Seattle round up part 2

Alright.  Miss Fats is taking a very short breather from Asia treats to finish up her time in Seattle.  She could have easily moved on with strange Malaysian meals, but looking back at her two weeks in the PNW, she couldn’t resist sharing some of the insanely indulgent foods that kicked off her seven week vacation.  So take a look and make some notes for your next trip to the Northwest: there’s ample face-stuffing to be had.

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1. Korean Tofu House: bulgogi hot pot, seafood hot pot, bbq bulgogi beef, assorted kimchi and taste goods.  This was a new one for Miss Fats.  Even though she spent years living just blocks from this popular Korean joint, she’d never experienced it in all its bubbling, spicy glory.  Big mistake.  She’s sad to say that this place was outrageously good and she essentially wasted her undergrad years fucking around (or blindly shoving as much pho in her mouth as possible. Not necessarily a bad thing.)  Luckily she now knows where to get steaming hot, cheap and tasty Korean when she’s back in Seattle.

2. Oh hell yes.  Miss Fats loves berry season.  As much as the local foods movement can get ridiculously pretentious in Seattle, she seriously appreciates the fact that she can stop on by her local roadside stand and pick up a flat of plump, juicy berries, fresh-picked from a Washington farm.  These blueberries were out. Of. Control.  Eaten with every meal.  Hell, eaten every time the fridge was open.

3. Miss Fats, despite vacation status, could not resist baking for two weeks.  She had a little family BBQ to attend in celebration of a couple birthdays.  Obviously this required cupcakes.  Since apparently Miss Fat’s brother has no idea what carrot cake is (doesn’t it have chunks of carrots?) she served up a platter of simple red velvet and carrot cupcakes.  That cream cheese frosting did double duty.  She even shared a few of her precious berries to pretty them up a bit.

4. Il Corvo.  Week two in Seattle marked Miss Fats’ attempts to see what new (or at least new to her) restaurants were popping up in her hometown.  Top of her list: Il Corvo.  Repeatedly topping Best New Restaurant lists, this Pioneer Square lunch spot promised $9 handmade pasta.  You read right: nine. Fucking. Dollars.  For handmade pasta. Naturally this comes with long lines and hidden menus (Il Corvo posts its pasta selection online when they open).  Miss Fats and her friend J were first in line (10:45 am lunch. Aw yeah.)  and blindly ordered one of each of their specials.  Glancing up at their antipastas, Miss Fats’ eyes zeroed in on “spicy chickpea salad.”  She was all over that.  Added. Done.  It was only after they sat down that Miss Fats investigated what they had ordered.  She craned over the long line at the handwritten chalkboard.  However due to her limited knowledge of pasta and Italian, this wasn’t the biggest help.  Instead, they patiently waited for the kind man to bring out three steaming bowls of noodle goodness. Some investigation revealed a simple burst tomato sauce with garlic and basil (so damn fresh and bright.  Cheers to tomato season), a squid ink pasta tossed a deep tomato and anchovy-based sauce, dotted with red pepper flake and sharp romano cheese, and finally a roasted pork ragu over thin ribbons of perfectly cooked pasta.  Each of these deserve posts in themselves.  Miss Fats favored the squid ink, which was the perfect salty, slightly fishy, spice she’s always dreamed of.

IMG_4433IMG_4502IMG_4469IMG_44685. The weekend sent Miss Fats to Ocean Shores on the Washington Coast.  She spent two days indulging in some serious middle aged vacation.  On their bike ride into town, Miss Fats and her friend K happened upon this little farmers market where they picked up a bountiful crop of local peaches, zucchini, corn and peppers for dinner.  Redic.

6. Apparently it was national s’mores day.  This required K to spend an entire afternoon tending to fire, toasting up marshmallows for excessive s’more consumption.  Miss Fats is sad to report, however, that K did not manage to reach her goal of twenty s’mores.  Maybe next year.

7. And here comes the highlight of Miss Fats’ time in the PNW.  Fresh crab.  Right off the boat.  Killed and cleaned right before her eyes.  Every Saturday and Sunday, you can stop off at the docks in Ocean Shores and pick yourself up some live dungenous crab for a measly $11.  Last summer, Miss Fats had missed out on this delight and had spent an entire 365 days regretting it.  Now, K does not eat seafood, so she was not so into the idea of a crab dinner.  Like that was going to stop her.  Miss Fats rode her bike beach and picked up a two-pound sucker for herself.

