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.)

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