Sunday, February 14, 2010

Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes

My first foray into baking in the AEPi kitchen was a marvelous success. The cupcakes have now all been devoured (not just by me, thanks to my friends) and were thoroughly enjoyed in all their rich, chocolatey goodness. Many thanks to 
Ina Garten, Food Network chef of Barefoot Contessa fame, for her wonderful recipe and to AEPi for their kitchen.

Two days later, I can definitely say the early morning baking activities were a giant stress reliever. And not only because I spent the morning lost in flour measurements, oven temperatures and the smell and taste of chocolate, but also because over the next two days I got to share what I made, which is really always thesweetest part. (I apologize for the clichĂ© and the sappiness... but not for the pun. I love puns.) 

The absolute coolest part, though, happened right after I finished baking. I was carrying these

upstairs to my room and passed Marcy House's Facilities worker, Paul, on the staircase. We exchanged our customary quick hellos, but then I paused and offered him a cupcake. After a moment, he said that it would be a great snack with his mid-afternoon coffee (which, by the way, is exactly what my dad does at home when I bake...).

He took a cupcake and headed downstairs to put it away, but the next time I passed him on the stairs, he told me, smiling, that he had taken a bite on the way down and then finished the whole thing! The cupcakes had passed their first taste test with flying colors, it seemed. Normally I like to be the first to taste what I make--strictly for quality control purposes, of course--but this was a hundred times better. Paul proceeded to tell me all about how it had reminded him of this chocolate trifle his sister makes around the holidays and of the power it has over him. He never cares about the calories at that point, he laughed.

Good. The only thing I'll say about calories when it comes to baking is that the work in the kitchen will never burn off enough of them. And I'm fine with that. But back to the cupcakes, with their butter and sugar and chocolate.

In terms of following this recipe, overall I stayed true to Ina's instructions... but a detail changed a bit here or there:
-Line muffin pans with 12 paper liners. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
I used silicon cupcakeke molds, which I later found to be smaller than muffin tins, which left me with extra batter...

...for 5 more cupcakes. Booyah!
-Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy.
I creamed the butter and sugar by hand using a rubber spatula because my KitchenAid lives at home in NJ and I had left my wooden spoon at a friend's... This technique was a little awkward, but I got through it.
(That last sentence was for all the Michael Scotts out there.)

-Add the eggs, 1 at a time. Mix in the chocolate syrup and vanilla. Add the flour and mix until just combined. Don't overbeat, or the cupcakes will be tough.
Chocolate syrup and vanilla make things taste so good it wouldn't have mattered even if they had come out tougher than bran muffins.
-Scoop the batter into the muffin cups and bake for 30 minutes, or until just set in the middle. Don't overbake!
They were ready after only 22 minutes. Good thing I was watching them like a hawk. Like. a. hawk.
-Let the cupcakes cool thoroughly in the pan.

                        Me (my ogre-sized hands) masterfully de-molding and shamelessly promoting my school

-For the ganache, cook the heavy cream, chocolate chips, and instant coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. 

I used my handy-dandy electric fondue pot here, and it worked like a charm.

-Dip the top of each cupcake in the ganache. Decorate with candied violets, if desired. Do not refrigerate.
For whatever reason I couldn't find candied violets at the minimart, CVS, or the college bookstore, so I improvised with NestlĂ© chocolate florets. That's the technical term.

I can't wait for next week! Time to leaf through some recipes.


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