8. The kind man in the rubber apron with giant muscles and a huge crab tattoo who killed and sold the beast to her instructed Miss Fats to boil the fresh crab corpse for eight minutes.  Following his instructions produced the following shmorgosborg of shellfish goodness:

IMG_4553IMG_4581IMG_4646IMG_46619. Yep. Miss Fats had all that to herself.  However you may notice that dish of melted butter artfully sitting on the plate.  Not needed.  The crab was that sweet.  No lemon. No butter.  Just pure, flakey, meaty goodness.  This was literally the best crab Miss Fats has had in her entire life and now she’s not sure she can live without dining on a two pound freshly caught and killed crab every night. #firstworldproblems

10. Aftermath.  Mission accomplished.

11. Obviously Miss Fats final dinner in the U.S. for a month had to be Mexican.  Thanks to good fortune, she also discovered that one of her closest friends would be in Seattle at the same time to reunite her favorite dining threesome.  Miss Fats and friends, J & A, frequently ate Seattle during their college years, systematically stuffing themselves with all the sweet and savouries the city has to offer.  This last dinner stateside was a rare opportunity for the three of them to come together and eat like it was their job.  They ended up trying out Mezcaleria Oaxaca, a small plates, slightly upscale place in Queen Anne.  For those of you who know the place or their other Ballard eatery, La Carta de Oaxaca, you’ll know they know what’s up with those crazy good Oaxacan flavors.  In typical style, the three of them ordered a huge chunk of the menu, sampling their tacos, tamales, pozole, meats and fish galore.  The hands down winner of the night was the tamale smothered in an incredible mole sauce.  That plate was licked damn clean.

12. Portage Bay Café.  For her final meal in the U.S., Miss Fats dined with Obachan and her dad at the Seattle brunch spot, Portage Bay Café.  Now she stands by the fact that this place is vastly overrated and over priced, however Miss Fats wasn’t paying and she can admit they make a damn good pancake (though she upholds that their French toast is on the dry side).  Here she indulged in a heaping last American plate of local huckleberry pancakes topped with a mountain of fresh fruit, maple syrup and whip cream, with a side of bacon.  She also instructed her dad to order up the lemon blueberry French toast so she could nom on it as well.  One last bread/pork buffet to remind her of the portion sizes she’d be missing for the next month.

S’mores Cupcakes

IMG_3546May was the craziest month of birthdays Miss Fats has ever experienced.  She’s fairly certain that just about every single person she knows “decided” to be born in the last two weeks of the month. Therefore each year they all create a birthday vortex where time becomes structured entirely through running from one “drinks” to “dinner” to “party,” rather than attending to things like work…or school, or life. whatever.  It sounds like Miss Fats is upset about this.  False.  Because she in fact loves birthdays, and despite the end of the quarter craziness, she prefers a world structured through celebration.

Naturally, birthdays demand cake.  And as you can see, there has been a number of birthday cakes popping up on Sunday Sundaes in the last couple of weeks.  The latest cupcake was an impromptu production when the last birthday of the month popped out of nowhere (at least to Miss Fats, who has been in birthday brain spiral and fails to look at things like calendars anymore). Luckily she had all the ingredients on hand to experiment with this new indulgent cupcake recipe.

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All this sunshine (well, at least the small heat wave last week) and the wrapping up of classes is making Miss Fats itch for summer and the delicious foods of BBQ season.  So it’s no wonder her brain went immediately to s’mores when she was faced with a cupcake challenge.  There’s a ton of s’more (s’mores? is it always plural? whatever.) cupcake recipes out there– from blogs to pinterest– so there’s nothing revolutionary about this concoction.  However Miss Fats would like to think that her version does a pretty good job of recreating the ooey-gooey-ness that is a s’more experience.  Her version layers graham cracker crust with moist chocolate cake, stuffed with an oozing chocolate almond filling, and topped with a light and fluffy marshmallow frosting.  She has no idea how science works, but these little guys actually stay incredibly moist and gooey days after they’ve been properly torched on top as well.  Therefore they become the perfect make-ahead cupcakes for gatherings if you can manage to keep your hands off them.

