Butterscotch Pretzel Cupcakes

Do you ever think up something wonderful that you just sort of brush aside because you think it isn’t possible? Or you don’t have the means to do it so it lies forgotten in the part of your brain home to all your brilliant ideas?

For example: calorie-less butter, peanut butter flavored toothpaste, flying cars, a democracy without taxes, a way to exercise where you don’t sweat, pizza that doesn’t get soggy when you re-microwave it (or food that just stays warm forever), a toothbrush that requires no hands (or some miracle dental procedure that makes it so we never have to brush our teeth again)... pretzel frosting?

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If you’ve ever thought of pretzel frosting, we need to be best friends because that’s exactly what I did. I thought of it but then immediately thought “Psh. No way. How would that work.” But I couldn’t let go of the thought.

And now look what the world has. Pretzel frosting. You’re welcome.

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Sometimes I scare myself I’m so brilliant. Case and point: pretzel frosting. I repeat: Pretzel. Frosting. That is, frosting that tastes like pretzels. Pretzels turned into frosting. That sugary topping you put on top of cupcakes but pretzel flavored. The best snack food and quintessential salty-sweet component turned into frosting.

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I could go on.


But I won’t because you’re probably getting a little bored.


And you get the point: it’s pretzel frosting.

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This is the answer to all those times you’ve wanted salty sweet but you don’t want to put actual pretzels in it because it’d be weird. (I'm not the only one who's faced this dilemma, right?)

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Of course, I can’t take full credit for this. It was adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar’s cookbook. They had a recipe for graham crumb and frosting, and I replaced the graham cracker with pretzel and tweaked the ratios to adapt to it and voila! Pretzel frosting. I’m sure the writers of the cookbook would not be disappointed. Based on what they’ve written in the book, they are totally supportive of experimentation.

The main point of these was for me to try out the pretzel frosting recipe, so I just gave it a basic chocolate cupcake base and added some butterscotch chips and sauce, but I was totally blown away by these chocolate cupcakes. They are easily some of the best plain chocolate cupcakes I've had, and they'll definitely be my new go-to. Moist, not too dense, not to crumbly, not too rich and overwhelming. Perfect. And the butterscotch chips definitely helped, because when has a little butterscotch ever hurt anybody? Never.

And the butterscotch sauce? Surprisingly, super easy! I, for some reason, always got the impression that butterscotch sauce was super hard to make and like some delicacy saved for professional candy makers. But really it's just like carmel but you just put everything in the pot at the start instead of adding at different times. I bet someone just messed up a caramel recipe once and turned it into butterscotch. And I added some cream cheese to make it creamier, and it made the whole cupcake come together and gave it just the right kick to elevate it from good to man-this-is-amazing.

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I think you can definitely expect some more recipes in the future with pretzel frosting. This is impossible to forget about it, and in no way is it a one-off thing. I took one lick off the beater and knew it would be forever. Like the first time you have a good conversation with a friend and you think "Hey yeah let's be friends forever, please and thank you." Your mind immediately starts dreaming up things you can do together as friends, right? Well, my mind started dreaming up ways to use this frosting, and it was all sugar plums and fairies. Well. More like chocolate and peanut butter. But you get the point.

-Audrey

 

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Chocolate Butterscotch Cupcakes

Adapted From: Sally's Baking Addiction

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (1 stick or 115 grams) unsalted butter

2 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate

1/2 cup (45 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)

3/4 cup (94 grams) all-purpose flour 

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar

1/4 cup (50 grams) light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup (120 ml) buttermilk (or scant 1/2 cup milk + 1 tsp lemon juice)

1 cup butterscotch chips

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Line a 12-cup cupcake/muffin pan with cupcake liners. Set aside.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in the microwave. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between each time. You may also melt the butter and chocolate over low heat on the stovetop. Stir until smooth and set aside to slightly cool.

In a medium sized bowl, toss the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together until thoroughly combined. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla together until smooth. Add the cooled butter/chocolate and whisk until smooth. Add half of the flour mixture, then half of the buttermilk. Repeat until everything is added. Stir until *just* combined; do not overmix. The batter will be very thick like pudding.

Divide the batter between 12 liners in your cupcake pan. Bake for 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Butterscotch Sauce

Adapted From: Smitten Kitchen

Yield: About 2/3 to 3/4 cup sauce

Ingredients:

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup packed dark or light brown sugar

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/4 teaspoon regular salt, plus more to taste

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, plus more to taste

4 table spoons cream cheese

Directions:

Melt butter in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar, cream and salt and whisk until well blended. [A flat whisk works great here.] Bring to a very gentle boil and cook for about five minutes, whisking occasionally.

Remove from heat and add one teaspoon of the vanilla extract, stirring to combine and this is where, despite the simplicity of the recipe, you get to feel all “chef-y”. Dip a spoon in the sauce and carefully taste the sauce (without burning your tongue!) to see if you want to add additional pinches or salt or splashes of vanilla. Tweak it to your taste, whisking well after each addition. I ended up using a full teaspoon of flaky salt and the listed amount of vanilla to get a butterscotch sauce with a very loud, impressive butterscotch flavor but the strength of your vanilla and intensity of your salt may vary. When it has reached the flavor you desire, return to low heat and add cream cheese and whisk until dissolved.

 

Pretzel crumb:

Adapted from: Momofuku Milk Bar

·       1 1/2 cups pretzel crumbs

·       1/4 milk powder

·       2 tablespoons sugar

·       3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

·       4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted

·       1/4 cup heavy cream 

 

Put pretzels in the food processor and process to a fine chunks, similar to graham cracker crumbs. Toss the pretzel crumbs, milk powder, sugar, and salt with your hands in a medium bowl to evenly distribute your dry ingredients. 


Whisk the butter and heavy cream together. Add to the dry ingredients and toss again to evenly distribute. The butter will act as a glue, adhering to the dry ingredients and turning the mixture into a bunch of small clusters. The mixture should hold its shape if squeezed tightly in the palm of your hand. If it is not moist enough to do so, melt an additional tablespoon of butter and mix it in.

   

Pretzel Frosting

Adapted From: Momofuku Milk Bar
makes 2 cups

1 recipe Graham Crust

2/3 cup (85g) milk, plus more as needed

¼ teaspoon (2g) kosher salt

12 tablespoons (85g) butter, at room temperature

2 tablespoons (15g) light brown sugar, tightly packed

2 tablespoons (10g) confectioners’ sugar

1/4 teaspoon (0.5g) kosher salt

1. Combine the pretzel crumb, milk, and salt in a blender, turn the speed on to medium-high, and puree until smooth and homogenous. You will probably need to add milk, and do so liberally. It will take 1 to 3 minutes (depending on the awesomeness of your blender). If the mixture does not catch on your blender blade, turn off the blender, take a small teaspoon, and scrape down the sides of the canister, remembering to scrape under the blade, then try again.
2. Combine the butter, sugars, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and cream together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes, until fluffy and speckled yellow. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
3. On low speed, paddle in the contents of the blender. After 1 minute, crank the speed up to medium-high and let her rip for another 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. If the mixture is not a uniform pale tan, give the bowl another scrape-down and the frosting another minute of high-speed paddling.
4. Use the frosting immediately, or store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.