Truffle-Centred Chocolate Cupcakes

Yield: 20 cupcakes
Recipe: 115/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 141

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    For years now, I have used the same recipe from Everyday Annie to make chocolate cupcakes or chocolate cakes, which is often. Those cakes are moist, very chocolaty and always a huge hit. They have never failed me and it is my go-to recipe when I need to make a tasty cake. I have never found a chocolate cake/cupcake recipe better than that one. Until now, perhaps. I had yet to make something stuffed with a truffle so was a bit doubtful about the mechanisms of such a feat, but I was very excited to try this recipe. It is a bit more involved than your normal cupcake recipe, but these are still very manageable and the benefit is tremendous. These cupcakes are scrumptious. Delectable. Heavenly. My friend and boyfriend had some first at a game night fresh out of the oven and frosted, and they were raving about them. They dared say that these were the best cupcakes that I had ever made. I thought, surely not. These guys are exaggerating. I had one and to my surprise and joy, they were not. These cupcakes are moist, chocolaty, with a nice soft chocolate truffle surprise in the middle. The frosting is just perfect. Not too sweet, not too rich, but a joy to make and an even better joy to spread and eat.

    I had some doubts regarding how the cupcakes would bake around and on top of the truffle, but they did so perfectly without any problems. It is however very important to not fill your cupcakes more than halfway. Also, I noticed after baking that my truffles were not in the center of the cupcake, but rather had sunk to the bottom (note: this did not impact the deliciousness factor of the truffle). It is possible that I had made them a bit too big as I only managed to make 18 instead of 20, so perhaps the extra little bit of weight was enough to drag the truffles down. To try to prevent this you should really aim to make 20 evenly-sized truffles and absolutely do not press them into the cupcakes at all when placing them (step 10).  I cannot emphasize this enough. Place the truffle as gently and delicately as possible on the top of the cupcake batter filled halfway. Apart from this, these cupcakes were simply perfect. They were so delicious that I did not feel the need to pimp them out at all, and decorating is actually my favorite part of baking! Do yourselves and your family, friends or colleagues a favour and make these cupcakes. Soon!

Ingredients for truffles:

Ingredients for cupcakes:

  • 2 oz (60 g) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ⅔ cup + ⅔ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup + ½ cup milk
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Ingredients for frosting:

  • 3 oz (90 g) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups icing sugar, sifted, plus extra to adjust consistency if necessary

Directions:

  1. To prepare the truffles, heat the cream to a simmer and pour it over the chopped chocolate. Let it sit for a minute, then gently whisk to blend. Chill this mixture until set, about 2 hours.
  2. Spoon this ganache into 20 truffles, shaping them between your hands into 3/4-inch (2 cm) balls. Chill the truffles until ready to use.
  3. Preheat the over to 375°F and line 20 muffin cups with paper liners.
  4. For the cupcakes, melt the chocolate and butter together in a saucepot over low heat, making sure to stir once in a while.
  5. Stir in ⅔ cup of the brown sugar and ⅓ cup of the milk. Stir over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.
    • Note: Don’t worry if the mixture does not look smooth. It will even out later.
  6. Pour this mixture into a bowl and whisk in the remaining ⅔ cup of brown sugar. Cool to room temperature.
  7. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, blending after each addition. Whisk in the vanilla extract.
  8. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add this to the chocolate mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the remaining ½ cup of milk, starting and ending with the flour. Whisk well after each addition.
  9. Pour the batter, which will be quite fluid, into the prepared muffin cups, filling to halfway.
  10. Gently place a truffle in the centre of each cupcake. Do not press it in, as it will settle and become completely enveloped but the batter as it bakes. Bake the cupcakes for about 20 minutes, until the cupcake springs back when gently pressed. Cool the cupcakes completely before frosting.
  11. For the frosting, stir the chocolate and butter in a saucepot over low heat until melted. Transfer this to a bowl and whisk in the sour cream and vanilla extract.
  12. Beat in the icing sugar until the mixture is smooth and spreadable, adding a touch more icing sugar if needed. Spread or pipe the frosting onto each cupcake.

