Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Just had to have the Almond Paste

I have been trying to expand my culinary repertoire. I have been using ingredients I am not familiar with and trying different combinations of food that I would not have combined on my own. Usually, there is something that just doesn't go right. Case in point, the cupcakes. I decided that I wanted to do almond cake. Almond extract was no good enough for me; I just had to go hardcore with the almond paste. I wanted authentic almond flavor.

Side note: Because I am in school and planning on returning home in less than a year, I refuse to purchase too many unnecessary or duplicate kitchen appliances. Therefore, I do not have a food processor or stand up mixture.

I cut the almond paste into large square pieces and use my hand mixer to break up the pieces per the instructions. Well, that was a fiasco. What little bit I did manage to break up keep flying out of the bowl. I am assuming this process would have been easier with a food processor or stand-up mixer. With traditional cake making logic, I kid you now, I though all I need is some liquid to break down the paste. After I added the sugar- not liquid- I added the ricotta, still lumpy; added the room temperature butter, still lumpy; added the eggs, still lumpy. Wet ingredients finished and I had a mixture that was the consistency of split pea soup (before it is strained). I used the hand mixer to beat the mixture as much as it could stand, but to no success. There were still a lot of small pebble size almond paste lumps in the batter.

I was hoping that the paste pebbles would dissipate as it cooked, like flour clumps usually do. The cupcakes came out fantastic, with little undetectable almond nuggets through out. So, it worked in the end. But I advise you to use a stand-mixer or food processor when preparing this recipe.

Raspberry Almond Cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

- 8 ounces almond paste
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese (I used part skim)
- 1 stick butter
- 4 eggs @ room temperature
- 1/2 tsp. almond extract
- 2/3 cup flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 1 cup raspberry

Beat almond paste at low speed to loosen it up, then gradually add sugar. After beating for 1 minute add ricotta cheese and beat to combine. Continuing beating adding butter 1 tbs. at a time. Continue to beat for 2 minutes until fluffy, scrape down the side of the bowl when necessary. Add eggs one at a time and then almond extract. Continuing beating for another 2 minutes. Add flour, salt, and baking powder into the wet ingredients and whisk until smooth. With a rubber spatula fold in raspberries. Scope batter into cupcake liners, filling to about ¾ full. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Cream Cheese Icing

- 8 ounces cream cheese
- 1 stick margarine
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 box powdered sugar

Cream together cream cheese and margarine. Add vanilla. Add powdered sugar. Beat until creamy and smooth.

Once cupcakes are completely cool, frost with cream cheese icing. Enjoy!

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