3 Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Sea Salt36

Posted by in Simple Recipe,Step-by-Step Photos,Vanilla (Saturday April 19, 2008 at 8:33 pm)

3 vanilla cupcakes with vanilla sea salt

One of my most favorite places to discover unique ingredients and find inspiration for my latest creation is Boulettes Larder. My recent visit turned up the very special sea salt used to garnish these cupcakes and a very delicious pasta dish that was well worth the 18 dollar Tuesday lunch splurge.

The vanilla cupcake recipe is a make-up for my bookkeeping mishap of this post. It’s close to the same recipe, slightly altered and I amped it up with more vanilla. The recipe contains vanilla in 3 forms – vanilla extract, vanilla sugar, and vanilla bean. Why 3 forms? Why not.

As you may recall, I did a side by side comparison of Martha’s and Amy’s vanilla cupcakes for this post. The end results of these two recipes are two very different vanilla cupcakes. One tastes better and has a more delicate texture (Amy’s) but is more difficult to execute. The other is fail safe, but dense and not as tasty.

I am looking to come up somewhere in the middle, but leaning towards the tasty/delicate end of the spectrum. I have also tested Magnolia’s recipe and Claire Crespo’s vanilla cupcake recipe. Based on my recollection and comparison of the recipes, Martha’s is the most dense/fail proof, Magnolia’s comes next (note: Billy’s is pretty much the same as Magnolia’s minus a few tweaks), then Claire’s, then Amy’s.

I, of course, am trying to come up with my own version… My goal is to be as close to the texture & taste of Amy’s, but without the execution challenges. So, the recipe below is probably the second or third try and I still have some work. This version is probably between Magnolia’s and Claire’s, but I want to be somewhere between Claire’s and Amy’s. Whew… That was likely confusing.

The vanilla sea salt is a nice touch. If you can’t find it, just find some high quality sea salt, and mix it with some vanilla bean seeds. The Chef at Boulettes gave me the low down as to where this salt came from – Anglesey, Wales – and how its made. Its made by a family on the beach by evaporating sea water in stainless steel vats. The sea salt is then stored with Tahitian vanilla bean in clay pots. Sounds nice…

vanilla sea salt
vanilla sea salt

Vanilla Sugar

1 vanilla bean, split
1 pound sugar

1. Split the vanilla bean but don’t scrape out the seeds. Put it with the sugar in an airtight container. Store in a cupboard for around 5 days or more. Shake it up once in a while.

splitting vanilla bean
splitting the bean

3 Vanilla Cupcakes
20 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven

3/4 cup (1-1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1-2/3 cups vanilla sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2-2/3 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out

1. Beat butter until softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
2. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until well combined.
3. Measure the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
4. Measure out the milk and vanilla and stir to combine.
5. Add about a third of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar and beat to combine. Add about a half of the milk/vanilla and beat to combine. Continue adding, alternating between dry and wet and finishing with the dry.
6. Scoop batter into cupcake cups about 2/3’s full. Turn oven down to 350 degrees and bake cupcakes for about 22-25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

scraping vanilla seeds
scraping the seeds

Vanilla Bean Frosting

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 package (8 ounces) philly cream cheese
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
-4-5 cups powdered sugar

1. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy.
2. Add the cream cheese and beat until combined.
3. Add the vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, and 3 cups of powdered sugar and beat at low speed, occasionally stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, until light and fluffy. Add more powdered sugar to arrive at the consistency and sweetness you like.

1. Frost each cooled cupcake with a healthy mound of frosting.
2. Top with vanilla seat salt or whatever you so desire.

filling frosting bag
filling the bag

frosting the cupcakes

I should mention… You should actually save the vanilla beans you scrape the beans out of and also use those to make vanilla sugar or reuse in some way as there is likely a lot of life left in them. Reminded by this post

Walnut Cupcakes Topped with Rose White Chocolate Mousse and Baklava25

*** Where is chockylit? ***

Walnut Cupcakes Topped with Rose White Chocolate Mousse and Baklava

Having a seemingly insatiable sweet tooth, baklava, the sticky-sweet treat of layers of buttery phyllo dough, nuts, and honey syrup, has always appealed to me. None the less, I don’t have it too often as my run-ins with baklava are often of the unfortunate “guess how long I have been sitting in this plastic case” variety. Despite its questionable quality, I was tempted to buy some on a recent weeknight fly-by of GFC, a local Mediterranean “fast food” restaurant, to pick up dinner. I thought the better of it and decided to go the cupcake route giving me the excuse and chance to bake up some homemade baklava, which when you buy frozen phyllo dough, looked pretty darn easy to do.