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Notes from Anna:

  • “For a cupcake to be a cupcake, it really needs frosting” – Anna Olson. I couldn’t agree more with this statement. For me, frosting is what makes the difference between a cupcake and a muffin.
  • The cupcakes should be stored at room temperature in an airtight container and will keep for up to 2 days. Do not refrigerate. 
  • If consumed within 24 hours of baking, the truffle filling will be soft and almost fluid. After a day, the truffle sets further, but it is still satisfyingly delicate.

Valerie

Portuguese Custard Tarts

Yield: 12 tarts
Recipe: 114/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 102

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    Not one to waste egg yolks that I had leftover from making a Swiss buttercream, I decided to finally try making this lovely recipe for Portuguese custard tarts, also called natas here in Quebec. This recipe was actually a little bit more challenging to make. I found it quite interesting to add softened butter to the top of a rolled out pie dough to ultimately convert it to a flaky dough once baked. Pretty ingenious! This recipe is a bit more time consuming than your average cookies or tart, but I much enjoyed the process, especially rolling out the 12 littles pieces of dough individually and filling them with custard. A word to the wise, because of all the added butter, when rolling out the individual dough pieces they will become soft very quickly, so make sure that you flour the surface that you are rolling on and the you don’t overwork the dough!

    The taste of the tarts is very good and the custard itself is tasty and just right, not too eggy or creamy. However, it is evident that I did not roll out each of the 12 portions thin enough (I never know what 1/4 inch looks like and I am too lazy to take out a ruler and measure), because when baking them the dough almost doubled in size and is a bit too thick. As a result, my tarts don’t have the pretty overhangs to be expected based on the recipe and the dough-to-custard ratio is a bit too high. Nonetheless, they taste very good. If I do these again I would just make sure to roll them out thin enough so that I don’t have very thick tarts.

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe Double-Crust Pie Dough, wrapped in one piece and chilled
  • 5 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup half-and-half cream
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons +1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Pull the dough from the fridge 30 minutes before rolling. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the entire piece of pie dough into a rectangular shape that is about 20 inches by 12 inches long (50 x 30 cm), and 1/4 inch thick.
  2. Evenly spread 5 tablespoons of the softened room temperature butter over the surface of the dough, and roll up the pastry from the short end. Wrap and chill the dough while preparing the filling.
  3. Heat the cream and milk in a pot over medium heat to just below a simmer.
  4. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch and vanilla extract.
  5. While whisking the egg mixture, slowly pour in the hot cream, then pour everything back in the pot. Whisk the custard constantly over medium heat until it thickens and just begins to bubble, about 4 minutes.
  6. Strain the custard into a bowl and stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Cool the custard on the counter at room temperature, then chill for 1½ hours.
  7. Preheat the oven to 375°F and lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
  8. Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut 12 discs from the log. Roll out each portion on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness. Trim with a 5-inch round cutter and press each portion into the muffin tin so that the edges of each tart shell are about 1/2 inch above the edge of the muffin cup.
  9. Spoon the chilled custard into each pastry.
  10. Bake the tarts for 35 to 45 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the custard has browned on top somewhat. Cool the tarts in the tin before removing to serve at room temperature or chilled.

Valerie

Delectable Fudge Brownies

Yield: one 9×13 inch pan, about 24 brownies
Recipe: 113/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 53

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    There is one recipe in the book that I looked at and perused many times over the past two years. However, I could never bring myself to do it. Even though the title of the recipe sounds delicious, as soon as I came across one ingredient in the recipe, I couldn’t do it. That ingredient is… mayonnaise. I strongly dislike mayo, except in tuna sandwiches and crab salad, where it belongs, and could not fathom doing a dessert with mayonnaise! It was against my core beliefs. Mayo, in a brownie? Why? Thankfully, one weekend I decided to be brave and thought that was enough of being so judgemental about mayo and I tried this recipe. Now I regret postponing it for two years! These brownies are fantastic. I don’t often eat brownies, but I am quite certain that I have never had such scrumptious, fudgy, chocolatey, dense-but-not-too-dense, rich brownies.

