Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Peanut Butter and Sympathy

Last week, I found out that I didn't get something that I really, really wanted.  And honestly, who doesn't want $28,000 to travel around the world and work on a non-academic project? But the point is, I did research for months, made contacts on four continents, and now...nothing.  C'est la vie, right?  

The important part, though, is what came out of this self-pity: more cupcakes.  I realize that I write about cupcakes a lot on this blog, but really they're kind of ideal for me at the moment.  They're more substantial than cookies, thereby increasing the amount of comfort they provide to my mopey self, and they're more portable than cake.  

For my self-pity cupcakes, I decided on peanut butter, with chocolate ganache.  I was afraid, with the way my luck was going, that they wouldn't turn out.  Luckily, they did. 

They're a perfect balance of sweet--the peanut butter is subtle, and salty enough to combat the rich, chocolaty ganache.  The cupcakes are moist, and even though I had my doubts about a (very thin) layer of ganache as frosting at first, once I tried one, I was sold.  

Make these cupcakes for any reason.  Self-pity, celebration, whatever.  But I can tell you from experience, they certainly help ease the pain.

Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache Icing
Adapted from "Chocolate Bar"

Makes 18 large cupcakes

1/4 cup peanut butter (I used all-natural)
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
2 eggs
2 cups sifted flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cups milk

8 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. light corn syrup

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line the muffin tin with paper cups.

Cream the peanut butter, butter, and vanilla in a large bowl until well mixed.  Gradually add the sugar to the mixture, beating until light and fluffy, about three minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together.  In three alternating batches, add the sifted ingredients and milk to the batter.   Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed in between additions.  Beat until incorporated.

Fill the cups to just below the rim, and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Do not overbake.  Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes in the pan before transferring the cupcakes to wire racks to cool completely.

Now for the icing.  In a heavy 1-quart saucepan, combine the cream, butter, and corn syrup and cook over medium heat until not but not boiling (little beads will form on the sides of the pot).  Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir until blended.  Let the ganache cool for 15-20 minutes.  Dip the tops of the cupcakes.  (This recipe will probably make more ganache than you need, so you can most likely cut the recipe in half and be fine.  I haven't tried it, though, so use your own discretion.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I was catching up there for a while, but now I've lost my camera cord, and won't be able to upload pictures for about another week, and so here are things to think about:

Coconut cupcakes.  (I know, I've mentioned them before.  They're coming, I promise.)
Peanut butter cupcakes with chocolate ganache.
Brownie cake with salted butter caramel and peanuts.

And, hopefully, apple tart tatin.  

So please, bear with me.  I'll be back soon, I promise.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Midnight Baking

Remember how I told you about midnight baking? I do a lot of that. Most of my waking hours are spent in class, and thinking about what I did in class, and writing long, complicated papers about the things we talked about in class. Not that I don't love school, but sometimes I'd rather get up in the morning and bake cinnamon roll muffins than go talk about literature.

The problem with midnight baking is that it doesn't always--okay, fine, ever--make for the best photography. My pictures come out blurry, and even though the food is wonderful, the photographic evidence is only so-so. What I'm saying here is that you'll need to trust me on these things.

Last weekend, after I came home early to work on a paper that I did not want to write, I got hungry. Really, really hungry. And at 11:30 on a Friday night, when I was feeling sorry for myself, I didn't want pasta or a sandwich. I wanted baked goods. Preferably with cream cheese frosting.

A quick recipe search later turned up exactly what I was looking for: gingerbread cupcakes. So what if it's not Christmas? These cupcakes, eaten at one in the morning, were just what I needed. Spicy and warm, with melting frosting. And you know how I feel about cream cheese frosting.
It's starting to get cold now, with the wind sneaking in under our collars and the leaves turning to gold and orange. You need to fortify yourself for the long winter ahead, and the way to do that is with cupcakes. Trust me.

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Gourmet

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Just shy 1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
2 tablespoons vanilla yogurt
1 large egg, beaten lightly
1 teaspoon baking soda

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter softened
1 pound box confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Into a bowl sift together the flour, the ground ginger, the cinnamon, the cloves, the allspice, and the salt. In another bowl cream 1/2 stick of the butter, add the granulated sugar, and beat the mixture until it is fluffy. Beat in the molasses, the yogurt and the egg, beating until the mixture is smooth. In a measuring cup combine the baking soda with 1/2 cup boiling water and stir the mixture to dissolve the baking soda. Stir the mixture into the molasses mixture (the mixture will appear curdled) and stir the molasses mixture into the flour mixture, stirring to combine the ingredients well. Line twelve 1/2-cup muffin tins with paper liners and spoon the batter into the liners, filling them halfway. Bake the cupcakes in the middle of a preheated 350°F. oven for 20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. (The cupcakes will be flat or slightly indented on top.) Transfer the cupcakes to a rack and let them cool.

In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese and butter. Beat in confectioners' sugar until fluffy. Beat in vanilla and salt. Use liberal amounts to frost cupcakes.