Making the baklava wasn’t hard but it was time consuming. I didn’t mind so much, because boy did it turn out tasty. I was also very happy with the rose petal white chocolate mousse. I went easy on the rose, there is just a hint of it, and the mousse was definitely not too sweet and had a nice texture. Not quite as air-bubbly as a typical dark chocolate mousse, but nice texture just the same. Either two of these components stands well on their own.

I was pleased with the end result. The walnut cake soft and nutty, the mousse cooling with a hint of exotic flavor, and the baklava spicy, syrupy, and crunchy. Definitely a stretch as far as calling it a cupcake, I will admit, but an interesting dessert none the less.

Rose White Chocolate Mousse

5 ounces white chocolate
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
3 egg whites
1/4 cup rose simple syrup
couple drops of red or pink food coloring (optional)

1. Chop the chocolate and set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment set to medium-high speed, beat the egg yolks and sugar until light yellow, about 2 minutes.
3. Place the bowl of egg yolks and sugar over a pan of simmering water. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until thick, about 2 minutes.
4. Take the egg yolk mixture off the heat and add the chopped white chocolate. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until chocolate is melted and combined. Add the butter and incorporate. Set aside. Note: This mixture will be very thick.
5. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment set to medium-high speed, beat the cream until very stiff. Transfer to a mixing bowl and set aside. Wash and dry the bowl and whisk.
6. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment set to medium-high speed, start beating the egg whites. Heat the rose simple syrup in a small saucepan to soft ball stage (about 235 degrees on a candy thermometer). Gently pour the hot syrup into the egg whites as the mixer is running at low speed. Increase speed to high and beat until the egg whites are stiff.
7. Stir in about 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten. 8. Fold the remaining egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Then fold in the whipped cream. Fold in food coloring if desired.
9. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.

Note: You can use purchase rose simple syrup (as I did) or make your own by boiling equal parts water and sugar with a couple drops of rose extract.

rose petal white chocolate mousse

Walnut Cupcakes
~20 cupcakes / 350 degree oven

1-1/2 cups flour (cake if you have it, otherwise all-purpose)
3/4 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup grape seed oil or vegetable oil
4 egg yolks (approximately 3 ounces)
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup walnut butter
5 egg whites (approximately 5 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup coarsely ground walnuts

1. Sift flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder into the bowl of a standing mixer.
2. In a medium bowl, combine oil, egg yolks, water, and walnut butter. Stir to combine.
3. On a low setting, start to beat the dry mixture and slowly add the wet. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until incorporated.
4. Transfer mixture to another bowl. Wash and dry mixer bowl.
5. Whip egg whites with whip attachment on medium-high speed until foamy. With the mixer on medium speed, add cream of tarter and slowly add sugar. Beat on high speed until stiff peaks form.
6. Scoop about a third of the stiff egg whites into the batter and stir to combine. This should lighten up the batter.
7. Transfer the batter to the egg whites and gently fold until there are no more streaks of egg white. Fold in the ground walnuts.
8. Scoop into cupcake cups just less than 1/2 full (so there is room for mousse) and bake at 350 F for 22-25 minutes until the tops are golden brown.

Note: You can use prepared walnut butter (as I did) or grind walnuts in a food processor until they become a paste. You can add a small amount of some mild oil to help it along.

Honey Syrup from Epicurious.com

1-1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup honey
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
4 whole cloves (optional)

1. In a small pan, stir the sugar, water, lemon juice, cinnamon sticks, and cloves over low heat until the sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes.
2. Stop stirring, increase the heat to medium, and cook until the mixture is slightly syrupy, about 5 minutes (about 225 degrees on a candy thermometer).
3. Discard the cinnamon sticks and whole cloves. Let cool. The remaining will be used in the next recipe.

honey syrup
honey syrup

Baklava Disks from Epicurious.com
~20 disks / 350 degree oven

1/2 pound walnuts, finely chopped or coarsely ground
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves or cardamom
1/2 pound (about 12 sheets) phyllo dough
1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter

1. Mix together walnuts, sugar, and spices in a medium sized bowl.
2. Roll out 12 phyllo sheets. Place a sheet of phyllo onto a clean, flat surface. Brush with butter.
3. Repeat with 5 more sheets, buttering between each.
4. Spread the filling over the buttered phyllo.
5. Top with 6 more sheets, buttering between each.
6. Using a circular cookie cutter close to the size of the opening of your cupcake papers, cut as many phyllo disks as you have cupcakes. Using a spatula, transfer to a silpat covered or greased sheet pan.
7. Just before baking, lightly sprinkle the top of the pastry with cold water. This inhibits the pastry from curling.
8. Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300 degrees and bake until golden brown, about 15 additional minutes.
9. Drizzle the cooled syrup slowly over the hot baklava and let cool for at least 2 hours.

