May 24, 2017

Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes

The last week involved a lot of sweets at my house, thanks to me using my birthday as an opportunity to bake my way through a handful of bookmarked recipes. These chocolate cupcakes from Brown Eyed Baker were one of two cupcakes I baked.

The cupcakes were an excellent chocolate cupcake, but my ganache center didn't really set. When I dolloped the ganache onto the cupcakes prior to baking, it settled down creating a divot. So I filled that divot with sour cherry jam. Win-win. Ganache and cherry jam and dark chocolate.

The frosting provided in her original post is good but not my favorite. It's a very soft frosting, so I'm going to include the ganache frosting I used on a different cupcake that I think would be excellent with these.

Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes
Ganache Filling
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp. powdered sugar
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/3 cup (28 grams) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
3/4 cup (177 ml) hot water
3/4 cup (117 grams) bread flour
3/4 cup (149 grams) sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
6 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 tsp. white vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla 
Ganache Frosting
12 oz. chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream

First, prepare the ganache for the frosting. Heat the heavy cream until hot, but try to avoid boiling it. Pour over the chocolate, and let stand 2 minutes. Whisk until combined. Set aside in the refrigerator to cool completely. (You want it to solidify basically.)

Next make the ganache filling. Place all ingredients in a small bowl. Microwave on high until the mixture is warm to the touch, about 20 to 30 seconds. Whisk until smooth, and refrigerate until barely chilled, about 30 minutes. (You don't want this to solidify, or it will sink to the bottom of the cupcakes while baking.)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a cupcake pan with 12 liners. (I used one extra liner and ended up with 13 cupcakes.) Place chopped chocolate and cocoa powder in a medium bowl. Pour the hot (essentially boiling) water over the top. Whisk until smooth, and then refrigerate 20 minutes.
Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda. Set aside. Then whisk the oil, eggs, vinegar and vanilla into the cooled chocolate mixture. Once smooth, stir in the flour mixture.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake liners. Place a dollop of ganache in the center of each cupcake, using all the ganache filling. Bake until the cupcakes are set, about 17 to 19 minutes. Cool in the cupcake pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, and then remove to cool completely on a wire rack.
Once cupcakes are cooled, finish the ganache frosting. Place the cooled ganache in a mixing bowl. Beat until lighter in color and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Pipe onto cupcakes. (If your cupcakes have divots from the ganache, feel free to top with a cherry or other jam before frosting.) Makes 13 cupcakes.  

Margarita Cupcakes

Oddly enough, I've never made margarita cupcakes despite the fact that my husband is well-known for his margaritas. We're a tequila kind of family. Margaritas, tequila sunrises and the occasional shot for special occasions (like pretending we're still college-aged kids).

That changed when I came across these margarita cupcakes from Brown Eyed Baker. They were delicious. The only change I'd make for future versions (that I'm not taking to work) would be to more liberally brush the cupcakes with tequila. One of my friends, who has eaten the vast majority of cupcakes I've made, deemed these one of her favorites ... if not her favorite.

Margarita Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups (213 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (198 grams) sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 limes, zested and juiced
2 Tbsp. tequila
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
To Brush the Cupcakes
1 to 2 Tbsp. tequila
Tequila-Lime Frosting
1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 3/4 cups (312 grams) powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. lime juice
2 Tbsp. tequila
Pinch of coarse salt
Flaked sea salt if desired

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a cupcake tin with 12 liners. (I ended up using one silicone liner and had 13 cupcakes.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until pale, light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed, and beat in eggs one at a time. Add the lime zest, lime juice, vanilla and tequila. Mix until combined. Alternate adding the dry ingredients with the buttermilk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix only until combined. 

Divide batter evenly, and bake until cupcakes are light golden brown and done, about 25 minutes. Remove, and cool in the tin for about 5 minutes. Remove from the tin, brush with tequila and then cool cupcakes completely on a wire rack.  

