Saturday Snacks: Let’s Bake Animal Kingdom’s Gingerbread-Cream Cheese Muffins!


Happy Saturday, friends! We made it though another week (and a holiday, to boot!), so it's only natural that we would gather this morning to enjoy a little "way to go" snack, isn't it?

Before tackling our snack, however, I want to take a moment and thank you for reading. Thank you for giving of your time; it's an incredibly precious commodity and the fact that you've stopped your day to read these words is such a gift. Thank you for stopping by our virtual kitchen table as we sit and sip coffee and talk about bringing the magic of Disney food into our homes. A million, kajillion thanks.

With fall upon us and the holidays staring us in the face, it only seems right that we should whip up a little something that has classic fall and winter flavors. And, even better, what if our seasonal snack was one that's going to be offered in a Disney park beginning December 1st? That's a HUGE win-win, right?!

This weekend's Saturday Snacks recipe is Disney's Animal Kingdom's Gingerbread-Cream Cheese Muffins. Disney released this recipe last week, and I knew that the timing was perfect. I knew we had to give it a go, and anytime that you and I get to make something that's being served in the parks in our own kitchens makes me incredibly happy.

Being able to make Disney park favorites in the comfort of your own home has its ripple effects, you know. When I found out how easy it is to make Pao de Quiejo, and how very delicious it is hot out of the oven, I no longer felt the need to stop at the Brazil booth during Food & Wine. It freed me up to try a different snack rather than making a beeline for the in-park version. Another win-win!

So, the question looms: will Animal Kingdom's Gingerbread-Cream Cheese Muffins suffer the same fate? I'm sure that the in-park version will be bigger than the at-home variety, but I'm also sure that'll come with a price tag right at $4.99, so ours are already going to put us ahead of the game.

Remember how we needed half of the spice aisle when we made the Grand Floridian's gingerbread cookies a few weekends ago? Well, having all the spices will come in very handy today. We'll need ground cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger for this recipe. We'll also need molasses, so if you don't have a jar in the pantry (or yours, like mine, decided to slowly drip down all four shelves in your pantry, eventually forming an oh-so-fun-to-clean-up puddle on the floor so you threw it away in absolute disgust), you'll need to grab one at the store.

The first steps in the recipe have us creating the cream cheese filling for the muffins, so there's no need to preheat the oven just yet, but you do want to take the block of cream cheese out of the fridge ahead of time so it can come up to room temp.

In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), combine 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons of softened unsalted butter. Beat the sugar and butter on low until all of the lumps have disappeared.

Once things are nice and smooth, beat in half of the room temperature cream cheese. Keep mixing the three ingredients on medium for 3 minutes.

Take the speed down to low and add one egg yolk and 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice. I used the store-bought variety of lemon juice. No need to squeeze lemons unless it's called for. It's Saturday morning; we're not stressing over something as small as lemon juice.

Mix until smooth and pop the cream cheese filling into the fridge for at least two hours, or overnight.

The filling will be a-okay in the refrigerator for up to three days. Mine ended up being in the fridge overnight.

When your filling has chilled sufficiently, it's time for constructing the gingerbread portion of the recipe. Buttermilk is called for in this step, and if we don't have buttermilk on hand, you and I can do a little workaround that I learned years ago from the all-knowing internets.

Simply drop 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar into a measuring cup and add enough milk to make 1 cup. Give the liquids a good stir, and let everything sit for 5 minutes. Et voilà! You have buttermilk! Set that magical buttermilk aside until you need it, preheat the oven to 325 degrees, and pull your cream cheese filling out of the fridge to take the chill off just a bit.

Into a large bowl, toss 1 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour, 3 teaspoons of ground ginger, 2 1/4 teaspoons of ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves, 3/4 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.

Once everything's in the bowl, give it a really good whisking (or sifting if you have a sifter), and set the bowl aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (yes, you and I have to wash our bowls while the filling chills), place your 1/4 cup oil or butter, 1/2 cup light brown sugar, 3 tablespoons of molasses, 3 tablespoons of honey, and 2 eggs. Mix everything on medium speed until it's completely combined.

