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Category Archives: Chocolate

Better Than the Super Bowl Peanut Butter Torte

So, the Super Bowl happened a week or so ago. I can’t really remember because other than the blackout, that was about the most boring Super Bowl ever. Though, I guess I should complain because the new Beyonce photo-oops came out of it…and there was the Puppy Bowl with hedgehog cheerleaders. Did you read that? HEDGEHOG CHEERLEADERS! It was beyond adorable. Anyway, we went to a party for the “game”. I was told to bring cornbread and something that combined peanut butter and chocolate. I love these friends, cause they asked for the two types of food I love beyond all else. I guess I should start with the most impressive of the things I brought…Peanut Butter Torte.

Words cannot describe this joy, only guttural grunts of pleasure.

Words cannot describe this joy, only guttural grunts of pleasure.

This recipe was adapted from Annie’s Eats, more like almost directly from Annie’s Eats. I did not even change the directions; she just writes them so clearly! This woman is awesome and I suggest you give her site a visit; it is well worth it. The torte was awesome, obviously! It has a lovely creamy texture with a surprising crunch of peanuts and chocolate in it. I think the only thing I changed from the original recipe was that I used honey-roasted peanuts instead of salted peanuts. I have a big sweet tooth. The torte got rave reviews and was enjoyed by all!

Aaron took this one!!!

Aaron took this one!!!

Peanut Butter Torte
Adapted from Annie’s Eats

Ingredients

For the crust:
32 Oreo cookies, finely processed into crumbs
5 1/3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Small pinch of salt

For the crunch:
½ cup honey-roasted peanuts, finely chopped
½ cup mini chocolate chips
2 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. espresso powder
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
Dash of ground nutmeg

For the filling:
2 cups heavy cream
1¼ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
12 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1½ cups creamy peanut butter (not natural)
2 tbsp. whole milk
¼ cup honey-roasted peanuts, finely chopped

For the topping:
½ cup heavy cream
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup  honey-roasted peanuts, finely chopped

Directions

1. To make the crust, preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and place it on a baking sheet. Combine the Oreo crumbs, melted butter and salt in a small bowl. Toss with a fork to moisten all of the crumbs. Press into a thin layer covering the bottom and sides of the springform pan. Freeze the crust for 10 minutes. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before filling.

2. To make the crunch, in another small bowl combine ½ cup of the chopped peanuts, mini chocolate chips, sugar, espresso powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. Toss with a fork to mix and set aside.

3. To prepare the filling, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip 2 cups of the cream until it holds medium peaks. Beat in ¼ cup of confectioners’ sugar and whip until the cream holds medium-firm peaks. Scrape the cream into a separate bowl and refrigerate until needed.

4. Wipe out (do not wash) the mixer bowl, replace the whisk with the paddle attachment, and beat the cream cheese with the remaining 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar on medium speed until the cream cheese is satiny smooth. Beat in the peanut butter, whole milk, and ¼ cup of the chopped peanuts until well combined.

5. Using a large rubber spatula, gently stir in about 1/4 of the whipped cream just to lighten the mousse. Still working with the spatula, stir in the crunchy peanut mixture, then gingerly fold in the remaining whipped cream. Scrape the mousse into the crust, mounding and smoothing the top. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight; cover with plastic wrap as soon as the mousse firms.

6. To finish the torte, put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Leave the bowl over the water just until the chocolate softens and starts to melt, about 3 minutes; remove the bowl from the saucepan. Bring the ½ cup of cream to a full boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and, working with a rubber spatula, very gently stir together until the ganache is completely blended and smooth.

7. Pour the ganache over the torte, smoothing with a metal icing spatula. Scatter the peanuts over the top and chill to set the topping, at least 20 minutes. When the ganache is firm, remove the sides of the springform pan. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Amaze everyone!

