Monthly Archives: April 2013

Fried Milk

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April 20th was the biggest event all year for the student association I’m involved with, Taste of Asia.  It went really well, lots of good food and some good entertainment from the Malaysian Martial Arts group.  But it was a lot of work.

My day started really early since I was there at 11 to start setting up for the event at 2, and it’s a really good thing because we just got done in time.  At 2 o’clock everything was ready; the servers were lined up and ready, as well as there being a considerable amount of people in line, including me.  But the line wasn’t moving.  About ten minutes of rather impatient waiting later, I was hungry; I finally walked over to the president and asked what we were waiting for.  The answer was easy, we needed someone to announce for the event to begin, emphasis on me.

Well, I’m not going to say I didn’t want to be MC and I’m not afraid of the stage, so I took a deep breath and said, in not quite my loudest voice, ‘Welcome To The 9th Annual Taste of Asia Celebration!’ and a lot of other stuff, ending with, ‘let’s serve the food!’  Lots of cheers to that one, I wasn’t the only one who was hungry.

At this point I figured I could sneak back in line and get some of food, but alas, instead I was handed a microphone.   I realized, though, that being MC had its advantages.   While I went around interviewing the chefs, asking what country they were from, what they had cooked today, etc., they kept giving me samples of their food.  Try this, try this.  I got to have all the food I could have wanted, without having to wait in line.

One of the foods I got to try was Fried Milk, and I’m a little ashamed to say I had 3 pieces of it.  It went really quick, partially because of my loud speaker endorsement of it.  One of my favorite dishes that day, I was able to get a hold of the chef after the event and get the recipe from her.  Thank you Singing Yvonne Li, for sharing this recipe with me and allowing me to post it here.  All credit for the recipe goes to her.

Enjoy.

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Ingredients

Filling:

2 cups milk

½ cup sugar

¾ cup cornstarch

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon butter

Batter

½ cup milk

1 egg

2/3 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

Oil for frying

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In a saucepan over medium heat mix all the ingredients of the filling:  milk, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla extract, and butter.  Stir continuously until the mixture solidifies.  Should take somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes.  When mixture solidifies it’ll be a little gluey and very thick.

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Spread mixture evenly into a square or rectangular container, a little like rice crispy treats.  The container does not have to be buttered or oiled.  The filling will try to pull away from the sides and stick to itself, so press it down firmly with your hands or a spoon.

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It’ll be really hard to get it to be smooth on the top, don’t worry, you don’t have to.

Cover and cool in the refrigerator overnight, or a minimum of 4 hours.

After the filling has cooled completely, I left it in my refrigerator overnight, take it out and cut it into approximately 1 inch squares.

To make the batter, in one bowl mix the milk and egg white.  In a second bowl mix the flour, salt, and egg yolk.

In my opinion the simplest way to separate the yolk from the egg white is to carefully crack the egg and pull it apart vertically so that the egg remains in one piece of the shell.  Now pass the egg yolk from one shell half to the other, letting any of the yellowish ooze, which is the egg white, drip down into your bowl.  Pass the egg yolk three or four times from one shell half to the other until all you’re left with is the yellow center.  If a little of the yellowish ooze remains attached to the center, the yolk, that’s okay.

Heat approximately 2-3 inches of oil in a deep saucepan to high heat, around 400OF.  Make sure you have everything ready before you heat the oil, because it will heat very quickly.  Also, make sure you wait until your oil is hot enough before you start frying the pieces.

Dip each piece of filling into first the milk mixture, and then into the flour mixture.   Carefully drop the filling into the oil and fry until golden brown.  These are very heavy so they will not float the surface but stay at the bottom, which is why you don’t want as much oil.

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Pieces fry in about 5 minutes.  You’re going to want to have some kind of spoon to turn the pieces around every now and then since it’s hard to see when they get done.  Also, the oil is going to get really cloudy since a percentage of the flour on each piece is going to flake off.

Drain off any excess oil and serve hot or cold.  Also very good with chocolate sauce, but that may just be because I love chocolate.  Makes about 30 pieces.

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Enjoy

Chai Cheescake

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The first time I made this was actually for a going away party for one of my coworkers.  I had a reputation in the department as being a good baker, and I asked her what she would like me to make.   She asked if I could make a cheesecake out of tea.

Well, I have to say, that was one of the strangest things I had ever heard, and I definitely hadn’t expected her to say that.  It had never occurred to me to try to bake tea into a cake, let alone a cheesecake.  She was a pretty good friend of mine, so since she had asked, I set out to apply.  So I did what any 90s kid would do.  I googgled it.

