As an added bonus, I've been looking for an excuse to make my own ricotta forever! It's so simple, and it takes about ten minutes to do.
To get the sage flavor into the cupcakes I decided the best thing to do was to steep the milk as I'm making the ricotta. It added a more subtle infusion of flavor instead of a traditional 'mince sage dump in frosting' time preparation [would work, but wouldn't be as fun!]. If you're going to use homemade ricotta, obviously you can omit the sage completely or you can replace the honey with a homemade simple syrup that's infused with sage. Or you could probably blend up some sage with a touch of water and sugar in a food processor/blender until it's smooth and creamy and mix that into the ricotta. Pick your poison. As for my method, I found that just dropping in a nice size sage stick into the milk as it's boiling works like a charm [as does the giant-tea-ball bouquet garni method of mincing up the sage and putting it inside a tea ball/tied up cheese cloth and fishing it out later].
I added some candied sage leaves [very simple!] to the top of the cupcakes to remind people what they're tasting and add to the preparation. I went with a basic peach cupcake because I just love peaches, honey, sage and cream as a flavor combination. I simplified the peach recipe because it had nutmeg and orange zest in and I thought that might just be too much. At the end of the day, it's a white cupcake with peach chunks but it's a mighty fine classic.
Homemade Sage Infused Ricotta
Makes about 10 oz [nearly 2 cups]
1/2 gallon whole milk
1 cup cream
2 decent size sprigs fresh sage (kept whole)
1/2 tsp salt
3 tablespoons lemon juice [approx juice of one medium size lemon]
A strainer/colander lined with cheesecloth and set on top of a large bowl [just in case your cheese clothes gets away from you, the extra bowl will act as 'insurance' in case some of your cheese curds fall through your sieve - and yes, I learned this the hard way].
1. Over high heat, put the milk, cream, salt, and sage in a nonreactive pot to boil.
2. When a boil is reached, reduce heat to medium and add lemon juice. Your mixture will start to curdle almost immediately.
3. Continue to cook for two minutes and then pour into your colander/strainer and allow to drain (you may need to empty the liquid from the bottom of your insurance bowl as you go so that your mixture keeps draining!). This should take about an hour or so. Check on it ever so often to pour off any liquid that runs off.
4. Store your ricotta in the fridge until you're ready to use.
Peach Cupcakes [Adapted from 52 Cupcakes]
1.5 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1.25 cups sugar
1/2 cup (One stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cups milk
2 peaches blanched [submerged in boiling water for 30 seconds to soften peel], peeled, and then diced into tiny 1/4 inch chunks.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt.
3. Cream butter and sugar using stand mixer or hand mixer.
4. Add eggs one at a time to the butter/sugar mixture.
5. Add vanilla to eggs,butter, and sugar
6. Add one third of the flour and mix. Then add one half of the milk and mix. Add another third of the flour and mix and then the remaining milk followed by the remaining flour.
7. Fold in the peaches.
8. Pour into cupcake liners and bake for about 25 minutes [until starting to brown and passing the 'toothpick through the middle = clean' test] if using full size cupcakes or about 10-15 min for mini size.
9. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
Ricotta Honey Frosting
10 oz sage infused ricotta [recipe above]
4-6 tablespoons of honey [to taste]
1. Mix the ricotta and 4 tablespoons of honey and combine well until ricotta is very creamy. Taste and add more honey as needed. You will be adding more honey later on as a garnish, so stick towards the 'less sweet' side.
Candied Sage Leaves
24 medium to small-ish size sage leaves [or big if you like] whole.
1 egg white [I used the kind in the carton that's been pasteurized]
Finely granulated sugar [have at least a cup handy].
1. Dip the leaves in the egg white and drip off any excess. Next, coat them evenly in sugar and place them on a wire rack or baking sheet to dry. Flip them over after they start to dry and make sure to place them either on a different baking sheet or on a spot that is dry [you can just put all the first round on one half of your sheet and use the other half of the baking sheet or wire rack for the flip]. Takes about an hour.
1. Rustically spread some frosting onto the cupcakes using an offset spatula. Drizzle a little bit of honey on top and then carefully lay a candied sage leaf on top for garnish. Enjoy!
Transportation tip: Don't drizzle the honey/add the candied sage until just before serving. Transport with just frosting and have a bottle of honey handy. Transport the candied sage leaves in single layers with wax/parchment paper separating each layer.
Nitty gritty of iron cupcake earth:
Our June ETSY PRIZE-PACK is from artists:
Last and certainly not least, don’t forget our corporate prize providers: HEAD CHEFS by FIESTA PRODUCTS, http://www.fiestaproducts.com, HELLO CUPCAKE by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, http://blog.hellocupcakebook.com, JESSIE STEELE APRONS http://www.jessiesteele.com; TASTE OF HOME books, http://www.tasteofhome.com; a t-shirt from UPWITHCUPCAKES.COM http://www.upwithcupcakes.com/. Iron Cupcake:Earth is sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers, http://www.1800flowers.com .
- A sweet cupcake ID bracelet by INSANEJELLYFISH, http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5021935
- A delicious treat from CIRCLEMONKEY http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5335273
- a sweet surprise from Sweet Cuppin' Cakes Cupcakery, http://www.acupcakery.com/
- PLUS, IronCupcake:Earth can not forget our good friend, CAKESPY, http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5243382, who is now going to be doing a piece for our winner each month until further notice - sweet!