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2013 in Cake, Chocolate, Dessert, Peanut Butter

 

CULINARY BLOWTORCH…and S’more Cupcakes

For my birthday Aaron got me something I have been wanting since February; something that is super awesome and also something that makes me feel super pretentious. He got me a culinary blowtorch. Why would I want such a rarely used kitchen utensil (at least rarely used in my kitchen)?  More importantly, why would Aaron be so willing to get it for me?

My de”light”ful new kitchen toy!

We had a massive Oscars party in February. I made a dish themed to match each of the best-nominated films. One of these were lemon meringue cupcakes. These cupcakes had a seven-minute frosting that needed to be lightly browned to get that meringue effect. At that time all I had were a couple of lighters to produce this browning effect. I was busy making 8 other dishes for this party, so Aaron got stuck taking the lighter to 42 lemon meringue cupcakes! Each cupcake took at least 2 minutes to properly brown. His hands ached for weeks. I think he was planning on getting me a culinary blowtorch from that moment on before I even mentioned it.

The infamous Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

So, the other night I decided to bust out that birthday blowtorch and use it for the first time! Woof! Does it ever make browning something SUPER easy. But this post is not solely about my blowtorch, only about 85% of it is. I made S’more Cupcakes! No clue why, but I have wanted to try one of the ba-jillion s’more recipes I have come across recently. I decided to go with one from Annie’s Eats. She always has lovely recipes and they are presented beautifully. She sells her food well! I followed her concept, but completely changed the cupcake part of the recipe. Her recipe called for oil based cupcakes and I try to steer away from that, so I swapped that portion out and used one I heavily adapted from Martha Stewart. But the general scheme is the same and is as follows: graham cracker crust bottom → sprinkled chocolate → chocolate cupcake → seven minute frosting (which is very marshmallowy) → browning the frosting for that fire toasted effect.

These little buggers are just delightful! They really do have a s’more flavor. They even leave toasted marshmallow carnage all over your face just like real s’mores! Might make a fun 4th of July dessert!

Finally, S’more Cupcakes. Sorry for the crappy picture.

S’more Cupcakes
Idea from Annie’s Eats
Cupcake Recipe heavily adapted from Martha Stewart.

Ingredients
Graham Cracker Crust
1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup sugar
5 1/3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Chocolate Cupcake
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3¼ cup + 2 tablespoons hot water
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoons coarse salt
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter (12 tablespoons)
1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream, room temperature
4 oz 60% cocoa chocolate melted
¾ cup high quality chocolate syrup

Seven Minute Frosting
8 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
½ tsp. cream of tartar
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.

2. For Graham Cracker Crust: In a small mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter; mix well with a fork. Drop about 1 tablespoon of the graham cracker mixture in the bottom of each cupcake liner and press down to line the bottom. I used a small drinking glass to compact it down.

3. Sprinkle a small amount of the chopped chocolate on top of the graham cracker crusts. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, and maintain the oven temperature.

4. For Cake Batter: Whisk together cocoa and hot water until smooth. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

5. Melt butter with sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring to combine. Remove from heat, and pour into a mixing bowl.

6. With an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat until mixture is cooled, 4 to 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add vanilla, then cocoa mixture, and beat until combined.

7. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the sour cream, and beating until just combined after each.

8. Stir in melted chocolate and chocolate syrup.

9. Divide batter evenly in the graham cracker crust filled cupcake lines. Bake for 20 minutes.

10. Once cupcakes are cooled, begin the frosting.

11. For the Frosting: combine the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar in the top of a double boiler. (Note: I just set my clean, dry mixer bowl over simmering water, to avoid dirtying two bowls.) Heat the mixture, whisking frequently, until it reaches 160° F with an instant-read thermometer. Or, if like me you do not have an instant-read thermometer put a dab of the mixture between your fingers. If the mixture is smooth (you do not feel any grains of sugar) you are ready to move on to the next step.

12. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk starting at low speed and gradually increasing to medium-high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form. Mix in the vanilla until combined.

13. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.