And…there are a lot of recipes for green tea cheesecake.  They all use the same basic ingredient list, tea, cream cheese, sugar, and eggs.  That’s not very hard.  Since she was Indian, and not Japanese, I figured she would prefer Chai tea to green; and that was when the recipe building began.  Several pies, and one very happy but sugar high family later; I had made my very first recipe.

It also started a persistent need to improve upon every recipe I’ve cooked since.   I’ve ended up with some really good recipes, some really awful recipes, and sometimes a very angry Megan.  But meh.  You win some, you lose some.

Anyway, Enjoy!

Ingredients

6 Chai tea bags

I used the Bigelow Spice Chai, which has a lot more flavor to it; I’ve also used the Bigelow Vanilla Chai which yields a much milder cheesecake which tastes a little more like regular cheesecake.

1 cup water

2 8-ounce containers of cream cheese

½ cup sugar

1 egg

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 9 inch graham cracker pie crust

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Sorry I forgot to include the lime juice in the photo, I just use the Kroger brand.

First thing, get the cream cheese out of the refrigerator.  I really hate to wait for things to come to room temperature, and I’m usually the one who gets impatient and just uses the butter cold, but unfortunately with this recipe it actually has to be room temp.  Unfortunate.   Cut the cream cheese into cubes, and it will defrost faster.

Heat water to boiling and measure out 1 cup of boiling water and put in all six tea bags.  Cover the 1 cup of water with a plate or anything else non-paper that will completely cover the container’s mouth in order to steep the tea.  I actually used the pie crust tin.

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Preheat oven to 350OF.

After the cream cheese has come to room temperature, about 20 minutes when it’s cut up, add the sugar and blend well.   If you’re using a hand mixer this will only take a few seconds.

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Add the egg, the steeped tea, and the lime juice and blend well again.  This will be pretty messy as it makes a really liquidy mixture so make sure you’ve used a bowl with high sides.

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This should make a completely viscous mixture.  If your mixture looks like the above picture, skip the next paragraph.

If your mixture has lots of little white chunks in it, that’s the cream cheese, because it was not at room temperature yet when you started.  You can blend all you want, it won’t get well incorporated.  Don’t worry though, you can still bake it.  It will just not have as even a consistency, as those little chunks of cream cheese will bake differently than the rest of the mixture.

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Pour the mixture into the graham cracker pie crust; do not over fill the pie crust so you will probably have a little filling left over.  Very carefully place the pie crust in the oven; it will be very easy to spill so watch your step.  Bake for about 45 minutes or until the top is starting to turn brown.

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Pie should still be a little jiggly, like jello, if touched, but should appear solid and a little puffed up.  Turn the oven off and leave the pie in for an additional 1-2 hours, until it is no longer jiggly.  Try to open the oven as little as possible, since this lets out your heat.

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When the pie is done, it will have deflated and will pull away from the tin slightly.  It will still be a little semi-solid if you serve it immediately, for it to properly set up it has to be refrigerated for 3-6 hours.

Sever warm, or refrigerate for 6 hours to cool completely.  Enjoy

Honey Ginger Chicken

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I love cookbooks.   Just about any kind of cookbook really.  The silly little paperback ones in the grocery store that you thumb through while you wait and try to decide is it really worth $5, for me it never is.  The really old cookbooks you can sometimes find at Goodwill where the families all have 4 people and they call for monosodium glutamate.  And I really like cookbooks from the library.

It’s like the best of all worlds, you get to try the recopies, copy down the ones you like, ignore the ones you don’t, and then you return it.  You don’t have another cookbook in your house taking up space with recipes you’re never going to try and you don’t have to spend any money to buy it.

But there is one drawback to working with recipes from books.  Unless it tells you, you never can know where a recipe comes from.  Even though the recipe has some Asian ingredients, I just assumed it was an American recipe, I mean; Food Network has started to suggest using soy sauce as a salt alternative, that’s totally Asian.  By the way, have you ever looked at how much sodium is in soy sauce, I don’t think it’s an improvement.

But where things come from is important.  It puts things in cultural context, it helps you understand a lot more about the food, for instance, when I first got this recipe it called for breast meat, which made it really dry.  Since I like dark meat better, I had already started substituting sliced thigh meat when I was talking to some people from Vietnam and realized that this was a made-easy version of Ga Kho Gung.

