 seconds, until evenly combined. Frost cupcakes as desired.

Mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Combine the buttermilk and the vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated. Add in the apples and caramel sauce and mix until incorporated.

Divide the batter between the prepared paper liners, filling each about 2/3 of the way full (you will likely have batter left over after filling 24 wells.) Bake 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Replace paper liners and bake remaining batter if desired. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.

For the frosting, cream the butter and cream cheese in a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar until incorporated. Then add the vanilla, caramel sauce, and a pinch of salt. Mix for 10 seconds, until evenly combined. Frost cupcakes as desired.

Drizzle with additional caramel sauce if desired before serving.

Baked Vanilla Berry Oatmeal

Nothing is more comforting on a crisp autumn morning that a bowl of warm, homemade oatmeal. Driscoll’s Berries asked me to participate in their Berries & Oats celebration this month, and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to share this recipe that has been a favorite in our home for a couple years now!

It’s filling and delicious, not to mention super easy to throw together. The warm flavors of vanilla, brown sugar, and cinnamon are combined with oats, milk and cream to form the base of this breakfast – then the additions are pretty much left to your creativity…

I like to add some nuts for a little crunch, and usually I’ll throw some fresh berries into the mix. I love the burst of freshness and color that they lend. But, other additions like apples or peaches are great too. I think it’s fun to create seasonal twists, and this recipe makes it so easy!

I hope everyone has a great weekend. After our trip to the mountains last weekend, I’ve got some work in the kitchen with apples on my agenda for the weekend. Boiled cider and apple cider caramels are on the to-do list.

It’s also Homecoming in our small town tonight, our football team is undefeated this year! So, we’re walking down the street to the parade, then heading to the game tonight to cheer the team on. I think the boys will really enjoy themselves. Go Chincoteague Ponies! We’re so lucky to call this little island home. 

Source: adapted from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson via Annie’s Eats

Apple Pie Bars

So, there’s this apple tree in the front yard of the new house. Well, it’s really more like it’s in the backyard of the commercial property in front of us that a dog groomer rents…but no one else wants them, so they’re as good as mine!  It’s a huge Granny Smith tree, and it produced a hefty harvest of baseball-sized apples this Fall. The boys have been having such fun plucking apples off the tree to enjoy.

They’ve got unbeatable flavor too – tart and fruity, but much sweeter than the traditional Granny Smith you pick up in the supermarket. Almost pear-like qualities in the flavor. They are out of this world good, just simply enjoyed alone. But you know I couldn’t resist wrapping them up in some form of dough and baking!

So without further ado, I give you these apple pie bars. It’s pretty much an apple pie, in a much more portable format. Basic pie dough is rolled out into a rectangle, filled with peeled apples that have been flavored with brown sugar and cinnamon, then topped with another rectangle of pie dough and baked. After cooling they’re sliced into perfect squares and drizzled with a simple vanilla glaze. Perfect for a tailgating treat!

I hope everyone has a great weekend! My BFF and I are heading to the mountains (we’re 6-inches above sea level here, my ears are already popping!) this afternoon to visit Thurmont, MD and the Catoctin Colorfest tomorrow. I used to go all the time as a little girl, and we went last year – so it’s kind of a reinstated tradition for me. Tons of craft vendors, local churches with their kitchens set up selling various regional foods, apple orchards and fresh pressed cider. It’s alot of fun, and it’s going to be great to have some girl time. Although, I’m worried about missing my boys! Isn’t it funny how we look forward to getting away – then when we do, we can’t wait to get back? Heh. Wish me luck, guys!

Apple Pie Bars

2 9-inch pie dough rounds (click for recipe)
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 lbs Granny Smith apples (about 4 medium)
1 lb Honeycrisp apples (about 2 medium)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 egg white
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon

For the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp half and half or milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Peel, core and dice apples into thin and small pieces. Place diced apples in a large mixing bowl. Add vanilla and toss apples to evenly coat. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup flour, granulated sugar, light-brown sugar, 1 1/4 tsp cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour flour mixture over apple mixture and toss to evenly coat, set aside.

To assemble, roll one portion of your dough into a 13×9 inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Lift rolled dough into an ungreased 13×9 inch baking dish. Toss apple mixture once more and pour into baking dish over pie crust. Roll remaining dough into another 13×9-inch rectangle and place rolled dough over apples, pinching the seam together with the bottom piece of dough.

In a small mixing bowl whisk egg white, and brush over top pie crust evenly. In a separate small mixing bowl whisk together 1 Tbsp sugar with 1/4 tsp cinnamon. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture evenly over top pie crust.

Bake in preheated oven around 50-60 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool at least 1 hour before cutting.

To make the glaze combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Drizzle over the bars with a spoon.

Bars can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Source: adapted from Cooking Classy

Tropical Lemon Curd Bars

There is just something about lemon flavored desserts. I don’t know whether it’s their bright yellow hue, or their tart flavor that makes you pucker – but they’ve always been a favorite of mine. My great aunt always made a really good lemon bar, and these definitely reminded me of them. But with wonderful tropical flavor from the addition of toasted coconut on top instead of powdered sugar.

A basic bar dough is pressed into the bottom of the pan, then it’s filled with a rich fresh lemon curd and topped with a combination of almonds and coconut. The almonds give it wonderful crunch that was great next to the softness of the lemon filling.

I happened to have some of the larger dried coconut shreds, so I used those and they really held up well here. I’d suggest looking for those if you can find them. I’m usually able to find them in natural food stores, or if you’re feeling ambitious – make your own!

Source: adapted from Taste of Home via Oh Sweet Basil