14. Brown using…CULINARY BLOWTORCH!!!!!

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2012 in Chocolate, Cupcakes, Dessert, Frosting

 

Lemon Chocolate Cake for Carrie!

Carrie, the wonderful woman, in the Anthropology Department who does ALL the administrative stuff and answers the annoying questions us grad students ask was recently promoted to work for the Dean. While this was a great move for her, it was a very sad move for the rest of us. Carrie’s bright, smiling face could make any bad day better. Of course the department threw her a going away party and I offered to make a cake. I had originally wanted this cake to be a surprise, but then I realized I would be better if she got something she wanted than be surprised by something she didn’t. I learned her favorite flavors are lemon and dark chocolate. So, I devised a lemon cake that is brushed with lemon syrup, with homemade lemon curd in between the four cake layers and topped the whole thing off with some dark chocolate frosting. The day of the party I brought the cake in and found the woman in charge of the party who said, “Oh, how wonderful, but the party is not until next week.” Um…oops! Well, I was not about to waste a whole cake, nor was I going to take the thing home for only Aaron and I to consume. So, I just took my cake and marched on over to the Dean’s office to deliver the cake to Carrie personally. She was absolutely delighted as was the Dean and the guest he was giving a tour to – that is right, the Washington University Dean ate one of my baked goods! The reviews were as such, “People’s faces have been lighting up as they exclaim ‘Amazing!’; ‘Professionally done!’, ‘I’ve never had the lemon-chocolate combo–wow!’, ‘Seriously, incredible’ and ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!’”

The finished product

Anyway, the recipes all came from Martha Stewart. The cake and curd were fabulous together. The dark chocolate frosting I have made before. It is an extremely deep chocolatey frosting. However, when following the recipe exactly, the frosting takes FOREVER to set up which means it also takes forever to finish a cake. So, this time, I added more powdered sugar to stiffen up the frosting and make my decorating life easier. Unfortunately, the negative result of this is that the frosting becomes a bit too sweet and then gets super hard when the whole cake is chilled. So, the recipe below is the original recipe without the extra powdered sugar I added. I would suggest you make the frosting and let it chill for a little bit in the fridge before attempting to apply it to the cake, and then it should be fine.

Commence Deliciousness!

Lemon Cake with Dark Chocolate Frosting
Adapted slightly from Martha Stewart: cake, lemon curd and frosting

Ingredients
For the Lemon Cake:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pans
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ tablespoon lemon zest
1 ½ cups sugar
2 large eggs plus 3 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup + 2 tablespoons buttermilk

For the Lemon Curd:
4 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
½ cup fresh lemon juice (from about 4 lemons)
2 tablespoons lemon zest
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

For the Dark Chocolate Frosting:
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon boiling water
2 ¼ cups (4 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ pounds best-quality semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled

For the Lemon Syrup:
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
1 lemon thinly sliced seeded
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)

Directions

Order of Operations: Make the cake, then as soon as it is in the oven make the lemon curd and begin melting the chocolate for the frosting, then as soon as the lemon curd is the fridge make the chocolate, and finally as soon as the frosting is in the fridge make the lemon syrup that gets brushed over the cake.

For the Cake:

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour two 8-by-2-inch cake pans, tapping out excess flour. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest.

2. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and 1 ½ cups sugar until light and fluffy. With mixer on low, beat in eggs and yolks, one at a time. Beat in 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Alternately beat in flour mixture and buttermilk beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until combined.

3. Divide batter between pans; smooth tops. Bake until cakes pull away from sides of pans, 32 to 35 minutes. Let cool in pans 10 minutes. Run a knife around edges of pans and invert cakes onto a wire rack.

For the Lemon Curd:

1. Place all ingredients except the butter in a bowl over a pot of simmering water; whisk until thickened, about 5 minutes.

2. Strain into a small bowl; add butter, and whisk until smooth.

3. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on surface; refrigerate until cold. Lemon curd will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 days.

