Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Oreo Cupcakes ~ A Sweet Surprise

A good friend of mine has a bit of an Oreo problem.

      She adores them.

And since I adore her, I had to make these delicious little treats for her as a birthday surprise. It took me awhile to settle on what flavor of cupcakes I was going to make for my friend because I didn't really know what her favorite kind of cake was. I knew she enjoyed sweet treats, but as most women are doing, she wanted to watch her consumption of delicious little things.

I have no such problem with that. The eating of delicious little treats, that is.

However, I know she does fancy a sweet thing on occasion and her go-to choice is almost always Oreos. A slathering of thick sweet frosting sandwiched between two little crunchy chocolate cookies. Dunk them in milk, twirl them apart, eat one at a time or pop one whole. Lots of different ways to enjoy them, right? And nowadays, they come in almost every flavor and variety. Peanut butter, vanilla, mint, ginger. Red, white, green, brown. Coated in chocolate, white, milk or dark. You name it. People love their Oreos.

I am an Oreo fan, but it is not my absolute favorite. And since I have gone gluten-free, I don't think I've had an Oreo or a knock-off version in years. But, since my friend loves them so much, I wanted to find a way to incorporate them in another favorite - the cupcake.

Now, this is not new, nor can I claim to have invented such a thing as the Oreo cupcake. But, in the gluten-free world, I didn't know if I could find a decent sandwich cookie that would rival the original enough to enamour my wheat-eating friend. Would the cookies pass the test? Or would they fall as flat as the famous chocolate wafer?

I searched at one of my local natural health food stores and came across only one brand: Kinnikinnick. The package looked like all the other wheat-filled cookie containers, but would they taste the same or even close? It's hard to say. Gluten-free products can sometimes be a gamble and as most of us know, no matter what we do, they just aren't exactly the same. They are good, but would they be good enough?

Yep. They were pretty darn delicious.

I even dunked them in some Rice Dream and they were mighty tasty! I was quite pleased and ready to get my cupcake on.

FYI: I have been told that Glutino also makes a chocolate sandwich cookie, but since I haven't ventured to seek them out, I can't tell you how those are or how they will work in the following recipe. But, I am a Glutino fan in general, so I doubt they'll be anything less than fabulous. 

So, I had found a suitable replacement for the original Oreo cookie and on top of all of it, not only was the cookie delicious, but it was much more natural than the Oreo brand. The filling consists of powdered sugar, palm shortening (in its original form, not the hydrogenated kind, partial or otherwise, that so many companies use), natural flavorings and salt.

Not bad.

The cookie itself is a gluten-free dream made by a company that really understands g-free needs. Not something I worry about with Kinnikinnick. It has a nice chocolate flavor with a slightly sandy, shortbready texture that melts in your mouth in just the right way. The texture is mildly different from a true Oreo, but since I was going to bake with them, I knew they would be just perfect.

But I didn't want to just do a vanilla or chocolate cupcake with an Oreo-type frosting - I wanted to do something that would add a little surprise. After all, this was for a birthday!

In several magazines and a few cookbooks, I had seen other home cooks and chefs put a whole Oreo or other type of cookie in the batter and bake it inside the cupcake. How fun would that be? To bite into a soft and moist cupcake only to find a whole cookie in there too? Oh, yeah. That would be yum.

I knew that once I had settled on my decision to make a set of Oreo birthday cupcakes for a person who is just as sweet as the cake, that I had found the right combination to suit a happy situation. It was going to be a very happy birthday surprise.

Oreo Cupcakes

 Makes 12 regular cupcakes

(Cake recipe is adapted from Carol Fenster’s Cooking Free)

For all white cupcakes, use 3 egg whites rather than 2 whole eggs.

Make sure all ingredients are room temperature. 

Cupcake batter: 

1/3 cup butter, or ¼ cup oil or applesauce
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs or 3 egg whites
1 ½ cups GF Flour Blend: (½ cup millet or white rice flour, ½ cup brown rice flour, ½ cup cornstarch or tapioca starch)
1 tsp xanthan gum or karaya gum (also known as GumTex)
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup buttermilk, or 2 tsp vinegar or lemon juice and enough nondairy milk to equal ¾ cup
1 tsp vanilla extract
12 whole chocolate sandwich cookies

Chocolate Sandwich Cookie Frosting: 

6 chocolate sandwich cookies, crushed into small pieces
1 cup palm shortening
2 cups Marshmallow Fluff (I prefer the original brand - Marshmallow Fluff - because it has four ingredients and they are natural) - can use up to 1 cup more depending on how soft you want your frosting
1 tsp vanilla 
2 tbsp powdered sugar (add more or less for preferred consistency and texture)
cold water, as needed 

1. For cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup cupcake pan with cupcake liners.

2. Using an electric mixer, cream butter (or oil or applesauce) and sugar on medium speed until thoroughly blended. Mix in eggs on low speed until blended.

3. In a medium bowl, sift together flours, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another medium bowl, combine buttermilk and vanilla.

4. On low speed, beat dry ingredients into butter mixture, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix just until combined. Batter will be very loose, if using oil or applesauce. Spoon 1 tbsp of batter equally into prepared pans, then place one chocolate sandwich cookie on top of each partially filled cup. Add another 1 - 1½  tbsp of batter over the top of the cookie. Let batter sit for 10 minutes.

5. Bake cupcakes for 18-20 minutes, until cakes are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the side (so as to avoid the cookie) comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool in pan for 5-10 minutes, then remove from pans and allow to cool completely. 

6. For frosting: Place cookies in a small baggie and seal. Roll a rolling pin over the cookies or smash with the back of a heavy spoon until cookies are in small pieces. 

7. Cream the shortening in the mixer until smooth and creamy using the whisk attachment. Add fluff, vanilla and powdered sugar and mix on med-low until combined. Add water 1 tsp at a time until you get the desired consistency. If you add too much water, add more shortening and whisk on high until incorporated.

8. Switch machine to high to really get the frosting whipped, smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Remove from machine and fold in crushed cookies, reserving about 1 tsp. 

9. Pipe or spread frosting on cooled cupcakes and sprinkle reserved cookie crumbs on top of each cookie. 

10. Enjoy or surprise a friend! Keep cupcakes in an airtight container for up to 3 days, if not using right away. 

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