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Now they probably seem like a lot of work: many components.  However these are damn easy cakes.  Miss Fats literally threw them together after an evening of gorging herself on Ethiopian food and was fighting an insane food coma the entire time. Yet, they came out even in her half-conscious state.  To make things even easier on yourself, she suggests splitting the work between two days: bake the cakes one day, frost the next.  No problemo.

S’mores Cupcakes:
makes 12 cupcakes (recipes all easily doubled)
cake adapted from The Ktchn’s Dark Chocolate Cake
frosting adapted from Baker’s Royale S’mores Rice Krispy Treats

cake:
about 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (Miss Fats ground up one package of the crackers from the standard box)
4 tbs melted butter
pinch of salt
1 cup + 1 tbs sugar, divided
1 cup scant flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup scant boiling water

filling:
1/2 cup Trader Joe’s Chocolate Almond Spread (or use Nutella)
3 tbs milk

frosting:
2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cupcake pan (Miss Fats has not tried this without cupcake liners and she is fearful of what would happen without them. However if anyone out there gives it a shot, report back!)  In a small bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs, 1 tbs of sugar and salt.  Mix in the melted butter, forming a crumbly crust.  Distribute evenly among the cups, packing it down with the back of your spoon or fingers.  Bake for about 10 minutes or until the crust just begins to brown.

2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix flour, remaining sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, soda and salt.  Add the eggs, oil and milk and whisk for approximately 2 minutes.  Add the hot water and mix until smooth. Distribute batter evenly among the crust cups and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

3. Make the filling: in a small bowl, warm the milk and spread in the microwave for about 30 seconds.  Whisk until smooth.  If the mixture seizes up at all, just microwave for an additional 30 seconds and patiently whisk away.

4. Make the frosting: in a large metal bowl, over a simmering pot of water, whisk the egg whites and sugar together.  Using a thermometer, gently heat the mixture to 160 degrees, whisking constantly (about 5-8 minutes).  Transfer mixture to your stand mixer and whip on high speed until it as cooled and soft marshmallow peaks have formed (about 10-12 minutes).

5. Assemble the cupcakes: Preheat your broiler (or ready your blow torch). Using a small spoon, scoop out the center of each cupcake, careful not to dig into the crust layer.  Spoon 1-2 tsps of the filling into each.  Transfer the frosting to a large ziplock bag and cut off the tip to form your ad hoc pastry bag.  Swirl the frosting over top each cupcake.  Transfer the cupcakes to a baking sheet and broil the tops of cakes until toasted (careful not to burn). (You can also skip this step, but come on, it’s not a s’more without a little toasted marshmallow).

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Instant summer in a cupcake.  This will bring back all the memories of campfire and messy s’more consumption in one bite.  It’s the perfect fun, nostalgic treat for any summer or birthday celebration.  Not to mention with the messed Chicago weather, this cake allows for optimal indoors s’more consumption.  Miss Fats hopes that you all get the chance to make some traditional campfire toasted s’mores soon, however, she’d like to think this cake can suffice in the meantime.

the miracle cure cupcake: cookie-dough-stuffed chocolate cupcakes with chocolate ganache frosting

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Are you ready to erase all ailments and stop the apocalypse? Miss Fats is sharing her latest “most-requested” cupcake with you all today.  This indulgent little dude is literally the cure to all bummers, because we all know that a cookie and cake will cure anything.  These cupcake have now undergone a series of names and Miss Fats seriously struggled to land on a final title for the recipe.  Anything from “break-up” to “PMS” to “crack” cupcakes, they’ve provided love and support for emotional ailments, and caloric fodder for rowdy celebrations.

Miss Fats locates their magical power in the balance between salt and sweet, moist cake and dough center, all topped off with fluffy ganache frosting.  She likes to think of these as a taste bud dance between childhood indulgences and thereby collapses space and time in a moment of pure mouth explosion.

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Now these may seem like they have a lot of steps, but they can literally be made in about 2 hours.  To make these happen, Miss Fats simply takes her go-to one-bowl chocolate cake recipe, hallows out some cupcakes and stuffs them with a eggless/levener-less dough.  As you can see above, the stuffing process is no fancy show: just hallow those suckers out and stuff some goodness in.  The frosting will cover it all up later. You’re also welcome to make these in steps: baking the cupcakes off and setting them aside, and then stuffing and frosting the next day.  Easy enough.  All three of the cupcakes components literally only require one bowl a piece, and can be done in minutes.  You see: this recipe is magical on just about every level.

