I had some pears I needed to use so started flicking through The Flavour Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg for some inspiration.  The Flavour Bible is a fantastic resource for any cook which contains an alphabetical list of ingredients with compatible flavours pairings.  Each pairing is ranked according to the success of the pairing – from Holy Grail pairings to recommended pairings.

Of all of the suggested pairings, I kept coming back to caramel.  Of course I already knew pears and caramel went well together, but I’d originally planned to not make anything sweet given I am home alone at the moment as my boyfriend is away with work, and didn’t want to put too much temptation in my way.  The thought of caramel and pear together was too good to resist though, so I settled on caramel pear cupcakes.

For the base of the cupcakes I settled on using a modified version of the red velvet cupcakes which I had previously successfully adapted to make spiced ginger cupcakes, and for the caramel I turned to Ina Garten’s caramel sauce recipe.  The resulting caramel pear cupcakes were a success, and definitely one I will make again, next time with apple.

So, what inspires you when you are baking/cooking?  Do you look for recipes with pre-paired flavour combinations or look to your ingredients for inspiration and adapt recipes accordingly?

Caramel Sauce
From Ina Garten

1 1/2 cups of sugar
1/3 cup of water
1 1/4 cups of thickened cream
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1.  Add the water and sugar to a heavy bottomed saucepan and heat over a low heat until the sugar dissolves.  Do not stir, just swirl the pan to stir.

2. One the sugar has dissolved turn up heat to medium and cook until the sugar turns a chestnut brown.  You can use a candy themometer and heat until 175 degrees Celsius or 350 Fahrenheit.

3. Take the pan off the heat and add the cream and vanilla extract and stir.  The mixture will bubble violently, so be careful.

4. Reduce the heat to low and return the saucepan to the heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce is smooth.

5. Set aside to cool.  Note that the sauce will thicken as it cools.

Caramel pears

4 pears, peeled, cored and diced
2/3 of a cup of caramel sauce

1. In a pan add the pears and the caramel sauce and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes or until the pears are softened.

2. Set aside to cool.

Caramel Pear Cupcakes
Makes 24

Adapted from YumSugar red velvet cake recipe

170g (6 ounces) of butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 1/2 cups of plain flour,sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
a pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of warm water
1 Cup buttermilk
1 Teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
2 tablespoons of cinnamon
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a muffin/cupcake tin with cupcake wrappers.

2. In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment cream the butter and sugar.

3. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition.

4. Switch the mixer to a low speed and in a bowl or cup combine the sifted flour, salt, cinnamon and baking powder and add to the batter alternately with the buttermilk and mix until well combined.

5. In a small cup mix the vinegar and baking soda together and add to the batter mixing on a medium speed for 10 seconds.

6. Pour in the cooled caramel pear mixture and mix through gently with a spatula.

7.Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake papers and bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Caramel buttercream frosting

250g of butter, at room temperature
1 cup of icing sugar
1/3 cup of caramel sauce
1. Add the icing sugar and butter into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light and fluffy.

2. Add the caramel sauce and mix until well combined.

3. Fill a piping bag and pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes using whatever pattern you desire.

tagged in Caramel