Monday, June 18, 2012

Horchata Cupcakes, Gluten-free

Horchata, a delightful Mexican beverage made from sweetened rice milk and spiced with cinnamon, has been a favorite of mine since I first discovered it at 11 years of age. My friend Tracy and I had a mix that we would blend up and sip on for hours. Later, I discovered that mixes were nothing compared the goodness of a real home made horchata, and have never looked back since.

Horchata is typically made by soaking white rice in cinnamon stick spiced water for hours, then draining out just the "rice milk" and adding sugar and vanilla to it until just right. Seductively simple, just requires a little fore thought, with the soaking.

The other side of this is that I've been playing around a lot with recipes that bend to certain dietary restrictions. A long time ago, I had been playing around with mochi cupcakes, which was a fun fusion of a Japanese dessert I had come to love, and my already beloved cupcake. The recipe I was working from called for Mochiko rice flour. Rice flour, although sometimes falsely advertised as "glutinous rice flour" does not actually contain gluten. Starch, yes, but not gluten. As to how it hadn't occurred to me sooner that this was the perfect medium to build another rice based dessert from, we will never know.

I, however, short-sightedly mis-remembered one of the ingredients to this cupcake recipe, so ended up doing my usual on the spot, bake-time experimentation to ward off yet another trip to the store for just one silly can of evaporated milk. Therefore, my new recipe calls for a homemade version of this kitchen staple, with a ricey twist. Also, topped with a rice milk pudding frosting, which is probably more like a custard actually. Best not make these on a really hot day, as the frosting would probably weep right off.

Rice Milk Pudding Frosting

- 16 oz rice milk
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup cornstarch
- pinch of salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 yolk
- 2 tsp vanilla

In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt eggs and 1/4 cup of rice milk. In a medium sized sauce pan, heat remaining rice milk and cinnamon stick and let simmer for a few minutes. Don't let milk reduce by more than 1/2 cup. Remove cinnamon stick and slowly pour some of the warm milk over the egg mixture, whisking steadily until it begins to incorporate, then return pot to stove and pour the egg mixture into the milk. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly (pudding will thicken quickly and look chunky unless you whisk very heartily). Once pudding is thick and coats the back of a wooden spoon, remove from heat and pour into a clean bowl. This pudding will make a very thick skin, which normally is fine, but we're going to be turning it into a frosting, so best to cover tightly with saran wrap and refrigerate until needed. 

Cinnamon Mochi Cupcakes
Adapted from the Food Librarian

- 1 pound mochiko (1 box)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 cup butter melted (yeah, gluten free doesn't mean this is healthy, btw)
- 2 cups sugar
- 12 oz evaporated rice milk, made from 16 oz of regular milk  
- 4 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350˚. Prep muffin tins; will make 2 dozen.

First, in a small sauce pan, heat rice milk over medium heat until reduced to 12 ounces. Don't let it boil. It will take about 10 minutes or so.

In the meantime, in a large bowl whisk together mochiko, baking powder, and cinnamon, and set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix butter with sugar, then one by one, mix in the eggs, whisking until incorporated. Whisk in vanilla. Once the rice milk has reduced to 12 ounces, slowly whisk into butter mixture. Gradually pour butter mixture over mochiko, incorporating them together as you pour. 

Fill cupcake tins with batter and bake for 20 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Let cool.

Check out my new, sweet 24 slot cupcake tin. Fits in my oven and everything! And by new, I mean, someone got it for me at a yard sale, and it is so old and been through it all that it started smoking half way through baking from all the caked on grease it has been harboring. Didn't set off my smoke alarm though, of course. Why would pillars of smoke do that?

Once both parts are cooled complete, then fill a pastry bag with your pudding frosting (it will be thick, but runny, so be prepared to make a mess), and pipe a dollop of pudding onto each cupcake. Sprinkle with a dash of cinnamon sugar if you'd like.

I normally don't condone refrigeration for cupcakes since most of the time they're better off without it, but since these have the more volatile pudding frosting, I would recommend keeping them chilled. The pudding will form a skin if exposed, so if you have a tupperware, that is probably the better method for keeping these stored freshly (and does sort of taste more like its refreshing iced beverage counterpart anyway).

Best solution, of course, is just to eat them.

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