Thursday, June 15, 2006

Cooking School: Oreo Cupcakes

I was tempted just to make plain vanilla cupcakes this week but inspiration struck me when I was watching the World Cup: black and white cupcakes, inspired by the colors of a soccer ball. This was quickly followed by a thought of cookies and cream and the oreo cupcake came to life.
It was a simple thing to mix crushed up cookies into a fairly standard vanilla cupcake and I'm surprised I never did it before. All I had to do was put 10 cookies in a zip-lock plastic bag and gently crush them with a rolling pin.
I have to admit that I didn't even use Oreo cookies in these. I actually used the chocolate and vanilla bean JoJo's from Trader Joe's. Essentially Oreos with higher quality ingredients (you can see the vanilla bean specks in the filling), they are non-hydrogenated, so you can feel better about eating them. Any cookie of a similar sandwich composition and texture (such as Hydrox, or whatever they're calling them now) should work fine.
The cupcakes were fantastic, in my opinion. If you don't like cookies n' cream or Oreos in general, you probably won't feel the same way, but there is a variation of the recipe you can use, below. The cakes were tender and moist, with a satisfying crumb and and excellent vanilla flavor. As for the cookie pieces, the filling of the cookies melted into the batter and while the chocolate wafers stayed ever so slightly crisp, maintining a different texture than the rest of the cake. The smalled bits of cookie were less noticeable, but I enjoyed the textural and flavor contrasts of having both large and small cookie pieces. Don't crush them too finely.
Overall, the cupcakes remided me exactly of cookies and cream ice cream. Possibly a bit better. The only problem I encountered was that the cookie garnish lost its crispness after storage, so I recommend frosting and adding the cookie garnish the day that you serve the cakes.

Oreo Cupcakes
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 egg whites, room temperature
3/4 cup milk
1 1/4 cups crushed oreo cookies (10 cookies)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line 24 muffin cups with baking cups.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and the butter until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla extract, then beat in the egg whites one at a time, making sure each is fully incorporated before adding the next.
Working in 4 or 5 additions, alternately add the flour mixture and the milk to the sugar mixture. Keep the mixer on low speed while you do this. When just combined, stir in the crushed oreos.
Spoon batter evenly into muffin tins, filling each about 2/3 full.
Bake for 15-18 minutes at 350F, until a toothpick comes out clean (a few chocolate cookie crumbs are fine, but not batter).
Cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.
Store in an airtight container if not serving the same day.

Makes 24 cupcakes

Note: If you only have a 12-cup muffin tin, the batter will not suffer from sitting around for a few minutes while the first batch bakes. Just be sure to let the pan cool completely before filling it up again.

Variation: To make plain vanilla cupcakes, simply omit the oreos. You might end up with only about 18 cupcakes, but as long as you fill the tins about 2/3 full, the baking time will be the same.

Quick Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
1 stick butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and beat, with an electric mixer, until frosting is creamy, 3-5 minutes.

Frost cupcakes with frosting using a butter knife or offset spatula. Add as much or as little frosting as desired. If making oreo cupcakes, garnish with additional chunks of Oreo.