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Miss Fats has also tried this out with a couple of different cookie centers.  As you all know by now, she’s a peanut butter addict, so naturally some of that action had to happen.  However she also recommends you try out ginger snaps for a cold fall day, or even add a little oatmeal raisin for a chewy center. But today Miss Fats is sticking to the classic: a salty-sweet chocolate chip cookie, and a moist dark chocolate cake.

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Miracle Cure Cupcakes:
makes 24 cupcakes
cake transcribed from The Kitchn’s Dark Chocolate Cake

cake:
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup oil
1 cup boiling water

filling:
1 stick melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1  1/2 tsp salt (sounds like a lot, but it balances the cake and frosting)
1/2 cup chocolate chips

frosting:
2 cups chocolate chips
2 cups heavy cream
heavy pinch of salt

cookie crumbles or pretzels for decoration/that tasty bite on top

1. Heat the heavy cream in the microwave for approximately 2 minutes or until super hot.  Dump the chocolate chips into your stand mixer bowl (or another large bowl) and pour hot cream over top.  Whisk until the chocolate has melted and you’ve formed an insanely good-looking ganache.  Allow to cool completely to room temperature (or stick it in the fridge if you’re impatient).

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cupcake pans. In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, soda, and salt.  Make a well in the center and add eggs, milk and oil.  Whisk until well combined (about 2 minutes).  Add boiling water, mix until combined.  Pour batter into cupcake pans, filling approximately 3/4 of the way (do not over-fill these!)

2. Bake for 18-20 minutes.  Once cool enough to handle, use a small spoon to scoop out the cupcake centers, discarding (or snacking on) the extra cake.

3. In a small bowl, combine all the filling ingredients.  Use your small spoon (or fingers) to add about a tbs of the mixture to each cupcake.

4. Once the ganche has cooled, whip on high speed using an electric mixture until stiff peaks form.  Cover up those gaping holes with frosting: you can do this rustic-style with a knife, or simply spoon the fluffy frosting into a ziplock bag, cut off the tip, and swirl it over top.  Top off with a little crumbled cookie or pretzel for good measure.

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Not so hard huh?  The hard part is actually restraining yourself from eating all of them.  Good luck.

Miss Fats favorite comment on these cupcakes comes from a recent night of birthday shenanigans.  Well into an evening of drunken karaoke, the birthday boy leans over to Miss Fats and tells her, “These cupcakes are the greatest thing in the history of the universe.  I’m afraid if we eat them all we’ll cease to exist.”  Now this may be a bit of a hyperbolic statement brought out through copious amounts of alcohol, however he’s clearly zeroed in on a critical issue: living in a world without cupcakes just isn’t worth it. Plus why risk the end of the universe? Make these cupcakes: save mankind.

Pastry Walkabout Part I

Miss Fats fears saying this out loud, but Spring may have finally arrived in Chicago.  Sure, she shouldn’t complain: winter was pretty damn mild, at least snow-wise.  But Miss Fats seems to have found herself with a small dose of SAD (confusing considering the fact that she spent most of her life in the greyest city on the planet) and needs some sunshine asap.  Well the last couple of days have BEEN ABOVE FREEZING AND SUNNY (say what?), which basically means spring is here in full force.  So she’s puttin’ away that parka and busting out the standard wool coat (hello, friend, I haven’t seen you in three months).  What spring means is Miss Fats can emerge from the toasty confines of her apartment and hit the streets of Chicago and continue to learn this city hard.

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Miss Fats’ favorite way to get to know a city is by walking the hell out of it.  She will literally just wander for hours: looking at buildings (fantasy apartment search), pop in and out of shops, and learn the streets.  But where to begin?  Rather than randomly selecting a place in the city, Miss Fats tends to orient these derives (pretentious grad student French nonsense) in search of a sweet treat.  Typically she’ll select a bakery, shop or restaurant that sounds tasty and head out into the unknown.  Where the wander takes her from there, no one will know/like there is such a thing as “unknown” with bestfriendiphone.

So, in celebration of Spring’s kickoff, Miss Fats will be sharing a couple of neighborhood/treat pairings to encourage all you winter hermits out there to emerge into the daylight, if only to grab a delicious cookie and quickly retreat back into your hole.