I really want to try the authentic Vietnamese recipe, coming soon, in addition to what the Amrican version calls for it also has coconut water, and coconut is one of my favorite things.

But this is still one of my favorite recipes.  It cooks really fast, within 30 minutes if you’re using cut chicken, while the authentic recipe calls for an overnight marinating step, and it re-heats really well,.  I almost always have all these ingredients in my house so it’s something, not from a box, that I can really easily cook up just about any time.  And one time I took it to a BBQ and the kids kept coming back wanting more.  If the kids like it over hotdogs, you know it’s good.

Enjoy!

Ingredients

1 onion

1 lb chicken, or 4 legs

2 tablespoons ginger garlic paste

If you don’t have ginger garlic paste you can use 1 tablespoon each of fresh garlic and ginger.  If you want to use powdered ginger, use 2 tablespoons.

½ teaspoon five-spice powder

1 tablespoon fish sauce

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons honey

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 fresh chili

Oil

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Traditionally this recipe should be cooked with boned chicken, but you can also use 1 inch pieces of boneless.  If you decide to do that, you might want to add a little more soy sauce because boneless chicken will dry out much faster.

First finely chop the onion.  I really like onions a lot, so I used an extra onion, another reason is that by the time you’re done you end up cooking your onions down to practically nothing and a little bit more is a good thing.

Deskin the chicken legs.  An easy way to deskin chicken, which is something I hate to do and usually make my boyfriend do, is to deskin it under running HOT water.  Hold the leg firmly in one hand, and take the loose skin around the thickest part of the leg and pull.  As long as you keep it under the hot water, it’ll be a little like pulling of a tight boot.

Heat around 3 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan until it is hot.  Fry the onions for about 30 seconds or until they are just translucent.  Add the chicken legs and cook, stirring and turning the chicken occasionally, until the onions are golden.

Add the ginger garlic paste and sprinkle the five spice powder over the chicken.  Stir well, try to coat the chicken.  Cook on high heat for about 2 minutes or until the chicken starts to brown and it can be pierced with a fork easily at its thickest part.

Add the fish sauce, soy sauce, honey, and black pepper.  Stir well; especially make sure the honey gets well incorporated.  Turn heat down and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes.

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At this point, the chicken should be done, and since the leg bone insulates heat, it’ll cook pretty fast.  At the same time, since I can’t actually see if the chicken is done I tend to go for the cooked to death approach instead of risking eating undercooked chicken.  When the chicken starts to pull away from the bone you can be pretty sure that it’s done cooking, and it’s time to enjoy.

Just as a note do not use this recipe to cook chicken that has been frozen unless it has been defrosted for several hours.  You are depending on the bone in order to cook the chicken from the inside out, but if the chicken bone is cold, then it won’t insulate the meat and the inside won’t cook as fast as the outside.

Finely dice the chili and use as a garnish.  Personally, I’m a fan of my food being pretty spicy so I used 3.

Eat with rice and serve with any remaining onions.

In total, takes about 30-45 minutes.  This honestly has to be one of the fastest cooking dishes I’ve ever made.

Toga Toga

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I actually wore a sheet as a toga to a Halloween Party one time.  But the sheet I used was a solid blue, if I had used a jazzier sheet, like this one, it might have been the party crashing costume in reality that it had been in my head.  But I doubt I’ll be trying it again.

And I also don’t intend to wear this sheet as a toga.  I found it at Goodwill for a couple of dollars and I just loved the pattern.

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I understand that they are little trees, but I can’t figure out the colors.  Green makes sense, maybe even red, but blue, and orange?  Really?  Regardless I absolutely love them, but I mean what was this sheet made for?  A 1950s Christmas?   Or maybe they’re not trees at all, maybe they’re actually popsicles.  Who knows, or cares.  Either way, this sheet was definitely made for the 50s and to the 50s it shall return…as a dress.

But first things first, since it is a sheet, it has all these pesky seems that are going to get in my way.  Before I can make my pretty new dress, I’m going to have to rip them out.

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This also gets me a good three more inches on each side and around 8 at the top.  Once I rip out all the seams, this sheet is effectively fabric.  Fabric which I can cut a pattern out of, a pattern such as this one.

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I really like Butterick patterns, the instructions are pretty easy to follow and I don’t normally have to alter them too much to fit.  This particular dress was really easy to make.  It only has 5 pieces and it took me about 3-4 hours to make it.  Not that long really, especially considering it took me an hour to cut out all the pieces.