Note: I ended up making by Baklava too thick. I did three layers of eight sheets with two layers of filling. I ended up leaving behind the bottom layer when transferring onto the cupcakes (and saved the bottoms to nibble on). I adjusted the recipe to make a thinner Baklava.

baklava filling

1. Pipe the mousse layer just to the top of the cupcake paper.
2. Top with the Baklava disks.
3. Decorate with a dollop of mousse and a walnut.

buttering phyllo
buttering phyllo

scattering filling
spreading filling

stamping out disks
stamping out disks

baked baklava
baked baklava

All About Frosting – The Recipes42

Posted by chockylit in Cheese,Chocolate,Step-by-Step Photos (Tuesday December 11, 2007 at 11:13 pm)

chocolate ganache

I get many a question about frosting. I thought I would compile my thoughts on the subject in two part series of posts – a sort of one stop shop for all things frosting… from my perspective, of course! First up… the recipes.

Chocolate Ganache

Chocolate ganache frosting is one of my favorite frostings to use. Why? Let me count the ways. One, because I love chocolate. Two, because the taste is very “adult” and not too sweet. Three, because it’s practically no fail and adaptable to what I have on hand.

Reviewing my posts, I apparently have as many ganache recipes as I do posts with ganache recipes – a testament to its versatility. If I get one point across about ganache it is that ganache is indeed adaptable to your personal taste and preference.

Ganache is typically made by bringing heavy cream to a simmer then pouring over chopped bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, stirring to combine, and then adding remaining ingredients – pretty straightforward.

The typical ganache recipe I use contains the following ingredients:

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt

I have used as little as 6 ounces of chocolate with 1 cup of cream, as that is all I had on hand, and it worked out fine. I have also interchanged various types of chocolate, bittersweet, semi-sweet, different brands, etc. It changes the flavor of the ganache but not the outcome. The exception is with milk and white chocolate which don’t come up to spreadable consistency using this basic ingredient list.

I like to use Valrhona, 61% cocoa or higher, for its intense, full-bodied, earthy chocolate flavor. I have tried to stay local and use Scharffenberger, which I like to eat on its own, but I find it too bright and tangy to bake with. I have used Ghirardelli in a pinch. While I don’t like the flavor as much as Valrhona it’s an acceptable alternative and readily available in most grocery stores. The brand is really up to you, but the quality of the chocolate makes a big difference in flavor so spring for the good stuff if you can.

How I treat the ganache depends on the cupcake I am making. If I want a very adult flavor I will stick to the basic recipe (see above) and either pour it on, spread it on, or beat it then spread it on.

Poured Chocolate Ganache

Poured chocolate ganache results in a gorgeous, shiny layer of frosting that is very dramatic and very grown up. I used the method for my version of an “Opera” cupcake. Just let the mixture cool slightly and pour it onto the cupcake (or cake) before it starts to thicken. It will thicken in place and stay very shiny if you don’t touch it. Top it with something special – white chocolate dipped candied ginger, an edible flower pedal, or a smuggled dragée. Very classy…

Spread Chocolate Ganache

Cupcakes often form an attractive dome rising over top the cupcake paper. I like this look (more cupcake!) but it doesn’t support the poured ganache method. When spreading ganache, let the mixture come to room temperature, stirring occasionally, until it’s spreadable. Then spread a relatively thin layer on to the cooled cupcake with a small palette knife. To get a smooth finish, dip the palette knife in hot water, wipe dry, and then smooth the frosting.

I use this method when I want a small, but intense quantity of frosting… when I want to have the flavor of chocolate without overwhelming whatever else is going on. See examples of this method here, here, and here.

Beaten Chocolate Ganache

If you want the intense flavor of a straight up ganache, but still want to pipe it on because, well, it looks so nice piped on, then beat the cooled ganache with an electric mixer fixed with the paddle attachment for a few minutes. This will incorporate air and increase the volume of the frosting without diluting the flavor. The ganache will lighten in color compared to the unbeaten version. See an example here.

Whipped Chocolate Ganache

I have been exploring a variation on ganache that is sweeter than the simple version just discussed. I use this when I want the cupcake to appeal to child and adult alike. It’s more akin to a chocolate buttercream, but with a more intense chocolate flavor. I have experimenting with various versions of this approach.

Version 1 – Basic Ganache but with Butter and Powdered Sugar

This is basically a mixture of ganache and buttercream. Most chocolate buttercream recipes use cocoa or just a small amount of melted chocolate beat into the butter and sugar. This method of making the ganache first then beating in butter and sugar makes for a more chocolate tasting frosting.

