Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Chocolate Cupcakes with Dulce de Leche Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I call this heaven in my mouth. I have always loved sweet and salty things together because I feel that the combination brings out the flavors in both. These cupcakes do not disappoint!

The cake came together quickly, as it always does, thus adding to why it's my favorite. However, the frosting was a different story. I found myself missing some key ingredients, so, after painting all day and baking chocolate cupcakes, I had to make myself presentable and head to the grocery store {because we all know the one time you go to the grocery store looking gross, you will run into everyone you went to high school with, a few coworkers, and possibly the man you'll marry - bad news}. Around 9pm I started the Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting base, which takes some time, but this was during the days before my Stand Mixer. While I struggled to hold the mixing bowl against the spinning of the mixer filled with tacky sugar and egg white mixture, the Yosh smelled something burning on the stove. In an effort the save what I thought was burning, I let go of the bowl only to helplessly watch it as it went flying across the stove seconds later, flinging the white, sticky substance all over me, the Yosh, my mom, and the kitchen. I was too exhausted from a day of painting to do anything but laugh.

Since the frosting didn't set up (which is tricky with this type of Buttercream), we decided to scratch the whole thing and start over (I got impatient when it was in the double boiler and didn't quite allow it to reach 160*F...I was not rewarded for my impatience). Eventually...and we're talking midnight here...the frosting was finished, only I had reheated the caramel too much and it quickly melted the beautiful frosting, so I could not frost the cupcakes that night. In the end, it was well worth the wait, these cupcakes were FANTASTIC!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Dulce de Leche Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Chocolate Cupcakes:

Recipe from Ina Garten via Food Network

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Preheat oven to 350*F. Line regular cupcake tins. (I find that greasing the pans causes the cupcake liners to lose their color, so I just try not to overfill each liner and omit the greasing)

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl. Mix until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. (this can all be done with a hand mixer or even by hand)

Using a ladle or ice cream scoop (the mixture is extremely soupy), fill the cupcake liners halfway. Bake at 350*F for 18-22 minutes for regular cupcakes {or 10-12 minutes for mini cupcakes}, or when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Be careful not to over bake. Cool completely before frosting.

Dulce de Leche Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Adapted from Sweetapolita

8 large egg whites (30g each)
2 cups granulated sugar (400g)
2.5 cups (1.25 lbs, 5 sticks) of unsalted butter, softened but cool, cut into cubes
15 ml (1 tablespoon) pure vanilla extract
Salt to taste
½ cup Dulce de Leche {recipe follows}

Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk attachment, small bowl, and whisk with paper towel and lemon juice (or vinegar), to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar,  and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 140 degrees F, or if you don't have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot {you can feel a drop in between your fingers to ensure no granules}.
Take off of stove, and place bowl back on electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment, begin to whip until the mixture is thick, glossy, and neutral (you can feel outside of the bowl to test temperature). Switch over to paddle attachment and, while mixing on medium speed continuously, add butter one cube at a time until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth).  Add vanilla and salt, mix well. You can also add a wide variety of flavorings, extracts, and more. If buttercream is too runny, the butter was possibly too soft--place into the refrigerator for about 15 minutes, then beat again. If still too runny, add a few more cubes of butter and keep beating. Use immediately, or refrigerate/freeze.
Keep in airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week, leaving out at room temperature when needed, rewhipping in mixer for 5 minutes.
Can freeze for up to 6-8 weeks. To thaw, place on counter overnight, and rewhip for 5 minutes with paddle attachment in an electric mixer.
If buttercream still doesn't have its satiny finish after rewhipping, microwave 1/3 of the buttercream for approximately 10 seconds and add to remaining buttercream in mixer bowl, beating for a few moments to incorporate.

Dulce de Leche
Fill a crock pot with water almost to the top. Remove label off of one can (any size) swe etened condensed milk. Place can on its side in the crock pot, cover, turn crock pot on low, and cook overnight (~8 hours) or on high for ~4 hours. Turn off crock pot and allow can to cool.

Source: Adapted from Sweetapolita  and Ina Garten


Sunday, April 15, 2012


After seeing so many pictures of Macarons and thinking, "I wish I could do that!", I finally decided to take on the task. I mostly followed a recipe from Annie over at Annie's Eats, after looking at some great tutorials from Helene of Tartelette. For those who do not know what a Macaron {pronounced Mac-uh-rhon} is, the world literally  means "button" in French, and that's exactly what they look like...little buttons! These are very different from the American counterpart, the Macaroon, which is very sugary and often made with coconut. These are light, crisp, airy cookies filled with any filling of your choice - chocolate, which chocolate, or espresso ganache; any flavor buttercream; etc.... if you can dream it up, you can make it! You can make any flavor combination you choose in any color, as long as you follow a few simple steps that can be found in the searches listed at the bottom of this post or any ol' Google search.

For my first attempt, I was quite pleased with the outcome! I shared them with The Yosh, my mom, and my sister and brother-in-law and everyone raved. Below are some pictures of the process in case you want to embark upon this culinary adventure too!



Macarons with Chocolate Ganache Filling
Recipe adapted from Annie's Eats

For the macarons:
110 gm almond meal (or whole almonds, plain, in food processor)
200 gm confectioners’ sugar
100 gm egg whites (from about 3 eggs), aged at room temperature for 12-24 hours
50 gm granulated sugar

For the ganache:
½ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
6 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

If using whole almonds instead of almond meal, pulse the almonds in the bowl of a food processor until finely ground.  Add the confectioners' sugar to the food processor and process until blended.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium-high speed until foamy (think bubblebath).  Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue beating until a smooth, shiny meringue with stiff peaks forms (think shaving cream).  Add the ground almond mixture to the bowl with the meringue and quickly but gently fold together using a wide rubber spatula until no streaks remain.  You want to achieve a thick batter that ribbons or flows from the spatula when lifted.  

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.  Transfer the batter to a piping bag fitted with a plain wide round tip.  Pipe into small rounds on the prepared baking sheets (each round should be about 1-1½ inches in diameter), spaced about 1 inch apart.  Let sit at room temperature for about an hour to develop a hard shell.  

Preheat the oven to 300˚F.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, depending on size.  Transfer the pans to a wire cooling rack and let cool completely before moving the cookies.  

While the cookies are cooling, make the ganache.  Combine the cream, butter and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.  Place the chopped chocolate in a small heatproof bowl.  Bring the cream mixture to a simmer, remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate.  Let stand 2 minutes, then whisk gently in small circular motions until the ganache forms.  Let the mixture cool until it is thick enough to pipe.  (To speed chilling, transfer the bowl to the freezer or refrigerator and let cool, stirring every 10 minutes, until thickened.)

Once the cookies are totally cooled, match them up by size.  Pipe a layer of ganache onto the flat side of one cookie of each pair.  Sandwich together with the remaining cookie, pushing the filling to the edges.  Store in an airtight container.

{For more tutorials, please see the following: Helene of Tartelette visits Pioneer Woman's ranch (see especially the link for Helene's "Demystifying Macarons" article which may only open once on your computer, as is the problem for me), Annie's beautiful step-by-step photos, and peruse the Tartelette blog for many more recipes and pictures.}

Good luck! I hope your family, friends, and coworkers enjoy them as much as mine did!!