And once it was done, drumroll, Ta-da

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All dressed up and only to a Laundromat to go.

Green Curry Puffs Or Thai Samosas

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Vegetarian Green Curry Puffs

Or Thai Samosas

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I always give my boyfriend a hard time about his eating habits because he loves sweet things so much.  Since I love to bake, this is a bad habit that I find myself enabling a lot, but who can say no to someone who loves to eat your food?  But I myself also have a horrible food habit, I love fried foods.

I don’t mean I love fried foods like McDonalds or KFC, I love samosas, egg rolls, and these sesame balls filled with red bean paste I get at IG.  All so yummy.

While I know that fried foods will never be good for me, I feel that if I at least make them myself, and thus can limit the amount of salt and other preservatives (read as poison) that gets added to a lot of frozen foods they are not so bad.

Another thing making my own food allows me to control is that I’ve made these vegetarian.  I have a lot of vegetarian friends and when we get together, I prefer to cook foods that everyone can eat.  The original recipe (which can be found in Thai & South-East Asian Cooking & Far Eastern Classics) called for Fish sauce, which believe it or not, is actually made from fish.  I know in America we’re used to ketchup not really being made from tomatoes and orange juice generally coming from concentrate so you probably wouldn’t think that fish sauce was made from fish but it is.  Actually some varieties of fish sauce are the Asian equivalent of hot dogs, it’s the mystery fish.  By the way soy sauce is made from soy.  Who would have thunk it?

Ingredients

24ish wonton wrapper

As an alternative you can buy egg roll wrappers which are much bigger and about the same price and cut them into 4 equally sized pieces

1 potato

3 tablespoons peas

3 tablespoons corn

A few springs fresh cilantro (coriander)

About 1-2 tablespoons when chopped

1 fresh chili

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon green curry paste

1 teaspoon sesame seed oil

Oil for deep frying

Water

Boil the potato in slightly salted water until a fork easily pieces the potato in the thickest part.  You do not need to peel the potato before boiling it; it is much easier to peel after it has been boiled.  In fact, you don’t need to peel the potatoes at all as long as you wash the skin very well before you boil them; the peel actually has fiber and nutrients that are good for you.  One caution to this is to not eat the skin if the potato is under-ripe or has a green tinge.

If you are using frozen peas and corn, as I did, take them out of the freezer and defrost them while the potato is boiling which will take 15-45 minutes depending on the thickness of the potato.  If you want to use fresh ingredients you will need to cook them.  I suggest boiling them until they are just tender.

Drain the potatoes and let them cool to make them easier to handle.  Once you can handle them easily mash them, peeled or not, with either a potato masher or by hand.

If you are using frozen peas and corn measure them out together into a microwave safe bowl.  Microwave 1-2 minutes, stir and then microwave again for 1 minute.  This is to ‘cook’ them, but also to try to melt any residual ice and to evaporate a little of the water.  If the microwaved mixture is very wet drain it before adding it to the mashed potatoes.

Finely chop the cilantro (coriander) and the chili.  As a note, since you are using chopped chili it is difficult to evenly distribute a little bit of diced chili into a proportionally large amount of potatoes.  This leads to some of the puffs being very spicy, and others having a slightly sweet taste.  If you would like a more even incorporation use ground pepper, preferably dried pepper that has went through a food processer.  The amount used would depend on the level of spiciness you would like.

Add the cilantro, chili, lime juice, soy sauce, green curry paste, and sesame seed oil to the mashed potatoes.  Mix well.

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The next part is a little messy.  I suggest filling the wrappers on a cutting board, I used a wooden one.

Get some water in a bowl or cup that it is easy to dip your fingers into.  You’re probably going to want around ½ cup of water.  Place a wonton wrapper on a flat surface, such as a cutting board.  Dip your fingers into the water and brush the wonton wrapper so that the entire surface is moist, but not wet.

Take about 1 teaspoon-1 tablespoon of the mashed potato mixture and place in the center of the wrapper.

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Fold in half to form a triangle and press the edges down well.  It’s okay if the edges don’t come together exactly; the important part is that you make a good seal.  If some of the mixture comes out, brush it away with your fingers and re-seal the edges.

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Repeat until all of the potato mixture is used.  Depending on how full you stuff your puffs, this may make more than 24, the last time I made these I was really conservative with my filling and I got about 30.  Stuffing the puffs takes about 45 minutes.