See examples here and here

Version 2 – A Totally Different Take

I first saw this method in a book by pastry chef Emily Luchetti. I have definitely tweaked it significantly since I first tried it many years ago. The recipe includes bittersweet, semi-sweet, and unsweetened chocolate and can be tailored to your personal taste by simply adjusting the quantities of the various chocolates while keeping the overall quantity the same. For example, to make it sweeter, increase the semisweet by a couple of ounces and decrease the bittersweet or unsweetened. The unsweetened chocolate imparts a rich cocoa flavor, the bittersweet gives the frosting bite, and the semi-sweet sweetens the whole thing up.

See examples here, here, and here

There are other recipes and methods out there, of course. I plan to try recipe on David Llebovitz’ site which uses water instead of cream. I know that dairy products mellow the flavor of the chocolate, but I have also been hesitant to combine chocolate and water for fear the chocolate will seize. I hope to post about my attempt soon.


cherry-vanilla cupcakes

There is nothing more frustrating to many readers than buttercream frosting. A classic and main stay, buttercream is also one of the sweetest frostings of the bunch often too sweet for the average adult. I however love American-style buttercream especially paired with a simple cake and in moderation. This post has a pretty typical recipe for American-style buttercream. I understand though that not everyone is a fan. So if I am serving cupcakes to adults I typically do not use buttercream! The only exception I have found is with this recipe, somehow the mint makes the frosting more palatable.

American Style Buttercream

American-style buttercream is simply butter beat with confectioners’ sugar and a little vanilla and a little milk. In order to get to a piping consistency a lot of sugar is required. This results in a very sweet frosting. Like I said I actually like this. I have a sweet tooth though and not everyone does. There is no way I know of to decrease the sweetness of this frosting.

Swiss and Italian Style Buttercream

There are less-sweet alternatives to American style buttercream, Swiss and Italian style buttercreams for example, but these frostings have a different quality that I simply don’t like. They leave a film in my mouth and taste as though they are made with vegetable shortening even if they weren’t. I can’t stand them! Just like I can’t stand Génoise cake, but that is for a different post. But you might like them. Its worth trying for yourself before ruling these styles of buttercream frostings out of your repertoire.

The bad news is that I don’t have any recipes for Swiss or Italian style buttercream frostings. In this case, google is your friend.

Cream Cheese

sweet corn cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting

Cream cheese frosting is my friend. It is my very favorite frosting to use. It’s always a crowd pleaser and balances out the sweetness of any cake well. I work with two versions. One has a higher proportion of cream cheese. It is tangy, on the soft side, and my preference for recipes where I want to really taste the cream cheese (carrot cake, hummingbird cake, red velvet, etc). The second version has less cream cheese. The cream cheese tang is more subtle and its really just there to balance the sweetness of the sugar. I use that recipe as an alternative to buttercream for just about any cake.

Cream cheese frosting takes on flavor very well. Just to give you an idea, this recipe uses Thai Ice Tea as a flavor, this recipe uses citrus, this uses ginger and this uses tarragon. But there are more, just peruse the table of contents to find other flavor suggestions.

I have jut started using the “buttercream alternative” method. Here are some examples, one with matcha and one with salted caramel. But any of the above cream cheese recipes can be adjusted to this method by simply decreasing the amount of cream cheese and increasing the amount of butter.

Meringue Frosting

The thing I love about meringue frosting is how easy it is to have a dramatic presentation. It’s sweet, but not sweet as butter cream. It takes flavor well, but don’t try to add a substantial amount of liquid. It will collapse. Small amounts of extracts (vanilla, mint, lemon), spices, very thick flavored simple syrup, or crushed things (like red hots). And the best thing about meringue is that you can take your culinary torch to it.

Whipped Cream

I don’t use whipped cream very often. It’s just not terribly exciting. I pair it with a cupcake that is plenty exciting on its own like this one. It is very easy to adjust the sweetness though. So, if you have a very sweet cake, whipped cream is a good option. Beware, it doesn’t hold well. So if you use it, keep the whipped cream refrigerated until you are ready to use it and frost the cupcakes just before serving.

There are of course other frosting options, but this is all I have for now. Part 2 of the series will cover frosting technique, frequently asked questions, and more on flavoring frostings.

Doughnuts and Coffee Cupcakes44

Doughnuts and Coffee Cupcakes

Topping a baked good with fried one is indeed excessive. But I needed an excuse to make doughnuts, so here goes.

Firstly, I must take a moment to appreciate the doughnut. Doughnuts should be an occasional treat. They have little redeeming value other than tasting great and are fried! But boy do freshly fried doughnuts taste so very, very good. I have vowed that if I am to eat a doughnut it will only be one a fried by my own hands.