For the Dark Chocolate Frosting:

1. Combine cocoa and the boiling water, stirring until cocoa has dissolved.

2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, confectioners’ sugar, and salt until pale and fluffy.

3. Reduce speed to low. Add melted and cooled chocolate, beating until combined and scraping down sides of bowl as needed.

4. Beat in the cocoa mixture.

5. Place in fridge for about 20-30 minutes, stirring it around whenever you get a moment.

For the Lemon Syrup:

1. Bring ½ cup sugar and ½ cup water to a boil in a saucepan. Add lemon slices and simmer 25 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer lemon slices to a waxed-paper-lined plate and set aside. Stir remaining ¼ cup fresh lemon juice into syrup.

2. Using a toothpick, poke holes in warm cakes on rack. Brush with lemon syrup. Let cool completely.

3. Slice each cake in half horizontally to create a total of four layers

4. Use the lemon slices to decorate the top of the cake if you like.

Assembling the Cake:

1. Place one layer of the cake on the board or container you are using. Using a pastry bag with a Wilton #12 tip on it, fill the bag with the dark chocolate frosting. Pipe a ring of frosting along the outer edge of the cake. Then take one half of the lemon curd and pour it on the cake and spread it out evenly within the chocolate frosting ring. The theory here is that the chocolate frosting ring keeps the curd from oozing out in between the cake layers.

2. Place the second cake layer on top of the one you just covered in curd. Put a layer of the chocolate frosting on top of this layer.

3. Repeat step #1 with the 3rdcake layer.

4. Place the fourth layer on top of that, and frost the entire outside of the cake with chocolate frosting.

5. Decorate the top with the lemon slices you pulled out from the lemon syrup

6. If not using immediately, place the cake in the fridge since the curd can go bad.

Now go and amaze your friends!

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2012 in Cake, Chocolate, Frosting, Lemon

 

Zombies and Babies – Devil’s Food Cupcakes

I attended a baby shower for a couple of friends of mine who are delightful people with wicked senses of humor, so I do not think they will mind a post that is a combination of zombies and their baby shower. When I asked the husband what the very pregnant mother-to-be was craving he replied, “Anything chocolate”. So, I turned to a recipe I used last Easter. Sadly, I do not have pictures of the beautifully decorated baby shower cupcakes – they resembled mums – but I do have a picture of Zombie Jesus cupcakes. I have mentioned before that I am a graduate student and in my department, Anthropology, the graduate students love to get together at holidays whether they celebrate that holiday religiously or not. It is always a good, rousing time. For this Easter celebration, I made Devil’s Food cupcakes with Swiss meringue butter cream frosting piped in the shape of brains and then topped with a little decoration that said “Zombie Jesus Loves You” – a common joke around Easter (I do apologize if this offends anyone). So, this post is about a recipe I changed for the baby shower, but has a picture of the unchanged recipe with brain frosting. Though part of me thinks the mom- and dad-to-be would have been perfectly ok with brain-topped cupcakes: they are both psychologists. Since I wrote this post, they have since had their wonderful baby boy who is happy and healthy! Congrats to them!

Zombie Jesus Loves You!

This is a great recipe, but when I made them for Easter, they were a little dry. So, for the baby shower I made a few adjustments, and they were much more moist. I increased the amount of sour cream and added some melted 70% cacao chocolate. For the baby shower I also filled the cupcakes with almond cream. That recipe is at the end of this post. Every component of both cupcakes came from Martha Stewart, and I have to say that her baking recipes have never failed for me. I make adjustments and improvisations here and there, but her baking recipes are always good solid recipes to keep on hand.

BWAINS!!!!

Devil’s Food Cupcakes
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes about 32 cupcakes

Ingredients:
¾ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
¾  cup hot water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ¼  teaspoons coarse salt
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 ¼  cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 oz 60 or 70% cacao chocolate –I usually use Ghirardelli
1 ½  cup sour cream, room temperature

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together cocoa and hot water until smooth.

2. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

3. Melt butter with sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring to combine. Remove from heat, and pour into a mixing bowl. With an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat until mixture is cooled, 4 to 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add vanilla, then cocoa mixture, and beat until combined.

4. Melt the 4 oz of chocolate in a double boiler (place a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water) or in microwave – I prefer double boiler method because it reduces the chance of burning the chocolate

5. Add flour mixture in two batches of the butter-sugar-cocoa mixture, alternating with the sour cream, and beating until just combined after each.

6. Add in melted chocolate and stir until combined.

7. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

8. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool 15 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely.

Swiss Meringue Butter Cream
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients:
6 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds (5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
Any food coloring you desire

Directions:

1. Place whites and sugar in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture registers, I test it by putting a small drop of the mixture between my fingers. If it is still gritty, it needs to stay on the heat longer, if it is perfectly smooth then move on.

2. Remove from heat, and whisk on high speed until mixture is cool and stiff peaks form, about 6-10 minutes. It is very important that stiff peaks form otherwise your frosting will fall apart. If butter starts to clot, put over heat a little bit until it goes back into solution.

3. Beat in vanilla.

4. If you like add in food coloring at this time

5. Decorate the cupcakes with this frosting as you choose

Almond Cream Filling
From Martha Stewart
This is the full recipe – you should halve it if you are just filling cupcakes

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups half-and-half
2 tablespoons almond paste
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 large egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, cut into small pieces
1 cup heavy cream

Directions:

1. Bring 2 cups half-and-half, the almond paste, sugar, salt, and cornstarch to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat.

2. Prepare an ice-water bath; set aside. Whisk egg yolks, extract, and remaining 1/2 cup half-and-half in a medium bowl; add one-third of the hot half-and-half mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly. Pour into saucepan.

3. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking constantly. Cook, whisking, until mixture coats the back of a spoon, 3 to 4 minutes. Pass through a fine sieve into a bowl set in ice-water bath. Stir in butter, several pieces at a time. Let cool completely, stirring occasionally.

4. Put cream into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed just until stiff peaks form. Fold into custard.

5. Prepare a pastry bag (use Wilton tip 230 or 12) and fill with almond cream. Stab each cooled cupcake with the tip and fill. It may spill out the top and you can clean that up with a paper towel or spoon.

Oh, and this is the Devil’s Food recipe used to make a skull cake with candle-lit eyes!

Devil's Food Skull Cake - it had strawberry buttercream brains in side!

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2012 in Chocolate, Cupcakes, Dessert, Frosting

 

Champagne Cupcakes and Cowboy Dreams

From the end of May 2011 to mid-December 2011, I was conducting my dissertation field work in the mountains of Wyoming. Field work has its moments, but it is usually filled with lots of missing friends and loved ones. It turned out that I would not have any data collection during October, so I decided to head back to St. Louis for the month. This meant not only awesome Halloween times in St. Louis, but that I would also be in town for my best friend, Diana’s, birthday. I had not seen her since before I left, and I was so excited I would get to help her celebrate her birthday. I asked what kind of gift she wanted, and she told me to bring back a Wyoming cowboy for her (see very bottom of this post) and to have some sort of celebration. We decided on gathering at a local bar with lots of friends. Such an occasion demanded high quality, high fanciness baked goods, and the birthday girl’s only request was that it includes strawberries. The plan: champagne cupcakes with a strawberry-champagne Swiss meringue butter cream, and oh why not add a chocolate ganache filling and some fancy vanilla Swiss meringue butter cream roses with chocolate mint leaves. Now that is some decadent baked good awesomeness.

The final product!