Lakeview (East): 

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Lakeview (right around Diversey), is a frequent wander spot for Miss Fats.  This is probably because critical elements of her livelihood exist here: Aveda Institute (for those cheap haircuts), Korean Tacos (more on those later), Trader Joes, and most importantly, Molly’s Cupcakes (2536 N Clark). Miss Fats’ first trip to this neighborhood happened about a year ago thanks to a groupon for a “new” cupcake shop in town.  Little did she know what she was in for.  This is Miss Fats’ go-to cupcake shop in the city.  It’s damn expensive, but they know how to make a decadent cupcake MIss Fats-style.  Her favorites include the Ron Bennington (peanut butter filled genius) and the Butterscotch (no words). They tend to abide by Miss Fat’s cupcake formula: gotta have a great cake base, tasty filling, and the right amount of frosting.  Miss Fats has now sampled more cupcakes from here than she’d like to admit, but she personally favors Molly’s more decadent cupcakes.  The fruit and pie-themed ones are solid, but the chocolate or sugar explosions are out of this world.

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So now you’re full of cupcake goodness, wandering around the shops and have purchased too many nuts and fancy things that come in little plastic containers from Trader Joes.  You’re debating whether or not to hit the zoo while you’re up here (I mean hey, why not? It’s free.)  While you’re deciding, Miss Fats recommends a stroll down Clark to Orange (2413 N Clark) for a weird, but refreshing sweet treat: Frushi.

Each day Orange serves up two frushi (fruit sushi) options: a maki (roll) and sushi.  Miss Fats tends to be a spoiled, annoying sushi snob, so you may be asking why she’s recommending this.  Because frankly, it’s not sushi.  It’s a deconstructed/reconstructed tasty rice pudding dessert.  The frushi Miss Fats had featured a little bed of thick coconut rice pudding topped with a mandarin orange slice, and the roll had some mango flavored rice action with a little grape on top.  Nonsense? Yes. Delicious and fun? Also yes.  Miss Fats encourages all of you to get out there and remember whimsy.  She knows it’s hard.  But winter is over, people.

Lakeview (West):

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Miss Fats hasn’t made her first journey to this neighborhood a couple of days ago.  She’s not sure why this particular stretch of the city had yet to be hit, but boy had she been missing out.  Dinkels (3329 N Lincoln), people.  How could she have missed this?  Dinkels is the classic bakery that has everything from candies, to bright frosted buttercream sheet cakes and house made pastries.  Naturally, Miss Fats opted for their doughnuts.  These are no gourmet, bougie, $3 doughnuts: they’re just the classics served up without all the fuss.  For $1 you can get just about any flavor and Miss Fats ended up taking bakery boy’s rec: classic old fashioned.

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This was a SOLID doughnut.  The perfect dipper for your morning cup of coffee.  Crispy outside, tender inside and completely unassuming.  Miss Fats is glad Dinkels is so far away because it could be mighty easy to just pick one of these up with a cup of coffee everyday.

West Lakeview is perhaps less scenic than some of the other north neighborhoods, but this particular stretch has a number of great “Old Chicago” buildings and businesses.  It took basically all of Miss Fats’ self-control to not spend the entire day hopping from one diner to the next.  Those diner milkshakes were seriously calling her name, especially with a little sun shining on her back, but somehow Miss Fats managed to resist. (/will probably be back next weekend…)

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If you wander down Lincoln (with that Dinkels donut in hand), you’ll eventually hit Diversey and you should probably hang a right and head over to Fritz Pastry (1408 W Diversey).  Miss Fats had sampled one of their chocolate chip pretzel cookies at Wormhole Coffee a couple of weeks ago and was intrigued by this mysterious bakery that clearly understands the beauty of the chocolate pretzel combo.  After a little googling she learned of their doughnuts and it was a no-brainer. Had to happen.  Unfortunately Miss Fats lives very far from here and was not able to get herself that far north in time for a doughnut.  All sold out. Oh well.  The cute little shop had some tasty cookies left for her, so she selected a chocolate peanut butter oatmeal.  This was a damn good cookie.  Better than the pretzel (shocking, I know).  It was surprisingly crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.  And, of course, excellent salt balance.  Miss Fats could have used a little more peanut butter flavor (naturally), but overall this was a lovely cookie/sunshine experience.