I used the recipe from Richard Bertinet’s Dough: Simple Contemporary Bread.He has a unique kneading method which he demonstrates clearly in the included DVD. I am providing the mixer version of the instructions as my words will be inadequate to describe his method. I made one slight change from his recipe (the frying temperature) and recommend that you plan on eating them all – with friends – the day, the moment even, they are fried.

homemade mini doughnuts

Now for the cupcakes – they tasted like a latte – sweet and moist with a milky coffee flavor. I enjoyed the end result like it was two desserts. I dipped the doughnut in some of the whipped cream and ate that, then had the cupcake separately. Both were tasty, but I must admit that the doughnut did out shine the cupcake. Maybe it was the novelty.

Coffee Cupcakes
19 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven

3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dark roast coffee grounds
1/2 cup strong brewed, dark roast coffee
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons milk

1. Beat butter on high until soft, about 30 seconds.
2. Add sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
3. Add eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated.
4. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and coffee grounds in a bowl.
5. Measure out coffee and milk together.
6. Add about a fourth of the flour to the butter/sugar mixture and beat to combine.
7. Add about one third the coffee/milk mixture and beat until combined.
8. Repeat above, alternating flour and coffee and ending with the flour mixture.
9. Scoop into cupcake papers about two-thirds to three-quarters full (depending on whether you want flat or domed cupcakes. Note that these cupcakes will shrink slightly when they cool).
10. Bake for 22-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.

Tip: Be careful when adding the coffee/milk mixture to the batter. If you add it too quickly the mixture will look curdled. Add small amounts and beat well to incorporate.

Whipped Cream

3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar

1. Whisk cream on high speed until soft peaks form.
2. Add sugar (more or less depending on your taste) and whip until thick.


9 ounces whole milk
1/4 ounce envelope active dry yeast
17-1/2 ounces white bread flour (not all-purpose)
3 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
1-1/2 ounces superfine sugar
2 teaspoons fine-grain salt
2 large eggs
2 cups peanut oil
superfine sugar for dusting

1. Warm milk over low heat until it is ay body temperature. It should feel neither warm nor cold when you touch it.
2. Measure the flour into your mixer’s bowl. Rub in the yeast with your fingertips until it disappears in the flour.
3. Rub in the butter until its a sandy texture. Rub in the sugar and salt.
4. Using the dough hook attachment, turn the mixer onto the lowest speed. Add the eggs and milk. Mix for 2 minutes.
5. Turn up to medium speed and mix for 6-7 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
6. Gently remove the dough from the bowl with the help of a plastic bowl scraperonto a lightly floured surface. Form into a ball. Place into a lightly floured bowl and cover with a lint-free towel and set in draft-free spot to rise for 1 hour.
7. Gently remove the dough from the bowl with the help of a plastic bowl scraper onto a lightly floured surface. Cut into two equal portions with your scraper. Gently roll out to about 1/2 inch thick, turning and using flour only as needed.
8. Cut out doughnuts and their holes using a circular cutter and a large pastry tip, respectively.
9. Set on a lightly oiled and floured baking pan with sufficient space between each. Cover with a lint-free towel and set in draft-free spot to double in size or for 45 minutes.
10. Heat the peanut oil in a high-sided, 8″ diameter pan to 350 degrees. Using a slotted spoon gently add about 5 doughnuts to the oil. Allow them to fry on one side until golden, about 45 seconds. Flip and repeat on the other side. Remove doughnuts onto a sheet pan covered in paper towels to drain. Continue in the same fashion with remaining doughnuts.
11. Roll drained doughnuts in the sugar. Eat.

Note: I got about 24 mini doughnuts and doughnut holes plus a small loaf of bread out of this recipe. I took the scraps from cutting, quickly kneaded them together and shaped into a loaf. I baked the loaf at 425 degrees for 11 minutes until golden on top. Tasty!

weighing out ingredients
weighing out ingredients

cutting out doughnut holes
cutting out doughnut holes

doughnuts and doughnut holes ready to rise
ready to rise

1. Top cooled cupcakes with a dollop of whipped cream.
2. Top frosted cupcake with a doughnut.

Dark Chocolate Truffle Cupcakes18

dark chocolate truffle cupcakes

There are a couple of reasons why I made these truffle inspired cupcakes. Firstly, I wanted to spring clean the lazy Susan that is my baking pantry. It got out of control months and months ago like most of my cabinets and closets tend to get. My plan was, while cleaning the pantry, to inspect all my potential ingredients to come up with six different truffle flavor combinations.

Secondly, I bought myself a new toy, just arrived, that I was eager to use – a chocolate tempering machine. My plan was to make a topper for each cupcake that identified the ingredients inside.

Other than providing an excuse to clean out my pantry and an opportunity for low risk experimenting, I also think these cupcakes could make a nice gift. Get a nice box, provide one or two cupcakes per flavor, a legend, tie a nice ribbon around box and you have a pretty nice homemade gift.