This recipe – well, cohort of recipes – was part adapted from others and part completely improvised. WARNING! All the butter used in this recipe needs to be at room temperature. I usually leave butter on the kitchen counter over night. If you forget, put butter on a plate and microwave at 10 second intervals until the butter is soft but NOT melty. The champagne cupcake recipe was a simple white, vanilla cake with champagne added to it. I added more champagne than the original recipe called for, and the batter truly tasted sparkling and bubbly, but when the cupcakes came out there was no detectable champagne flavor. This disappointed me, and I am not sure how to rectify this and truly pull out the champagne taste. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. The frosting I made was delicious, but difficult to work with. Next time I make a strawberry-champagne butter cream, I will go with the powder sugared based frosting since it is less temperamental and has an easily adjustable consistency. I am a huge proponent of Swiss meringue butter cream because of its light texture and subtly sweet flavor, but it is just not durable enough to withstand the heavy liquid content of both strawberry puree and champagne. It spread easily, but I could not use decorating tips with it and at times the strawberry juice and/or champagne sweated out. But again, it still tasted lovely. The Swiss meringue butter cream roses were gorgeous, but I think the chocolate mint leaves with the biggest hit. The chocolate ganache was just a nice little surprise in the cupcake. Despite all my criticisms, people loved these cupcakes, and the birthday girl herself called them “divine”.

All of the finished products! That would be me off to the left picking up a cupcake

Champagne Cupcakes
Adapted from With Style and Grace

Ingredients:
6 eggs, separated
2/3 cups butter room temperature
2 vanilla beans, split with seeds scooped out
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup champagne

Directions:

1. Separate eggs. Discard four yolks – leaving you with six egg whites and two yolks.

2. Line (or grease) your cupcake pan, set aside.

3. For vanilla bean, use a sharp knife or a spoon to scrape the seeds from vanilla bean halves; set seeds aside.

4. In a medium bowl stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl beat egg whites with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight). Set aside.

6. Using you electric mixer, beat butter on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating about 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Beat in the reserved egg yolks and the vanilla seeds. Alternately add flour mixture and champagne to the butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Fold half of the beaten egg whites into the batter to lighten; fold in remaining egg whites.

7. Fill each cupcake cup about three-fourths full.

8. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Insert a toothpick into the centers and if it comes out clean, it’s ready. Cool cupcakes in muffin cups on wire racks for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from muffin cups. Cool completely on wire racks.

Chocolate Ganache Filling
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients:
¼ cup heavy cream
1.5 oz semisweet chocolate

Directions:

1. Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Pour over chocolate in a bowl. Let stand 5 minutes. Slowly whisk until smooth. Let cool completely, stirring often with a rubber spatula.

2. Once cool, prepare a pastry bag (use Wilton tip 230 or 12) and fill with chocolate ganache. Stab each cooled cupcake with the tip and fill with chocolate ganache. It may spill out the top and you can clean that up with a paper towel or spoon.

Swiss Meringue Strawberry-Champagne Butter Cream
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes about 36 cupcakes

Ingredients:
6 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds (5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
½ – ¾ quart of strawberries
½ cup champagne

Directions:

1. Place whites and sugar in a heatproof mixing bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture registers, I test it by putting a small drop of the mixture between my fingers. If it is still gritty, it needs to stay on the heat longer, if it is perfectly smooth then move on.

2. Remove from heat, and whisk on high speed until mixture is cool and stiff peaks form, about 6-10 minutes. It is very important that stiff peaks form otherwise your frosting will fall apart. If butter starts to clot, put over heat a little bit until it goes back into solution.

3. Beat in vanilla.

4. In a blender or food processor combing strawberries and champagne until smooth. Fold this into the frosting

5. Decorate the cupcakes with this frosting as you choose

Swiss Meringue Butter Cream Roses

Following exact recipe above, just omit the strawberries and champagne. This will yield far more frosting than you need, so you can halve the recipe. Use a Wilton #104 decorating tip.

