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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Never had much use for butternut squash . . .

. . . but these are great!

Monday was Martin Luther King day, so the kids were home, and it was the one day this week that we all felt fabulous. The youngest had a friend over and I got inspired to try the recipe for these little delights and they went over really well. My youngest dubbed them "muffcakes" because they're muffins but good enough to be cupcakes. Plus they have icing, so there you go.

Then the week went downhill for the kids (who both ended up with strep), particularly my oldest (who developed an allergy to her medicine, which resulted in--so far-- two days of bodywide hives).

So I've been in domestic goddess mode (have no expectation of getting any art work done, but have been cooking and tidying and taking care of the children). It's actually been very revitalizing for me, a nice pause to think and reflect, but oh the poor kids!

Anyhow, made a second batch of these muffins yesterday because one butternut squash is enough for two batches--but mostly because they're really yummy! Hey--waste not, want not!

So, the muffcakes are really Jamie Oliver's "butternut squash muffins with a frosty top." This recipe is definitely a keeper. I did have to make a couple of modifications because my kitchen isn't outfitted the way his is and I use American measures (previously known as English 'til they went all metric--not that there's anything wrong with that):
  1. 400 g squash is about a pound, 350 g. brown sugar is about .875 pounds, 300 g. flour is about .75 pounds, and 175 ml of oil is about 2/3 c. At least those are the equivalents I used and it worked out fine.
  2. I buzzed the butternut in the food processor but had to break out the mixer for the rest because it wouldn't all fit in my processor.
  3. I had no extra virgin olive oil, so I used canola oil instead.
  4. I had neither lemons nor clementines nor vanilla pods on hand so I made a thinned-down version of brown butter icing instead (recipe below). It's very nice and doesn't overwhelm the surprisingly delicate flavor of the muffcakes.
About brown butter

Brown butter is a Pennsylvania Dutch staple that I learned to make from my husband's family. Apparently also used in fancy French cuisine, but I wouldn't know about that.

The idea is to brown the milk solids. When the butter melts, the milk solids will separate from the ghee. The milk solids are what you would strain out to create clarified butter. However, we're going to leave the solids in to create something even more wonderful!

So, melt your butter.

There is a little extra water in almost any butter, but the cheaper the butter the more water will have to boil off. This will happen with fairly loud largish bubbles.

Swirl your butter around regularly so the solids don't burn. Pretty soon a fine foam will develop and the solids will start to go a bit golden, which might be hard to see because of the foam. Keep swirling.

The butter will start to get a beautiful nutty scent--that's one of the signs you're almost done. Keep swirling. You want the butter to all go golden brown, including the foam, but stopping too soon is better than stopping too late. Plain melted butter is better than burnt butter every time!

Brown butter is killer on green beans, carrots, asparagus, mashed potatoes, and baked seafood. And it makes for a mighty tasty frosting, too.

Brown butter icing (modified for the butternut squash "muffcakes")

Put 1/2 a pound of confectioners sugar in a mixing bowl. Add a splash of vanilla and a pinch of salt.

Brown 1/4 c. of butter in a skillet on medium heat, swirling periodically until done.

Pour brown butter into mixing bowl and begin mixing. Add about 2 to 4 T. milk and mix well to make a thin glaze. (Optional: Add a Tablespoon or two of maple syrup if the spirit moves you.)

Let the frosting set up a bit, give it another good mix, then frost the tops of your 24 muffcakes.

Brown butter icing (original recipe for cakes)

Put 1 lb. confectioner's sugar in a mixing bowl. Add a splash of vanilla and a pinch of salt.

Brown 1/2 c. of butter on medium heat in a pan, swirling periodically until done.

Pour brown butter into mixing bowl and begin mixing. Add 1 T. of milk at a time (up to about 4 T.) and mix well until you get the consistency you want. Frost cooled cake. Generously covers a 2-layer cake, a 9 x 13 cake, or 24 cupcakes.

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