    This recipe makes a lot of brownies, and that is a good thing because you will need it! I made this for a game night with friends and they were very much enjoyed and devoured. These would also be excellent with some nuts in them, such as walnuts or even pecans. What I particularly like about this recipe is that it is pretty much a one-pot recipe and does not generate many dirty dishes. Perfect! If you do or do not like mayo, does not matter. You must make these brownies – tonight. You will thank me, and Anna Olson, tomorrow.

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz (125 g) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 2/3 cup boiling water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line a 9×13 inch baking pan with parchment paper so that the paper hangs over the sides slightly.
  2. Place the chopped chocolate into a large bowl and pour the boiling water overtop. Let sit for one minute, then whisk to melt the chocolate.
  3. Whisk in the sugar, then add the mayonnaise and eggs, one at a time. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  4. With a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in the flour, cocoa and salt until evenly blended.
  5. Stir in the chocolate chips and mix well.
  6. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the brownies comes out clean. Cool to room temperature.

Valerie

Mocha Latte Mousse Tart

Yield: one 9-inch tart
Recipe: 112/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 119

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   So many months have gone by without me baking from the cookbook, or almost nothing at all for that matter. My boyfriend was on a no-sugar diet (self-imposed!) and thus I had much left motivation to bake something just for myself. However, I recently rewatched Julie & Julia and felt inspired to go Back to Baking (hehe…), which was how this blog started in the first place. As my boyfriend is now eating sugar again, thank the dessert gods, I asked him what he would like me to bake for him and he was keen on trying the mocha latte mousse tart. I do not like coffee at all, but I did it anyways because love.

    This tart is very pretty-looking and quite fun to make. I enjoyed making the different components of the tart and the mousse was particularly enjoyable to whip up. The different textures (crunchy shell, soft ganache and airy mousse) also make it a pleasure to eat. I chose to not add cinnamon because I thought that it wasn’t necessary and honestly at the end I forgot about it because we just wanted to try a piece. A point to note is that I found that the ganache layer was a bit thin relative to the crust and the mousse. You could probably multiply the ingredients for the ganache layer by 1.5x or even double it if you would like a thicker ganache layer. Perhaps I am biased due to my preference of chocolate over coffee! Even though I don’t like coffee, I still liked this tart. I wouldn’t have too many pieces of it because the flavour is quite pronounced, but I enjoyed it anyways. My coffee-loving partner simply adored it and did a lot of damage to the tart in a matter of days. A must-try if you know anyone that enjoys coffee and/or dessert!

Ingredients:

Ingredients for ganache layer:

Ingredients for latte mousse:

  • 2 tablespoons hot, strong coffee
  • 1 ½ tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 2 teaspoons gelatin powder
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 tin sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream
  • Ground cinnamon, for garnish (optional)

Directions:

  1. For the ganache layer, place the chocolate in a bowl. Heat the cream in a small pot to just below a simmer, then pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for a minute, then gently stir the mixture until the chocolate has melted.
  2. Pour the ganache into the cooled crust and spread it evenly across the bottom. Chill while preparing the latte mousse.
  3. For the latte mousse, stir the hot coffee with the instant coffee in a large bowl until it is melted.
  4. In a small bowl, stir the gelatin powder and cold water and let sit for 1 minute.
  5. Add the gelatin mixture to the hot coffee and stir until dissolved. If it does not dissolve completely, re-heat the coffee over low heat.
  6. Stir in the condensed milk and vanilla extract, and cool to room temperature.
  7. Using a hand or stand mixer, whip the cream to a soft peak and fold this into the cooled coffee mixture.
    •  Note: The mousse will be very fluid. This is normal.
  8. Pour the mixture into the prepared crust and chill in the pan for at least 3 hours. Sprinkle the top of the tart with cinnamon, if desired, before removing the outer ring of the pan and serving. Enjoy!

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Valerie

Vanilla Crème Brûlée Tart

Yield: one 9-inch tart
Recipe: 111/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 109

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    The other day I had a lot of cream in my fridge and was looking for a recipe that would allow me to use it up. I found this recipe and thought that it sounded delicious – crème brûlée in the form of a tart, so more portions?! I’m in! I was not disappointed with this recipe. The vanilla flavour is very present but does not overwhelm the caramel crème brûlée flavour, rather, they are in perfect harmony. The texture of the tart itself is very pleasant and soft, and with the added crunch of the crème brûlée it is very pleasant. We found that this tart makes for a perfect late night snack! Definitely recommend.