Chocolate Mint Leaves

Ingredients:
1 package fresh mint leaves
3 oz semisweet chocolate

Directions:

1. Melt chocolate either in microwave or a double boiler.

2. Pluck all mint leaves, place on a waxed paper lined cookie tray, and place with the veins bumpy side up.

3. Paint each mint leave with the melted chocolate using either a small paint brush or a small spoon – do not layer it on too thick

4. Once all leaves are painted, put leaves in the freezer for 15 minutes.

5. Peel and discard the mint leaves. After you get through about 10 leaves you may have to put the remaining ones back in the freezer before you can peel the mint leaves off.

6. They look like perfect little leaves, and the mint flavor becomes infused in the chocolate.

7. Place around the roses as you like!

These cupcakes are labor intensive – I am not going to lie – but the result was stunning! And as for the cowboy my friend asked for, well here he is. His name is Austin and he is quite the sexy cowboy-gentlemen.

Austin the Cowboy!

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2012 in Chocolate, Cupcakes, Dessert, Frosting, Strawberry

 

‘Gastro-Gasmic’ Chocolate Chip Cookies

That’s right, folks, these are some damn sexy AND damn tasty chocolate chip cookies. Just in time for Valentine’s Day! This recipe is an adaptation from the infamous New York Times Best Chocolate Chip Cookies. I find most chocolate chip cookies are just vehicles for chocolate, but this cookie is the whole package…chocolate + awesome cookie flavor! The key to this amazing depth of flavor is time. You make the dough, put it in the fridge and two days later you bake them. I call those two days in the fridge ‘fermentation time’ which allows the butter, vanilla and sugar to meld together and produce a caramel-like flavor. It also makes this recipe seem easy because you split the work up over two days.

These little buggers are so glorious

I have been making these for at least two years now, and only recently have I started to tinker with it…some tinkering was a product of necessity and some was actually intentional. The first intentional change I made was to reduce the amount of chocolate chips called for in the original recipe. I found the amount of chocolate in the original recipe overwhelmed the beautiful depth of flavor of the cookie. So, I reduced the amount of chocolate chips from 20oz to 12oz, which is just one bag of chocolate chips. Then tinkering by necessity happened.  I had started making the batter for a batch of these cookies and realized I did not have chocolate chips, but I did have bar chocolate. I decided to chop up 3 (4oz) bars of chocolate and use that instead of chips. Oddly, it made a difference in the texture of the cookies with some smaller bits of chocolate and some larger, and I liked it better. The second tinkering by necessity…well accident…occurred when I used dark brown sugar instead of light brown sugar. I honestly believe it added even more depth to these cookies and enhanced the caramel-like flavor, that and I am always very generous with my vanilla extract.

Anyway, with or without these changes, these are the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever had/made. I had a friend once call them gastro-gasmic.

‘Gastro-Gasmic’ Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from the New York Times

Ingredients
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons cake flour
1 2/3 cups bread flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt
2 ½ sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
1 ¼ cups light or dark brown sugar (Go light for the traditional, go dark for the uber rich flavor_
2 large eggs
2 ½ teaspoons vanilla
12 oz chopped or already in chips 60% cocoa chocolate

Directions

Day 1

1. In a medium bowl sift together cake flour, bread flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set this bowl aside.

2. In a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until pale and fluffy. Add in both the white sugar and dark brown sugar. Mix until pale.

3. Add eggs one at a time and mix until combined.

4. Add vanilla and mix until combined.

5. Add chocolate and mix until combined…yet again!

6. Put dough in a bowl, place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the dough, and then cover the top of the bowl. You can also just wrap the entire wad of dough in plastic wrap. Place in the fridge and keep it there for at least 24 hours, but 36-48 is best.

Day 2

1. To bake, pre-heat the oven at 350. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Make dough balls about the size of golf balls and leaving about 1.5-2 inches between each ball. Pop them in the oven for 18-20 minutes. Once out of the oven allow them to stay on the cookie sheet about 10 minutes, and then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

2. Makes 15-18 cookies, but it honestly depends on the size you choose each cookie to be. My brother got 25 out of one batch before.

Be prepared to make this ALL THE TIME because you will receive endless requests.

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2012 in Chocolate, Cookies, Dessert