After you’ve made all your puffs heat your oil over medium heat.  Don’t try to heat the oil earlier, it takes much less time to heat the oil than it does to stuff the curry puffs.  You can use pretty much any kind of oil you want.  Peanut oil is the best for deep frying, but it’s also the unhealthiest.  I generally use vegetable or canola oil since they are so much cheaper and are not as unhealthy.

You want to use enough oil that the puffs will be completely covered when they are dropped in.  This will mean that you probably want at an absolute minimum 3 inches of oil in the bottom of your pot; I used something between 6 and 7 inches of oil.  If this sounds like a huge amount, don’t worry, you can filter the oil and save it to use it again.

To filter the oil, after it’s cooled, take a paper towel and a funnel.  Fold the paper towel into quarters, or more if necessary, and put it in your funnel.  Put the funnel into an empty container and pour the used oil into the funnel.  The paper towel will act as a filter and remove any food particles that are left in the oil after cooking, and then you’ve got the vast majority of the oil back for use at a later date.  Generally oil can be used at least 4 times, but if it turns black or starts to smell bad it has gone bad and should be pitched.

Heat the oil until it’s about 400OF or until a small piece of onion cooks when dropped in.  Do not get impatient and try to cook the puffs before the oil is hot, they won’t cook and will taste like oil.  If your oil is so hot that when you drop in the onion or puff in it sputters up in your face like a small volcano, back away, turn the stove down and try again in a few minutes.

Drop your puffs in one at a time.  Depending on the size of your pot, you’ll probably be able to cook multiple puffs at one time, but don’t over crowd your pot.  I cooked 5 at a time.

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The puffs will cook in about 5 minutes.  When you first drop them into the oil they will sink to the bottom but as they cook they will rise and puff up from air trapped inside.  They have a tendency to want to float on one side, so you might have to turn them a few times to get them evenly cooked on both sides.  Cook until the body of the puff is a golden brown, the edges will probably be a red brown before the body is golden.

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Serve hot.  The puffs will gradually deflate as they cool.  If they need to be reheated re-fry them for 30-45 seconds.  If they are reheated in an oven or a microwave they will get rubbery.

Serve with sweet chili or tamarind sauce.

Entire cooking time 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Peach Surprise Tea Cakes

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Peach Surprise Tea Cakes

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Ingredients:

2 ½ cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon Salt

1 cup sugar

2-8 oz cans sliced peaches

½ cup butter (1 stick)

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

1 egg

1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350OF

Mix together sugar and butter.  This is easier if the butter is at room temperature, but if you’re impatient like I am, you can cut the butter into small pieces instead of waiting for the butter to warm up.  The mixture will not be smooth, but will look crumbly.

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Add the vanilla and egg and. Mix.  This will make a smooth mixture.

Drain one of the cans of peaches and reserve the juice.  Pour the peaches into a blender or food processer and puree.  Add the peach puree to the mixture and mix well.   You’re back to this not being a smooth mixture.

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If you are using hand beaters like you can see in the top right corner of the photos or an upright mixer, you can mix together the peaches, egg, and vanilla all together at once, but it is hard if you are mixing by hand.

Add the baking powder, baking soda, salt and flour.  Mix well.  If mixing by hand add the flour 1 cup at a time to make mixing easier.

Add the buttermilk and reserved juice from the can of peaches. If you don’t have buttermilk easily on hand, you can make 1 cup of buttermilk by mixing 1 cup of milk and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and letting sit for about 20 minutes.  Mixture should be easily mixed and look like yellow cake batter.

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The longer you mix the cake batter at this step the more air you incorporate into the batter and the fluffier your cupcakes will be.  This is easier if you have electric beaters, and using a food processor or blender will not give you the air incporation you need.  An additional 5 minutes after the milk is well incorporated is good, 10 minutes would be excessive.

Place cupcake papers into cupcake tins.  Open the second can of peaches and place one peach slice into the bottom of each paper, try to include as little juice as possible.

Pour approximately 1/3 cup of batter on top of the peach slices.  The peaches should be completely covered, but the cupcake tins should not be completely filled.

Bake for 30-40 minutes.  For those of you who have made cupcakes before, this is not a typo, the peach in the bottom makes the cupcakes bake much slower.

Turn off the oven and leave the tins inside for an additional hour.  If you try to bake the cupcakes longer the top and sides will burn but the center will still not be done, this is the same concept as cheesecake, where you leave it in the oven after the crust is formed to let the inside set up.  Don’t worry, the cupcakes will still be hot when you take them out of the oven and enjoy!