Once everything's incorporated, turn the mixer down to low and add in your cup of buttermilk. Combine completely.

Add in the flour mixture slowly on low speed so that your counters don't get covered in freshly fallen flour. Mix until everything's worked in and be sure to scrape down the sides as needed. After you scrape down the sides, give it 30 seconds to continue mixing. The recipe lets us know that the batter will be slightly lumpy. It's all good.

Drop liners into a 12-cup muffin pan, and begin adding the gingerbread batter into each cup to 3/4 of the way full.

I didn't have a piping bag on hand, so I opted for the quart-size-freezer-bag-and-icing-tip method. We're not looking to add stress to our weekend, so we'll just use what we have. I grabbed a baggie and snipped a corner off just smaller than the icing tip that I had in the pantry. I wrapped a little tape around the seam of the bag and the icing tip, and I had my own piping bag.

Spoon the cream cheese filling into the piping bag and pump a bit of the icing into the middle of each cup of batter. Then attempt to swirl the filling over the top of each muffin and move on to the next one.

My swirl wasn't as perfectly perfect as the picture of the ones baked by the Animal Kingdom bakery team, but I just kept telling myself that I'm not a professional bakery chef. It would be good enough.

Here's where I'd like to say that the recipe calls for us squirt one tablespoon of the filling into each muffin. I found out that there's not enough filling to do that, so my muffins lacked a bit in the filling department. If I make the recipe again, I'll be using the entire block of cream cheese and doubling the filling portion so that I have plenty to go around. I'd rather have more than enough than not enough.

Pop the muffin pan into the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the muffin tops are firm.

Once they're done, let them cool just a bit and then gobble them up.

These muffins are good, and will warm up any chilly morning you throw at them. Are they over-the-top-in-your-face gingerbread? No. If you like more of a mild gingerbread taste, these will be your jam.

As you can see, the cream cheese filling isn't as plentiful as the recipe would lead you to think they should be. That's why that whole block of cream cheese will be utilized next time. Why let good cream cheese go to waste? In fact, that cream cheese is still in my fridge. I think I know what's going in my belly with breakfast this morning. Yummm.

These would be a great addition to any holiday breakfast table, and the fact that the cream cheese filling can be made in advance and can wait in the fridge until you need it is a fantastic thing.

What are your holiday baking traditions? I'll share mine if you share yours in the comments below.

Friends, during this season of giving thanks (and every day), I just want to say again how very thankful I am for you. I hope this weekend, whatever it holds for you and yours, is a great one.

Ready to whip up a soon-to-be-sold-in-park treat? The recipe is below.

GINGERBREAD-CREAM CHEESE MUFFINS

Will be sold at Isle of Java and Harambe Fruit Market, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park
Makes 12

CREAM CHEESE FILLING

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

GINGERBREAD MUFFINS

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup canola oil (1/4 cup butter, softened, may be substituted)
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • Reserved cream cheese filling

FOR CREAM CHEESE FILLING:

  1. Combine sugar and butter in bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment and beat on low speed until there are no lumps. Add cream cheese and mix on medium speed for 3 minutes, until smooth.
  2. Reduce speed to low. Add egg and lemon juice and mix until smooth.
  3. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, up to 3 days, until ready to use.

FOR GINGERBREAD-CREAM CHEESE MUFFINS:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Prepare a muffin pan with 12 liners and set aside.
  2. Sift flour, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into medium bowl and set aside.
  3. Combine oil or butter, brown sugar, molasses, honey, and egg in bowl of electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Mix on medium speed until combined. Reduce speed to low and add buttermilk until incorporated.
  4. Add flour mixture and mix on low speed until combined. Scrape sides of mixer and mix an additional 30 seconds. Batter will be slightly lumpy.
  5. Scoop batter into prepared muffin pan, filling each cup 3/4 full.
  6. Place reserved cream cheese filling in piping bag fitted with large round tip. Insert piping tip into the center of each muffin, piping about 1 tablespoon into the center, then pipe a swirl around the top of the muffin.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until top of muffin is firm when touched.
  8. Cool before serving.

Source: Disney Parks Blog

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