To make the frosting, whip the butter for 5 minutes. Gradually add powdered sugar. Add the lime juice, tequila and salt, and beat until fluffy. If the frosting is too soft, add additional sugar slowly until desired consistency is reached. Frost cupcakes, and garnish with flaked sea salt immediately prior to serving. Makes 13 cupcakes. 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake

This creation from Smitten Kitchen was my birthday treat for myself, passing up offers on a raspberry cheesecake from my husband and chocolate ice cream cake from my mom. (In my defense, I had already settled on this cheesecake and purchased all the supplies. Basically, it was already baked in my mind.) I did request rainchecks from both of them ... so can I redeem those right now to eat those things while I write about this cheesecake?

This was good. This was really rich. But it wasn't my favorite. I liked the Irish Carbomb Cheesecake better. The cheesecake itself was a bit more tangy than I'd expect from a peanut butter cheesecake. I'm not sure what beyond that justifies my explanation, but that's all I've got.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake
9 oz. (255 grams) chocolate wafers
6 oz. (170 grams) bitter- or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped or 1 cup chips
1/2 cup (95 grams) packed dark brown sugar
7 Tbsp. (100 grams) unsalted butter, melted and still hot
Fudge Layer
1 cup (235 ml) heavy or whipping cream
13 oz. (370 grams) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 Tbsp. (30 grams) smooth peanut butter (optional)
Cheesecake Layer
16 oz. (455 grams) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups (320 grams) smooth peanut butter
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
3/4 cup (180 grams) sour cream
3 large eggs
2 tsp. (10 ml) vanilla
Ganache Topping
1/3 cup (80 ml) heavy or whipping cream
4 1/2 oz. (130 grams) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 Tbsp. (15 grams) smooth peanut butter (optional)

Wrap a 9-inch springform pan with 3-inch high sides with aluminum foil. In a food processor, blend cookies, chopped chocolate and brown sugar together until finely ground. (If you use chocolate sandwich cookies, such as Oreos, you will need less butter.) Drizzle in melted butter, and process until crumbs begin to stick together, scraping down the bowl if needed. Transfer crumbs to prepared pan. Wrap fingers with plastic wrap, and press crumb mixture up sides to within 1/2 inch of top, then evenly over bottom of pan. Chill crust until next step.

To make the fudge layer, bring cream to simmer in large saucepan. Remove from heat, and whisk in chocolate and peanut butter, if using, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Pour into bottom of chilled crust, and spread in an even layer. Freeze until fudge layer is firm, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile preheat oven to 325°F.Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese, peanut butter and sugar in large bowl until well-blended and fluffy. Beat in sour cream and then eggs, one at a time, and vanilla. Mix until smooth. Pour over fudge layer that has set in the freezer.

Place foil-wrapped springform pan in a roasting pan large enough to hold it. Fill roasting pan with enough hot water to come 1 inch up the sides of the springform, and carefully transfer to middle oven rack. Bake cake until slightly firm to the touch and the top appears dry, about  75 to 90 minutes.The center two inches should only move slightly when pan is gently shaken. Transfer cheesecake to rack to cool to room temperature, and then chill in the fridge until fully cool, at least three hours.

For the ganache topping, heat cream in a small saucepan until simmering. Off the heat, whisk in choocolate and peanut butter, if using. Pour onto chilled cheesecake and spread to the edges. Return cheesecake to the fridge until the ganache sets, about 30 minutes.

To serve, remove cheesecake from springform pan (after running a knife around the edges.) Serves 16 easily. 

May 16, 2017

Taco Seasoning

This recipe from Brown Eyed Baker ends my search for homemade taco seasoning. I removed the cornstarch because I'm still working on eating mostly Whole 30-style foods (with the addition of bacon because well ... it's bacon). This is not too spicy for my kiddos, but it's flavorful enough for the adults. It tastes like a taco seasoning packet, which is the goal with tacos in our house.

Taco Seasoning
1/4 cup + 3 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. + 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. + 1/2 tsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. + 1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. salt
1 3/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 34 tsp. onion powder
1 3/4 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Combine all ingredients together well. To make tacos, use 2 Tbsp. of the taco seasoning per each pound of browned meat, along with about 1/4 cup of water. Simmer until water is mostly gone, and then you're good to go.