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe Sable Tart Shell, baked and cooled
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 egg
  • ⅓ cup + ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups whipping cream

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Place the tray containing the baked and cooled tart shell on  a baking tray lined with parchment or foil.
  2. Whisk the egg yolks, whole egg and ⅓ cup sugar together.
  3. Scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean into the egg mixture and whisk them in. If using vanilla extract, whisk it in the egg mixture.
  4. Pour in the whipping cream while whisking the eggs. Pour this carefully into the pastry shell and use a paper towel to dab away any air bubbles that are on the surface of the custard.
  5. Carefully carry the baking tray to the oven and place it on the centre shelf. Place a dish filled with 1 ½ cups of boiling water near the tart pan. It can be placed below, above or besides the tart pan.
  6. Bake the tart for 40 minutes, until the tart is set but about 3 inches in the centre still have a little jiggle. Cool the tart to room temperature before chilling it in the pan for at least 2 hours.
  7. When you are ready to serve that tart, sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup of sugar evenly over the top of the tart. Use a butane kitchen torch to carefully melt and then caramelize this sugar. Once it cools for 1 minute, it will be crunchy.

 

Valerie

Glazed Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake

Yield: one 6-cup Bundt cake
Recipe: 110/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 155

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    I have not been baking for a while and this weekend I really felt like making a cake, so I tried this recipe for a lemon and poppy seed cake. I love lemon-flavoured desserts  and was not disappointed. This recipe is simple to make but the flavours are perfect: delicate but unmistakable. The cake is tasty yet light, and I noticed that people had no guilt when taking two or three pieces (as they shouldn’t!). If you like lemon desserts, this recipe is a must try!

Ingredients for cake:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ tablespoons poppy seeds

Ingredients for glaze:

  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 ½ cup icing sugar, sifted

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 275°F. Grease and flour a 6-cup Bundt cake pan.
  2. Using a hand or stand mixer, beat together the butter, sugar and zest until fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the butter mixture in two additions, mixing on low speed.
  5. Stir in the poppy seeds and mix until homogenous. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
  6. Bake the cake for 20 minutes, then increase the temperature of the oven to 325°F and bake for another 50-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool for 30 minutes in the pan, then turn out the cake to cool completely.
  7. For the glaze, whisk together the lemon juice and icing sugar until smooth and pour over the cake. Let the glaze set and enjoy!

Valerie

Festive Fruitcake

Yield: one 9×5 inch fruitcake
Recipe: 109/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 270

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      For Christmas I made this recipe for my dad who is a huge fan of fruitcake. I was long overdue to post this recipe, but unfortunately time has gotten away from me these past few months. Better late than never! We only ever get him the commercial one with the bright green and red cherries, so I thought that I would adapt this recipe so that he would get those bright pops of colour and taste that he is used to. So I made half the loaf with the exact recipe cited below from the cookbook, and for the other half I replaced the dried cherries with the same amount of green and red cherries, and then baked the whole thing as one loaf.

    The loaf did not quite turn out as planned. Due to the fact that the green and red cherries are not dried but rather hydrated, the mixture was too wet and the cake took a long time to bake. He tasted both halves of the fruitcake and told me that he actually loved the original recipe (left in the picture), but didn’t like my modified version (right in the picture) because it ended up being very tough and dry. The lesson here is to follow the original recipe if you have never made it before, and then try and make modifications if necessary.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cup water
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2 cups Thompson raisins
  • 1 ½ cups Candied Citrus Peel
  • ½ cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
  2. Bring the water and orange juice up to a boil. Pour over the raisins, citrus peel, and dried cherries, and stir. Cool the mixture to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir the sugar and oil into the fruit, then sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt overtop and stir in.
  4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread to level. Bake the fruitcake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake for 20 minutes in the pan, then turn it out onto a rack to cool completely.

Valerie