Mocha cheesecake cupcakes with chocolate ganache

So I have a confession to make about these cupcakes. I made them, initially, for Sarah as a part of our NCAA basketball tournament-inspired cookie throwdown. I wanted to make inside-out cupcakes, inspired by Liz Lemon/Tina Fey’s cupcake sandwich. I figured that real cupcakes would be too messy, but put the frosting inside the cupcake, and, blamo! Instant shippable treat.

Well, this is not true. I neglected to think about the consistency of the cakey part of the cupcake and the longevity of cupcakes more generally. So I made this awesome batch of cupcakes and then immediately realized, “Shit! I can’t ship these.”

So we ate them ourselves, with an assist from our friend Heather. It was tough, you guys, but we managed.

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(Also, the inside frosting thing didn’t quite work, which explains the ganache. More on that below.)

Cupcakes are tough little suckers. I tried out about half a dozen recipes a few years ago, and none of them came out quite the way I wanted them to. At one point, I brought a relatively successful batch to a party, only to find that two other people also came bearing cupcakes that were better looking and not any worse tasting than mine–yet theirs came straight from a box. That’s the problem with cupcakes. There are decent box mixes out there, and it’s not always worth the extra time to make them from scratch.

However, I just can’t deal with being outsmarted by the lowly cupcake. So I tried again. And these actually worked! They were delicious. Granted, the recipe I chose for the cheesecake portion of the cupcake was way, way too liquid-y to hold it’s shape within the cupcake. Swirled with the chocolate batter, though, it added a delightful cheesecake flavor to the rich chocolate base. Not too shabby.

Ingredients

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp brewed espresso
1 egg
2 tbsp flour
pinch of salt
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick of butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, divided
3 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2/3 cup heavy cream

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin tins with cupcake liners.
  2. Beat the cream cheese and sugar together with a mixer until light. Add egg and mix well. Add espresso, flour, and salt and mix. Set aside.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  4. Using a double boiler, melt the 3 oz of chocolate. Set aside.
  5. Beat butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks and mix thoroughly by hand. Mix in vanilla and melted chocolate and continue mixing.
  6. Stir in half of the buttermilk, then half of the dry ingredients, then the remaining buttermilk, and then the remaining dry ingredients.
  7. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff, then fold into batter in thirds. Do not over mix! (You should still see some faint wisps of egg white in the batter).
  8. Add the chocolate batter to the cupcake liners and top with cheesecake batter, then swirl the batters. Alternatively, you can fill the liner with a smaller amount of chocolate batter, then cheesecake batter, and then chocolate batter again. Both versions work well. The batter should fill at least 3/4 of the cupcake liners.
  9. Bake for about 20 minutes, then cool.
  10. Make ganache: place finely chopped bittersweet chocolate in a heatproof bowl. On the stovetop, bring heavy cream to a boil. Add to chocolate and stir until melted. Set aside to cool.
  11. Frost cupcakes with ganache and serve!
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Espresso chocolate chip cookies

2013 will not be known as our finest year, it seems. At least in terms of follow-through.

Four months ago, we held our second annual baking madness contest. Sarah won both the men’s and women’s brackets, and kindly gifted her second win to Claudia. Our job was to each create a baked good based on their preferences and send it to them to vote on their favorite. About two and a half months after Sarah won, we FINALLY sent her a package of treats. (In our defense: we don’t live together for most of the year, and we were doing a lot of traveling during the spring and summer).

In any case, the results are in for the first batch of baked goods! (Claudia’s round will come later). Alison won this round! She will post her recipe soon, but here’s a preview of our cookies together:

IMG_0633Alison made some kickass sandwich cookies. You will want to make these!

In the meantime, allow me to introduce the humble espresso chocolate chip cookie. It may not have won, but it’s pretty great. And I tweaked it after receiving Sarah’s feedback, so they are even better than the original.

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Those are some pretty tasty cookies.

Ingredients

3 tbsp espresso or espresso powder*
1 and 1/2 cups + 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 and 2/3 cups bread flour
1 and 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt + additional for sprinkling on top of cookies
11.5 oz milk chocolate chips**
2 and 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup plus 3 tbsp light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla (I recommend bourbon vanilla, if available)

Instructions:

  1. Using a fork, stir the dry ingredients (first five) together until well-combined.
  2. Add chocolate chips and stir to coat
  3. Using a stand or hand mixer, blend butter and sugars at medium speed for 5 minutes, stopping occasionally to incorporate the batter that spreads up the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula
  4. Add eggs and vanilla and blend at medium speed until well-combined
  5. Using a wooden spoon to mix the batter, slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the batter
  6. Separate dough into four disks and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate over night, or at least 8 hours. (The first batch I made were actually frozen for a few days before baking, and they came out just as nicely, so you can also freeze the batter if you do not plan to bake right away)
  7. When you are ready, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Form dough into 1.5-inch round balls with your hands and place on ungreased baking sheet, about two inches apart. Flatten each ball of dough with your palm and sprinkle some good quality salt on top.
  8. Bake for 13-15 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking. Let cool for about five minutes, then transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

* I always use real espresso because I find it brings out the flavor better, but most recipes calling for a coffee/espresso taste will recommend the powder.
** I’m wary of too much sweetness, so I rarely use milk chocolate in anything I bake. I wanted to try something new here, though, and I thought the milk chocolate would balance the espresso, which it did. You can use dark or bitter/semi-sweet chocolate if you prefer. If you use milk chocolate, use a good quality chocolate!

Mocha Chip Ice Cream

Our ice cream maker has become my favorite kitchen accessory. There is something amazing about being able to make our own ice cream, in any flavor we want. And it is always better than the store bought stuff. I mean…just look at this:IMG_0427

I also enjoy having ice cream available at all times. Presently, we have chocolate and mocha chip ice creams in the freezer (along with espresso chocolate chip cookies, almond cake, and Girl Scout thin mints…this could become a problem). We recently finished a delightful batch of vanilla ice cream as well. So if you ever have a midnight craving, you know who to call.

Anyway: the point of this post is that I have made my favorite ice cream concoction thus far: mocha chocolate chip. Now, I love coffee ice cream, so this was a no-brainer. But it really did exceed my expectations. It has an incredibly rich, dark flavor.

IMG_0415These delightful-looking coffee beans are steeped in milk and cream and then mixed with chocolate–what could be better?IMG_0419

Here’s how to make it:

Mocha Chip Ice Cream
adapted from The Perfect Scoop

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups whole coffee beans
pinch of salt
1 1/2 heavy cream
1 1/2 tbsp dutch processed cocoa
3 oz chopped chocolate
5 large egg yolks
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp ground espresso (or coffee)
6 oz mini chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Freeze your ice cream maker according to instructions–usually for at least 15 hours prior to making the ice cream, placed in the coldest part of the freezer.
  2. Warm the milk, sugar, whole coffee beans, salt, and 1/2 cup of cream in a saucepan until steaming but not boiling. Turn off the heat, cover, and allow to steep for about 1.5 hours.
  3. When the coffee mixture is almost done steeping, mix the cocoa and a second 1/2 cup cream in a small saucepan. Whisk until blended, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 seconds. Turn off heat, and mix in chopped chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted. Stir in the last 1/2 cup cream, then pour the whole chocolate mixture into a large metal bowl and set aside.
  4. Once the coffee mixture is done steeping, re-warm on the stove.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until blended. Very slowly*, pour the warmed coffee mixture into the egg yolks.
  6. Return the warmed coffee and yolk mixture into the same pan, and heat on the stove over medium heat. Stir constantly until the mixture begins to thicken**, but do not allow the mixture to boil.
  7. Set the bowl of chocolate into a larger bowl with ice and water*** with a mesh strainer set over the bowl of chocolate. Poor the warmed coffee and yolk mixture into the chocolate through the mesh strainer. Using a spatula, push on the coffee beans to extract any remaining liquid, then set aside.
  8. Stir together the chocolate and milk-yolk mixtures together in the bowl. Work to incorporate them completely. The chocolate may have firmed up while set aside, but the warmed milk-yolk mixture should loosen it up. Add the vanilla and ground espresso and stir until the mixture is cool.
  9. Pour ice cream mixture into a container and chill thoroughly (about 8 hours or longer).
  10. Freeze the ice cream according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. Mix in chocolate chips in the last minute of churning. Transfer ice cream to a long flat container and freeze until ready to eat.

Notes:

*Be careful not to cook the yolks while you are pouring the warmed milk mixture into the eggs. The best way to do this is to pour in a very small, steady stream while stirring constantly. I usually can do this pretty well on my own, although a second pair of hands is helpful (particularly with this recipe, where the coffee beans can create more of a mess in the pouring process).

**It is very important not to let the mixture boil here. Stir constantly, until you begin to feel the mixture thicken. Usually this is pretty clear, although once again the coffee beans can make it a little less clear. I only needed to stir this mixture for about five minutes.

***I add about three ice cube trays worth of ice into a very large metal bowl, and fill it up about half way with water to create an ice bath. Then I place a second, smaller metal bowl inside the first one.