It All Began With Bacon

The Northside Sun
December 2010

Click here for PDF of original article.

Laurel Schooler doesn’t consider herself to be a cook. In fact, she hasn’t always been a baker. “My husband is a fabulous cook, but I have never been interested,” remarks the high school English teacher about her husband. “Our friends love to get together and have themed dinner parties. One particular party everyone was required to bring a dish with bacon in it. I didn’t want to be left out, so I thought since I don’t cook maybe I could bring dessert.”

Schooler did her research and found a recipe for dark chocolate and bacon cupcakes. “I didn’t even own any equipment. I mixed everything by hand,” she recalls. “As odd as the combination sounds, they were a success.”

Schooler, who is in her eighth year of teaching at Madison Central, shares her Meadowbrook Road home with her husband Josh, Associate Creative Director with the Ramey Agency; eleven-year-old son Blake; and two dachshunds – Ollie and Buster. They both attended the University of Southern Mississippi; however, they did not meet until years later when introduced by a mutual friend. The couple married eight years ago. On the outside, their home is an unassuming 1950’s ranch-style house. On the inside, the modern décor reflects the couple’s creative roots. The Schooler’s kitchen matches the contemporary look of the rest of the home. The previous owner lined the backsplash with galvanized steel, which the Schoolers use to display snippets of recipes and Blake’s artwork. This particular afternoon, all the ingredients for Bread Pudding Cupcakes are measured out on the kitchen counter. After combining cubed bread and dried cranberries with a little heavy whipping cream, melted butter, and spices, Schooler heads out to the dining room to give the bread time to soak. She sits down at a long wooden table outfitted with funky neon orange chairs and shares a story about the time the couple tried to mix meringue by hand with a whisk.

“Have you ever tried mixing meringue by hand? It was awful!” she laughs. “One of us would mix and when our arms got tired we’d pass it off to other person, ‘Here you mix for while.’” Soon after, Josh bought Schooler her lime green Kitchenaid stand mixer. “It is by far my favorite piece of equipment! This thing does everything!”

Inspired by the triumph of her first batch of cupcakes, Schooler began experimenting with other recipes. “My students became my guinea pigs,” she says. “They love it when I bring baked goods to class.” One student raved to his mother about Schooler’s cupcakes. His mother later approached her about baking a batch of cupcakes for an upcoming party she was having. “I was so excited! Finally, I had the opportunity to make cupcakes for someone else!” In between juggling a full-time career and her family, Schooler squeezes in the time to cater for family and friends. “I was recently asked to bake cupcakes for a wedding. Thursday night after work, I came home and spent the whole evening baking!”

Schooler has also expanded her hobby into retail. When Jim and Linda Burwell opened Mimi’s Family and Friends restaurant in Fondren this past spring, the Burwell’s daughter Heather– who also happens to be Schooler’s best friend from high school – suggested they carry her friend’s tasty creations. “The flavor changes from day-to-day. Sometimes they’ll ask for a certain theme, or a seasonal creation, or just whatever I’m in the mood for.”

By now, the cupcakes are in the oven and the house is beginning to smell like nutmeg. Schooler melts a stick of butter over the stove and stirs in an egg, sugar and a couple tablespoons of whiskey. She then fires up her lime green mixer and begins whipping a cup of heavy cream. The festive cupcakes remind her of one of her most ambitious baking projects – a seven layer coconut cake she made one year for Christmas dinner. “It was so tall that when I put it on the pedestal I couldn’t even fit the top over it!”

Once the whiskey sauce has cooled, she is able to fold it into the whipped cream. Schooler then spoons the mixture into an icing gun and pipes it onto her cooled cupcakes. As you bite into one of her individual treats, still slightly warm from the oven, the taste of cinnamon elicits holiday cheer.

Bread Pudding Cupcakes

Makes 18 cupcakes

Cupcakes:

  • 5 cups stale bread ripped into finger-length pieces (Bunny is my brand of choice)
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
  • ½ teaspoon Nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 5 large eggs

Place bread in large bowl and stir in melted butter. Add all other ingredients and stir again. Let stand at room temperature for 25-30 minutes. Use an ice cream scoop and divide the mixture evenly among cupcake liners. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Cupcakes are down when the tops are lightly browned and are springy to the touch.

Whiskey sauce:

  • ¼ cup butter (1/2 stick)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons of your favorite whiskey

Heat the butter, sugar, and egg in a small saucepan. Stir until fully integrated. Remove from stovetop and stir in vanilla and whiskey.

Whiskey Whipped Cream:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 8 tablespoons whiskey sauce

Place whipping cream and sugar in stand-up mixer with whisk attachment. Beat on low to combine, then increase to medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Stir in whiskey sauce by hand until fully integrated. Top cooled cupcakes with the whipped cream.

Are you a clever cook or a brilliant baker and would like to be featured in the Northside Sun? Send an email to lisalbynum@hotmail.com.

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