Basil is one of my favourite herbs. In fact, it might be my favourite herb. Cinnamon, of course, is my favourite spice. But I love basil, I love it's fresh flavor, and I really don't use it enough. I no longer carry it on my spice rack because I favor fresh basil: but I rarely buy it because I never use all of it and I feel wasteful. Oh jeez!
But I'd seen a recipe on Not Quite Nigella, probably through Tastespotting, that featured basil browned butter cupcakes. Browned butter is something that I really enjoy but also, like basil, rarely ever do. I made something with it before, but I don't remember what. I can't, at least at this moment, find it on my blog, and I'm starting to believe I made that memory up.
But I'm certain this is not not not not the first time I've ever browned butter.
In any case, I saw this recipe, and I was like woah, browned butter. WOAAH, basil. Her's has browned butter frosting, but after my love affair with the chocolates in Savannah, I could not pass up on chocolate frosting. I was looking for that extra something when I spotted my mascarpone cheese, and then... it all came together.
I made these for South Park wednesdays and I was really stoked about making them. I didn't want to tell anyone that they had basil inside. Basil's a relative to mint, and though the flavor is distinctive, there's that similarity there... I thought maybe they'd be less hard on it if I didn't tell them.
I really flavored these cupcakes with basil. In her recipe she used only a little bit of basil - to - sugar, but... I decided to use a lot more. I was also going to try to infuse the milk, but I forgot. I bought a mortar and pestle for this recipe-- but I've wanted one since I was a kid who loved fantasy novels and loved the idea of being an alchemist with a stone mortar and pestle grinding some sort of root and leaf potion....
The cupcakes turned out a little dry, though. They were quite crumbly, with a slight crust that had a bit of crunch. But the inside of the cupcake wasn't as moist as I'd have liked-- I'm going to have to up the anty and make these again sometime in the future with a super amount of moistness. The salt that I used was Jeff's, which is iodized-- and I could taste it. They didn't taste salty, per se, but the cupcake itself did have a sort of pesto-ish flavor. I'm assuming from the basil + salt + richness.
So really what stole the show with these cupcakes was the chocolate frosting. I took them to work the next day and everyone there loved them (I didn't say they were from me until everyone had some. I was as little shy). I liked them, but I definitely can't say they were my favorite. Again, they need more moisture. They need to be a complete package.
But the frosting was amazing, and complimented it very, very well.
Basil Browned Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Mascarpone Frosting
Inspired from Not Quite Nigella
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup almond flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
15 basil leaves
Oven at 350 Degrees Farenheit.
Make the basil sugar by grinding 1/8 cup of the sugar in a mortar and pestle and adding the basil leaves. While grinding it, depending on how moist your basil is, the sugar should become green and pastelike with chunks of basil still in it. Add another 1/8 sugar and grind it in, integrating it all.
Brown the butter in a small saucepan. When finished, set aside to cool for about ten minutes. Mix in the sugars, including the basil sugar, until creamy and thick.
In a seperate bowl, mix together the flour, almond flour, baking soda, and salt. Return to your cooled sugar mixture and mix in the eggs, beating well. Add the vanilla paste and continue mixing thoroughly. Slowly add half the flour mixture and allow to mix in completely. Add half the milk, and again mix in completely-- repeat with the rest of the flour then the rest of the milk.
Fill lined cupcake cups until 3/4 full with batter. Bake for 22-27 minutes, until set and lightly browned and clean when tested with a toothpick.
Remove from oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes before frosting.
4 oz mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons milk
Powder sugar, about 3 1/2 - 4 cups worth.
Combine the cheeses and butter in a large mixing bowl. Mix with an electric beater until starting to become light and fluffy. Mix in the cocoa powder and vanilla extract. When combined, add in the milk. Once all ingredients have been integrated, mix in the powder sugar in batches, until you reach the consistency you desire.
Mine came out a lot like mousse.