Lincoln Park/ De Paul:

IMG_2426So Miss Fats would probably never live in Lincoln Park (hah! not like she could ever afford it), but it makes for a pretty walk and is kind of the ideal spot to pick out your future fantasy home.  She’s a big fan of wandering down Lincoln Park’s many quiet side streets that boast fancy townhouses kept safe by little pristine gates (fear me, Lincoln Park!).

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She knows this neighborhood has a TON of bougie bakeries and food shops, but the reason why Miss Fats continually returns is for Sweet Mandy B’s (1208 W Webster).  Yeah, yeah.  I’m sure you are all sick of hearing about this glorious bakery.  It’s been featured on tv shows, magazines and is continually raved about.  Which is usually something to be weary of, but for once the bakery is worth all the hype.  Miss Fats loves Sweet Many B’s because it fails to ascribe to all the fads.  This is a classic bakery that is only concerned with making delightful and damn good-tasting treats everyday.  You’re not going to find a tomato cupcake here; only chocolate covered marshmallows topped with sprinkles.  It’s hard to resist buying everything here, but Miss Fats favorite is the  Toffee “Cabinet Pudding,” which is basically bread pudding made with leftover cake.  THAT’S RIGHT.  So it’s Sweet Mandy B’s insane caramel sauce that hooked Miss Fats from the get-go.  The perfectly salty, sweet, buttery sauce is pure heaven.  And the cabinet pudding features chunks of moist chocolate cake drenched in this sauce.  It’s literally one of the most incredible desserts Miss Fats has ever put in her mouth.  It’s not always around, so if you see it: get on it.  Order it immediately and ask them to warm it up.  Then sink into it’s moist, gooey indulgent center.  Miss Fats dreams about the bottom of this dessert: where all the caramel has pooled and created a soft layer of soaked cake and salty-sweetness.

Miss Fats’ ultimate afternoon in Lincoln Park includes a long wander through the neighborhood so she works up a serious appetite for that pudding.  She takes that pudding to go and strolls down to the movie theater a couple of blocks away, parks herself in front of a screen, and dives into that dessert.  Most of the time when the lights come up, Miss Fats finds herself covered in caramel sauce: like she cares.  Did you see that pudding? She got to eat that.

So Miss Fats has officially over-excited herself.  She needs to take a break and think some more about that cabinet cake.  But she’ll be back with part two of this post that features an array of traditional treats and weird dessert options.  Go out and explore in the meantime.

Also, these are just Miss Fats’ favorites, but as you’ve now read, she’s always in for a new adventure.  Has she missed any critical shops in these neighborhoods? What are your favorites?

No MORE: Brown Butter Pear Cupcake with Goat Cheese Frosting

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Miss Fats is dedicated to sampling cupcakes across the city in search of her favorite shops and baking inspiration.  And naturally she does her research.  This has taken her to some hits and misses, but there’s been one shop haunting her for the last eighteen months now: More.  This super fancy Gold Coast shop has been featured on numerous lists and television specials, boasting “creative” and “boundary-pushing” cupcakes.  (ensue eye roll)   Part of Miss Fats’ hesitation stems from her belief that its a damn cupcake and there’s a certain degree of homemade simplicity involved in any truly successful dessert.  Not to mention flavor and texture should come way before any decorative nonsense.  Ok. Done with rant.  Anyway, Miss Fats finally sucked it up and decided to try out these infamously strange cupcakes.

IMG_2202Their tiny little shop featured a wall of stark plexi fancy time.  She wasn’t entirely sure she was getting “food.”  However she pushed on, and inquired about popular flavors and recommendations.  She ended up with one of their salted caramel cupcakes (more on that later) and a goat cheese walnut pear.

IMG_2209(Miss Fats apologizes for the poor photography.  This cupcake was consumed in a bar nearby.)