Mise en Place
Assemble the ingredients for your six different truffle flavors. I wanted the flavors to be fairly intense so I started with 1 teaspoon of dry ingredients and 2 teaspoons of liquid ingredients. I was generally pleased with the results.

matcha-black sesame: 1 teaspoon each of matcha powder and black sesame seeds

chili-espresso: 1 teaspoon each of ancho chili powder and instant espresso plus a sprinkle of chili flakes

lavender-rosemary: 1 teaspoon each of lavender flowers and chopped rosemary, fresh or dried

mint-raspberry: 1 teaspoon chopped, fresh mint and 2 teaspoons Chambord raspberry liquor

rose-pistachio: 1 teaspoon each of chopped rose petals and chopped pistachios

sour cherry: 1 teaspoon crushed mahlab, a spice made from the pit of a sour cherry and 2 teaspoons Ginja, a Portuguese liquor made from morello cherries

I was most pleased with the first four combinations. All were noticeable and enjoyable, even the rosemary-lavender. The rose-pistachio flavor wasn’t distinguishable and the sour cherry was too intense. I would cut back on the Ginja next time.

truffle ingredients
mise en place

25 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven

7 ounces (200 grams) Valrhona 85% cacao (or any bittersweet chocolate)
3 sticks (343 grams) butter
2-1/4 cups (445 grams) sugar
8 eggs
1-1/4 cups (180 grams) flour
1/4 cup (30 grams) cocoa powder, unsweetened
1-1/2 teaspoons (7 grams) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Prepare baking sheets by lining with parchment paper and laying out cupcake cups. Using a pencil draw a line to segregate 4 cupcake cups for each flavor and write out the ingredients so you can identify the cupcakes after they are baked. See image above. I did the same with 6 mini cupcake papers so I could taste each combination without having 6 whole cupcakes.
2. Chop chocolate and transfer into the bowl of a standing mixer.
3. Add butter to the chocolate and place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir until chocolate melts and butter is combined.
4. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Let mixture cool for 10 minutes.
5. Beat in an electric mixer for 3 minutes.
6. Add one egg at a time, mixing for 10 seconds between each
7. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt into the mixture, return to the electric mixer, and mix until blended.
8. Separate into 6 separate, but equal batches. I eyeballed it and came pretty close. Mix truffle ingredients into each batch. I got four regular cupcakes and 1 mini per flavor.
9. Scoop into cupcake cups and bake at 350 F for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Note: If the oven is not hot enough than these cupcakes may over-flow. One way to be safe is to either fill 2/3’s full or another trick I use is to preheat to 375, then drop the heat to 350 once I put the cupcakes in. I also rotate the pans after 15 minutes of baking. It is safe to gently move them at that point and I find the lower back of my oven to be a bit cooler.

Simple Chocolate Ganache

6 ounces (170 grams) Valrhona 85% cacao (or any bittersweet chocolate)
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt

1. Chop chocolate and transfer into a heat proof bowl.
2. Heat cream until bubbles form around the edge of the pan, pour cream over the chocolate.
3. Let sit for 1 minute then stir until combined.
4. Add vanilla and salt. Stir until combined.
5. Let cool until at spreading consistency.

Note: If the ganache gets too thick, like you forget it on the counter or in the fridge, soften over a pan of simmering water just enough to get it back to spreading consistency.

frosting cupcakes
spreading frosting

[optional] Chocolate Decorations

truffle mise en place
4 ounces (113 grams) white chocolate

1. Sprinkle some of each of the truffle ingredients on a silpat or parchment covered baking sheet.
2. Temper white chocolate per machine instructions.
3. Pour chocolate over the truffle ingredients and gently spread with an offset spatula.
4. Let chocolate set.
5. Break into irregular shapes.

ready for the chocolate
truffle ingredients

pouring chocolate
pouring chocolate

spreading chocolate
spreading chocolate

1. Frost cooled cupcakes with a small amount of ganache.
2. Top with an identifying chunk of white chocolate.

fresh fig and almond cupcake bombe14

Posted by chockylit in Experimental Recipe,Italian-Inspired,Other Fruits,Step-by-Step Photos (Sunday July 8, 2007 at 7:46 pm)

fresh fig and almond cupcake bombe

When I got the idea for this cupcake the weather in San Francisco was uncharacteristically balmy which got me thinking of ice cream. By the time I executed on the idea we are back in the typical pattern or blanketed in the chilling marine layer. None the less, this was a fun cupcake to make, the second along the idea of a “cupcake ice cream bombe”, my first attempt being the grean tea, lavender, honey bombe I made last summer.

