Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentines Day Cupcakes

Dark Chocolate Stout Beer Cupcakes, filled with Amaretto Mousse, and topped with Raspberry Buttercream

Just for Valentines Day
 So after last Friday's cupcake fiasco, I wasn't about to allow these little bastards to kick my posterior.  I have to admit I'm still not a fan of the cupcake, but this updated version came close to making me a convert.  They're a dark chocolate and stout beer cake base (just try it, you'll never have chocolate cake without it again!), filled with an addictive amaretto chocolate mousse, and topped with enough sugary frosting to send you into a diabetic coma. 

So moist and delicious!

Eat good food.  Drink good beer.  And above all, stay classy!


 For the cake:
-2 cups granulated sugar
-1 3/4 cup + 4 Tbs. white cake flour
-3/4 cup cocoa
-1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
-1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
-1 1/8 tsp. kosher salt
-2 extra large eggs
-1 cup milk
-1/2 cup canola oil
-1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
-2 tsp. Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey
-1 cup sweet stout beer (I used Guinness Extra Foreign Stout)
-4 oz. dark chocolate chips

For the filling:
-1 box Hershey's chocolate mousse
-1/4 cup amaretto or other almond flavored liqueur
-3/4 cup whole milk

For the frosting:
-8 oz. frozen raspberries, thawed and drained well
-1 cup butter, softened
-2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
-1/4 tsp. kosher salt
-32 oz. package powdered sugar


Start with the filling, it will need to to set-up.  Pour the powdered mousse into the bowl of a stand mixer (a hand mixer may be substituted).  With the mixer on slow, pour the milk and amaretto into the bowl, scrapping down the side as necessary.  Mix for approximately 4 minutes.  Transfer to an airtight bowl, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

While the mousse is resting, prepare the cupcakes. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 standard muffin tins with paper cupcake/ muffin liners.

The next couple of steps will require some delicate timing...

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and cocoa in the bowl of a stand mixer.

Pour the beer into a pan on the stove and bring to a mild simmer (BE VERY CAREFUL, boiling beer has a tendancy to expand rapidly).  

With the mixer on slow, add the oil, milk, vanilla extract, and whiskey to the flour and cocoa mixture.  Blend until smooth.  Add the eggs one at a time, blending after each addition.

Immediately after adding the eggs, add the salt and dark chocolate chips to the simmering beer and bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly.

Carefully pour the beer into the batter stirring constantly (this is where having a stand mixer pays off).  Blend until everything is incorporated.

The batter should look like thick, hot chocolate

Pour the batter into the paper lined muffin tins, filling 3/4 of the way up the sides of the cup.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into one of the interior cupcakes comes out free of batter. 

Remove the pans from the oven and allow them to cool on a baking rack for approximately 10 minutes.  Then gently pry the cakes out of the tins, and return them to the rack to cool until they reach room temperature.

The baked product

While the cakes are cooling, start on the frosting.

Whip the softened butter until light and fluffy.  Add the raspberries, and blend until creamy.  Add the vanilla and salt.  In small portions, begin adding the powdered sugar.  Continue adding and mixing the powdered sugar until it has all been blended into the frosting.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and reserve until ready to use.

Once the cakes have cooled, start the cake-o-suction process.  Take a sharp knife, and cut out a conical hole in the top of the cake.  Save the innards, we'll use them later.

The cakes with their innards removed (note the remnants in the small food processor bowl)

Place the remnants of the cupcakes into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Add approximately 4 Tbs. of granulated sugar to the cake crumbs (an old Julia Child trick for grinding nuts).  Pulse for 5-6 seconds until evenly crumbled.

Transfer the mousse to a pastry bag fitted with a wide tip, and pipe the filling into the cupcake holes. 

Sprinkle the crumbs over the filling, tapping down lightly with the back of a spoon.

Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag fitted with your preferred tip, and pipe onto the top of the cakes. 

Enjoy, and happy Valentines Day!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

When Life Gives You Dry Cupcakes, Make Trifle

This week for the patrons of my beer dinners at the Nook Tavern, I made cupcakes (or at least attempted to).  Now, I hate cupcakes!  Maybe it's because I'm a guy and just don't "get it," but I find these little culinary bastards to be annoyingly fussy and exhaustively pretentious.  There I said it.