Now Miss Fats has had goat cheese involved in her cupcakes before (not to mention crazy delicious goat cheese cheesecake), so she thought this cupcake would be a safe median between their disgusting-sounding tomato cupcake and the more traditional flavors.  However she was so so wrong. This was one of the most confusing and unpleasant cupcake experiences of Miss Fats’ life (and she has had a lot of cupcakes).  The dry dry mass of cake was flavored with dried thyme, which brought out an overly savory flavor in the goat cheese frosting.  The frosting itself was oily, and super goaty, which would have been fine if the cake had been sweeter and less crazy savory.  Miss Fats felt like she was eating some weird goat cheese spread that had syrup poured over top and was left to sit out and dry up for a couple of days.  Don’t even get her started on the filling.  She’s not even sure what happened.  The pathetic little patch of pear foam/watery jelly (?) had absolutely no pear flavor and was just lost in the mess of herb and cheese.  More’s cupcake has quickly risen to the top of most disappointing cake experiences of Miss Fats’ life.  She had about two bites, sampled the separate components, and threw her four dollar cupcake away.

But Miss Fats is not into a purely negative cupcake experience.  She believes joy can always emerge from cake.  She considered More’s flavor-texture failure to be a challenge: could Miss Fats do better?  Hell yes she could.  So she’s bringing her version to you all; welcome to the Brown Butter Pear Cupcake with Goat Cheese Frosting.

IMG_0241These little dudes feature a simple brown butter cake stuffed with a gooey pear filling and topped with a balanced goat and cream cheese frosting.  They are entirely sweet. No savory here, people.  Not to mention they’re damn easy.  The only slightly tricky step is browning the butter, but other than that, the cake can be made with one bowl.  The filling can easily be switched out for any fruit in season, or even any jam or compote you have on hand (Miss Fats would totally recommend  a scoop of Bon Maman pear compote or apple butter.)

IMG_0246For those of you who might think goat cheese frosting is gross, you are wrong.  Well you might not be wrong, but Miss Fats recommends trying out this recipe before you write it off.  Her frosting features a mix of goat and cream cheese, which allows for the tanginess of the goat to come through, but doesn’t totally over-power the other components.  The frosting recipe can (and should) be used to top some of your other cakes as well.  Who doesn’t want a carrot cake with a little goat action?

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Brown Butter and Pear Cupcakes with Goat Cheese Frosting:
makes approximately 18 cupcakes

cake: adapted from browned butter cake
3/4 cup butter
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt

filling:
1 bartlett pear, diced into 1/4 inch cubes
2 tbs butter
2 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
pinch of salt

frosting:
1 8 oz package of cream cheese (softened)
5 oz of goat cheese
1/2 cup butter (softened)
4 cups powdered sugar (depends on how sweet you like it)
1 tbs milk
1 tsp vanilla
juice of half a lemon
pinch of salt

1. make the cake: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  To brown the butter, heat pan over medium heat and add your butter.  Stir continuously as the butter begins to foam up.  Continue stirring as the butter begins to take on a rich brown color and creates an insanely good nutty smell.  Once it’s reached a dark golden tone, remove from heat so as not to burn.  Beat sugar and eggs until slightly thickened (about two minutes).  Once the butter has cooled slightly, add it and the milk, and vanilla and beat until just combined.  Mix in all the dry ingredients until just combined.  Fill a lined or greased cupcake pan with approximately 3/4 of the batter.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

IMG_0263

2. make the filling: heat the butter over medium in a saucepan or skillet.  melt the brown sugar and flour in the butter.  Add the spices and salt.  Toss in your pears, and allow to cook for about a minute.  Adjust spices and sugar depending on how sweet your fruit is and your preferred flavor.

IMG_02713. make the frosting: beat cream cheese, goat cheese and butter on high speed until completely combined and fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Beat in vanilla, lemon juice and salt.  Carefully sift in powdered sugar in stages, beat, starting on low and moving to high.  After about three cups of sugar, taste and decide whether or not you’d like to add the remaining sugar.  Finally, beat in the milk.

4. assemble the cupcakes: using a small spoon, remove the center of the cupcakes.  Fill with a heaping tablespoon of the filling.  Top everything off with the goat cheese frosting.  To keep it pretty, Miss Fats recommends filling a ziplock bag with the frosting and cutting the tip off to create a little ad hoc pastry bag.  Swirl it on top and finish off with a little slice of pear.

IMG_0276Miss Fats hopes you all enjoy these cupcakes as much as she did.  This is a bit of a working recipe, so she’s not completely satisfied with her current filling.  It might just be the pears she got, but Miss Fats thinks they need a bit more intensely pear flavor.  Her current filling more closely resembles the flavors of good old fashioned apple pie.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but next time she’ll probably cook those down into a tasty jam-like filling.  Any you readers out there have a suggestion for some super pear flavor?