I got the idea to use the crushed amaretti cookies from a Martha Stewart repeat I caught last week where the owner of Baked in Brooklyn used the same in a lemon tart crust. I have been wanting to do something with figs after having eaten a basket of them and the amaretti idea sealed the deal.

The cake recipe was completely off the cuff. I am not sure how it would translate to a full size cupcake (not sure how much it would rise and how full to the fill the cupcake papers), but the end result in the sheet pan was exactly what I was looking for, very moist and very almondy. I got the gelato recipe from here and I will admit it wasn’t what I was hoping for and didn’t resemble the fresh fig gelato I so enjoyed during one past trip to Italy. That being said, the resulting gelato was fine – I could definitely taste the fig, but I guess I wanted something creamier.

I am trying the cupcake for dessert tonight, so I will update the post with the “end result” a bit later.

Update: The flavor combination is great and I am loving the frosting. Very delicious. Not as tangy as cream cheese frosting, but not as sweet as butter cream. The fig gelato definitely needs to be creamier, but otherwise I am really liking this cupcake. I want to try it again, but with a non ice cream filling – almond cupcake with a fig filling that is.

Fresh Fig Gelato

14 ounces (350 g) perfectly ripe figs
1 lemon
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Peel the figs and blend the fig pulp with the juice of one lemon.
2. Combine the milk with the sugar and stir the mixture into the figs.
3. Freeze in an ice cream machine per the manufacturer’s directions.

fresh fig gelato
fig gelato

Almond Cake
9″x13″ sheet pan / 350 degree oven

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, unsalted/room temp
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs, large/room temp
60 grams amaretti cookies
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Prepare a 9″x13″ baking sheet by lightly coating with butter, covering with parchment paper, then lightly coating the parchment with butter.
2. Beat butter on high speed until soft, about 30 seconds.
3. Add sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
4. Add eggs one at a time, beat for 15 seconds after each.
5. Using a food processor, grind up amaretti cookies to the consistency of sand but with some chunky bits.
6. Measure out flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium sized bowl. Add the amaretti cookie and whisk to combine.
7. Measure out the milk, almond extract, and vanilla. Stir to combine.
8. Add about a fourth of the flour to the butter/sugar mixture and beat to combine.
9. Add about one third the milk mixture and beat until combined.
10. Repeat above, alternating flour and milk and ending with the flour mixture.
11. Pour onto a prepared baking sheet and smooth out.
12. Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

prepped sheet pan
prepped sheet pan

amaretti cookies

crushed amaretti
crushed cookies

almond cake made with crushed amaretti
baked cake

Mascarpone Frosting

12 ounces mascarpone cheese
1/2 stick butter
4-5 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Bring butter to room temperature by letting it sit out for 1 or 2 hours.
2. Sift powdered sugar into a bowl or onto parchment.
3. Beat butter and mascarpone cheese at medium speed until creamy.
4. Add 4 cups of the powdered sugar, almond extract and vanilla. Beat until combined.
5. Add more sugar until you get to the consistency and sweetness you like.

Note: This recipe makes more than enough frosting. I tend to like to make a full batch and freeze the leftovers for later (better than not having enough frosting), but you would be safe to cut the recipe in half if you are not interested in having leftovers.

Recipe make approximately 10 cupcakes
1. Cut two rounds of cake for each cupcake that fit in the cupcake paper.
2. Put a round in each cupcake paper.
3. Fill with fig gelato leaving room for the top cake disk.
4. Place cupcakes in the freezer and chill for 1 hour.
5. Frost with mascarpone frosting and top with a decoration. Store in the freezer.

cake disks
step 1

step 1 - cake disk
step 2

step 2 - fig gelato
step 3

step 4 - cake disk
step 4

step 5 - frost
step 5

chocolate cupcake stuffed with ginger caramel, frosted with mango ganache, and topped with a mango-Ginger won ton110

Posted by chockylit in Asian-Inspired,Chocolate,Experimental Recipe,Step-by-Step Photos,Tropical Fruits (Tuesday June 12, 2007 at 4:18 pm)

chocolate cupcake stuffed with ginger caramel, frosted with mango ganache, and topped with a mango-ginger won ton

The impetus for the recipe was that I wanted to approach the challenge of creating a fruity chocolate ganache frosting. The remainder of the components just fell in place. For a first try, I would say the frosting was fine. I could taste the mango and of course the chocolate, but the mango was subtle. There was also the issue of the texture, not bad but definitely unexpected for a ganache which is normally very smooth. I contemplated beating the ganache in an electric mixer and possibly adding some powdered sugar to smooth it out, but didn’t want to dull the taste further. If I had managed to get some mango liquor on the other hand, I would have definitely beat the cooled ganache with a cup or two of sifted powdered sugar and added liquor to taste. Maybe next time…

As for the end result, I used my favorite rich, chocolately cupcake base so I was off to a good start. The caramel and frosting tasted great together, but all in all I would say the flavors were a bit too subtle. I would pump up the ginger in the caramel, likely with fresh, chopped ginger, and pump up the frosting as I described above. I think this cupcake is definitely worth another take.