So Friday night I was all set for a bake-athon...I had a recipe from Martha Stewart for the cupcakes and a handy raspberry buttercream recipe from Southern Living.  After dirtying every dish in my kitchen, the only fruits of my culinary labors were dry, dense cupcakes and some pepto bismal colored frosting. 

This is what pepto bismal would look like if it were turned into frosting

All I can say is, Martha has failed me for the last time!

Which is when I had a "Chopped" moment and realized I could make trifle! Cake, layered with pudding/ creme, and topped with a healthy dose of whipped cream is always good, and with the help of the liquid portion the cake wouldn't seem so dry.

I did manage to salvage the last dozen cakes by adding a little milk to the batter, but the first 48 weren't so lucky.  

I would never force either of recipes on someone, let alone dedicated fans and readers...but the photos might provide some needed inspiration for Valentines Day next week. 

I think we'll be seeing more of this bowl around the blog

Cupcakes, pre-bake

The cupcakes from hell

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Dark Side of Food and an Unhappy Gallbladder

On OGW, we've covered just about everything from durian fruits to loaves of French bread and beyond!  But we haven't discussed the dark side of the culinary world; and by "dark side," I mean the bad, bothersome, and often unpleasant side effects.

Don't worry I'll get to the point soon enough, but first I need to explore a personal story arch.

I've always loved food... that doesn't mean I appreciated what I was eating, but I did enjoy it.  I enjoyed it so much by the end of college I weighed almost 230 lbs.  Now if I was 6'6" that wouldn't be a problem, but since I top out at 5'7" wearing a thick soled pair of shoes it became a bit of an issue.  I was overweight, had a size 40 waist, and was winded going up a single flight of stairs. 

Me on a trip to Mexico in 2006

Unlike some unfortunate liberal arts majors, I was lucky enough to land a great job complete with an in-house fitness center after college.  I started my transformation slowly; 10 minutes on the treadmill almost killed me the first 2 weeks.  The weight started to come off, and by the end of year 2, I weighed 145 lbs, and had a 29 inch waist.

Me in 2009, post-loss

We've all heard about the dangers of being overweight; diabetes, heart disease, the list goes on and on...  But we don't really hear about the dangers of being healthy.

Now, I am immensely grateful to have lost the weight, but unfortunately my gallbladder doesn't quite agree with this sentiment.

As it turns out our livers aid in the digestion of all manner of things.  They are, in short, incredible organs.  They allow us to process alcohol, synthesize proteins, and digest fatty acids with the production of various compounds.

Enter the dark side... and by dark side I mean bile. 

In short (and I mean "the short, short version"), the bile produced by our livers enters the digestive track and allows us to digest lipids (fats).  Our gallbladders store any excess bile so that it can be "dumped" when needed to aid in the digestion of particullary fatty meals.


After loosing weight, my liver never got the memo to produce less of these compounds.  As a result, the excess bile built up in my gallbladder and began to solidify as "gallstones."  These stones can block the bile duct causing extreme pain and in some extreme cases serious infection.

Now as a devoted foody, I still enjoy fatty meals on occasion.  Which means that gallbladder occasionally attempts to empty itself, causing the stones to dislodge and enter my bile duct.  From the women I have spoken to who have both given birth and experienced gallstones, I have learned that the pain is similar in intensity, though often not as long in duration. OUCH!

My worst attack occurred last October and lasted for over 24 hours, followed by a period of jaundice and some less-than-savory digestive side effects.  In hindsight I probably should have gone to the hospital, but c'est la vie.

So as a result of my love for all things food, the gallbladder must go! 

Eat good food (in moderation). Drink good beer (in moderation).  And above all, stay classy (and remember to exercise)!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

New Food Wednesday: February 8, 2012

So it's been a week since I posted anything (we'll chalk it up to gallbladder issues and a busy work week), and I was out of ideas for this week's edition of New Food Wednesday... When I realized that I hadn't covered this Mexican/ Latin American delicacy.  Look closely, those aren't refried beans on the taco.

Find out what is after the jump!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

New Food Wednesday: February 1, 2012

No, it's not meatloaf... Find out what goes into this "specialty" after the jump.