For unknown reasons, I powered through an entire industrial-sized bottle of balsamic vinegar in about a week. I have been dousing everything in the stuff — clearly, even strange things, like cupcakes. I couldn't explain to you what sent me into the frenzy. All I know is that suddenly, things felt incomplete without the balsamic tang-factor. And it's just so fun to watch it boil and thicken into a sweet reduction as your entire apartment fills with the overwhelming scent of vinegar and you have to open all the doors and windows to keep from suffocating. Makes me feel like I'm in Potions class or like I can actually do chemistry. My kind of party!
If you want to get in on this action, this is the way to do it. This flavor trifecta could translate to any number of other recipe combinations, such as a spritely salad or a fresh pile atop multigrain toast or another healthy, light, tossed-together sort of situation. But who honestly likes that? Honestly. Especially when it can also, just as easily, translate into cupcake form?
Goat cheese and balsamic? In a cupcake? I can sense the suppressed gag reflex of some select readers. But I want to prove you wrong. First of all, the balsamic looks like chocolate, and while that's misleading...it's really just as sweet. Secondly, the frosting is an insanely rich and delicious combo of goat and cream cheese, so nothing too savory here. And lastly, nothing beats roasted strawberries at peak season, in any form. Put them in a cupcake? Everything is right with the world.
strawberry cupcakes with goat cheese frosting and balsamic glaze
2 pounds strawberries, hulled
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup half and half or milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg + 2 egg whites
1) Preheat oven to 350°F. Slice hulled strawberries into quarters, toss with honey and olive oil, and spread evenly on a tin-foil-lined baking sheet. Roast for 35-45 minutes, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes, until evenly roasted. This brings out the sweetness. Yum.
2) Puree roasted strawberries in a food processor. In a medium bowl, mix 1/3 cup strawberry puree with half and half and vanilla.
3) In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
4) In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and slowly add in the sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and whites, continuing to beat the mixture until well-combined, light and fluffy.
5) Turn the mixer on slow, and gradually fold in half the flour mixture, followed by the strawberry puree mixture, and then finally by the rest of the flour mixture until well-combined.
6) Scoop batter into a cupcake pan lined with tins and sprayed with nonstick baking spray, filling each cup about 3/4 of the way full.
7) Bake at 350°F for about 22-25 minutes, or until cupcakes are dry to the touch. Remove and let cool. Meanwhile, make frosting:
8 oz of goat cheese, room temp.
8 oz cream cheese, room temp.
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
pinch of salt
juice of one lemon
3 tablespoons of strawberry puree
1) Cream together goat- and cream cheese in bowl of an electric mixer.
2) Add the confectioners sugar, salt, lemon juice and strawberry puree, mixing until smooth. Add more sugar if frosting is too thin or runny.
3) Fill a pastry bag or Ziplock bag with a small corner clipped open with frosting, and frost cupcakes once cooled.
4) Drizzle frosted cupcakes with some balsamic glaze.........
1 1/2 cups balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
4 tablespoons strawberry puree, divided
1) Bring balsamic vinegar to a boil in a large saucepan. Then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 35-40 minutes, until liquid is reduced by half.
2) Mix in 2 tablespoons of puree, and the brown sugar. Let cook until syrup-y.
3) At the end, mix in remaining 2 tablespoons of puree to ensure vibrant strawberry flavor.
4) Use a spoon or fork to drizzle/fling (Jackson Pollack-style) balsamic glaze atop frosted cupcakes.