On a side note, my next post may be a bit slow to come. I gave birth to my first child this past weekend a couple weeks on the early side (but full term and quite healthy). Naomi and I have some work to do over the next couple weeks, but once things settle I hope to be back at it and newly inspired. Thanks for all your well wishes!

Naomi Porro
Naomi Porro, Born June 8th, 2007

~15 cupcakes / 350 degree oven

100 grams Valrhona 61% cacao (or any bittersweet chocolate)
1-1/2 sticks butter
1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder, unsweetened
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon fleur de sel or any salt

1. Chop chocolate and transfer into the bowl of a standing mixer.
2. Add butter to the chocolate and place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir until chocolate melts and butter is combined.
3. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Let mixture cool for 10 minutes.
4. Beat in an electric mixer for 3 minutes.
5. Add one egg at a time, mixing for 15 seconds between each
6. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt into the mixture, return to the electric mixer, and mix until blended.
7. Scoop into cupcake cups and bake at 350 F for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Ginger Caramel

2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel or any salt
1 teaspoon ginger powder

1. Combine the water, sugar, and the corn syrup in a deep saucepan and cook over medium heat.
2. Stir together with a wooden spoon until the sugar is incorporated.
3. Cover the saucepan and let it cook over medium heat for 3 minutes.
4. After 3 minutes, remove the lid, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil.
5. Do not stir from this point on, but it is important to carefully shake the pan so that one area of the caramel doesn’t burn.
6. Continue to cook until the caramel turns an even amber color then remove from the heat and let stand for about 30 seconds.
7. *** This is the dangerous part *** Pour the heavy cream into the mixture. Wear oven mitts, stand away from the pan, and be careful. The mixture will bubble up significantly.
8. Stir the mixture, again being careful. Add the butter, lemon juice, salt, and ginger powder. Stir until combined.
9. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside to cool.

cupcake filled with ginger caramel
giner caramel filling

Mango Chocolate Ganache

meat from 1 mango
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate like Valrhona 61% cocao
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or any salt

1. Puree mango meat in a blender or food processer. You should end up with around a half a cup.
2. Chop chocolate and transfer into a heat proof bowl.
3. Heat cream until bubbles form around the edge of the pan, pour cream over the chocolate.
4. Let sit for 1 minute then stir until combined.
5. Add vanilla, mango, and salt. Stir until combined.
6. Let cool to room temperature.

Note: The texture of this frosting isn’t as smooth as regular ganache due to the pureed mango. But it tastes great and looks fine. I was also planning on adding mango liquor to taste, but couldn’t find any locally. If you do happen to come across some, I think it would be a great addition as the mango flavor is otherwise mild.

Mango Ginger Won Tons

spring roll or wonton wrappers, thawed if frozen
1 mango
1 tablespoon fresh chopped ginger
1 egg, beaten to blend
grapeseed oil for frying, or other vegetable oil

1. Trim the wrappers into 2″ squares.
2. Chop the mango into a small dice. The meat from a half of a mango will likely be enough, but the leftover mango-ginger mix makes a great topper for salmon.
3. Chop the ginger into a fine dice. Mix mango and ginger together.
4. Lay out your cut wrappers so they face you in a diamond shape.
5. Using a pastry brush, brush egg along the top edges of the wrappers.
6. Spoon a small amount of mango and ginger into each wrapper.
7. Fold the bottom pointed corner of the wrapper up over fruit and press to seal. You will end up with little triangles.
8. Fill the bottom of a heavy pan with 1/2 inch of oil. Heat the oil to between 360°F and 375°F. 9. Working in batches, add spring rolls to hot oil and cook until golden and crisp. About 30 seconds per side. 10. Using slotted spoon, transfer spring rolls to paper towels to drain. Set aside to cool fully.

Note: I happened to have purchased 4″ wrappers, but they come in many sizes. I cut the wrappers with kitchen shears into 2″ squares. This proved to be a good size for cupcake decorating.

brushing egg on wrapper
brushing egg on wrapper

stuffing won ton
stuffing wrapper

folding won ton
sealing wrapper

1. Using a small pairing knife, cut off the top of the cupcake in the shape of a cone. Flip the top over and cut off the cone.
2. Fill the cavity with caramel.
3. Replace the top of the cone.
4. Scoop a tablespoon of ganache on top of each cupcake. Smooth with a small offset spatula.
5. Top with a won ton.

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