I’m going to start off today by saying how cool it was to meet a bunch of fellow food bloggers this past Sunday in London. The Food Bloggers Connect event was held in London from 4-6 June. I was only able to attend on the Sunday, but it was well worth going even for the one day. I was made to feel welcome the minute I walked in the door, and met some fantastic people who share my passion for food. How good is that? It was such an international crowd - at one point I was sitting at a table with another Canadian, a Tuscan, a Singaporean who lives in France, a Czech and an American who live in London, a Finn, and an Irishwoman. There were some excellent speakers and I learned a lot in a short space of time. One of the key messages I took home was to get myself on Twitter. So (shock horror!), I have actually made the big move and got myself a Twitter ID. This is the girl who had never even been to the Twitter site until Monday… I feel 10 years younger! Anyway, my Twitter name is @5amFoodie if you want to follow me, and one day soon I will get the appropriate widget for this site. After the conference I went and met up with the family and visited with our friend Lisa the London Caterer. Hopefully she’ll be starting her own blog soon. It was a great day, and a fitting end to what’s been a very very busy 5 weeks.
So Monday I was just tired. It was my day at home with the girl, who was also tired after what had been a busy week for a busy 3 1/2 year old. We agreed to have a nice chilled out day at home and maybe bake something…
But what to bake? My question was answered when I was rummaging through the freezer (which is seriously in need of defrosting) looking for some bread, and came across some frozen ganache that had been in there for who knows how long. It was hidden in the back of the freezer begging to be used so I took it out to defrost. And luckily when I asked the girl what she wanted to bake she said “cupcakes, chocolate ones”. Perfect. Or so I thought. I did my usual inventory to make sure we had the necessary ingredients: butter – yes, eggs – yes, flour – yes, sugar – yes, chocolate – no. Hmmm, hard to make chocolate cupcakes without some sort of chocolate based ingredient. Ok, cocoa – some, but not very much. I was thinking that maybe it would be enough, so I weighed it. But no, I only had about 2/3 of what was needed. I was feeling exceptionally lazy and just didn’t want to take that arduous 3 minute cycle ride to the shops to get some cocoa so decided to improvise. Gastroanthropologist had just left me a comment about how she likes to put peanut butter into her brownie batter, so I think I must have had peanut butter lurking in the back of my mind. I thought maybe we could do a cupcake with less chocolate but some added peanut butter. But of course we only had barely enough peanut butter at the very bottom of a jar to cover a piece of toast. But we did have peanuts… scrape off some of the salt, put into the food processor and a few minutes later voila! Homemade peanut butter. The girl thought that was exceptionally cool.
I will say at this point that I don’t really like peanut butter on its own. I’m much more of a jam with my toast girl. Or just butter if I’m not in the mood for a sweet topping. I love sourdough toast with just butter. But back to peanut butter – I like it baked into things, but not on its own. Peanut butter cookies are nice, and I vaguely remember a peanut butter bar my mum used to make. And I grew up with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups which still hold a place in my heart. At Halloween the peanut butter cups were always the best kind of chocolate to get. They’re not that easily found here in the UK but I have found some stockists in Oxford and will admit that I occasionally indulge. I do love the peanut butter and chocolate combination… which brings me quite nicely back to my cupcakes!
So the girl and I made the batter and it tasted quite nice. A little bit chocolately and you could definitely taste the peanut butter. The girl had a go at filling the cupcake liners and then once she had eaten enough batter decided that I should finish doing it! So I did, then put them in the oven. 15 minutes later there was a fairly irresistable smell coming from the oven. Once they were cooked and cooled it was time for the ganache.
Chocolate ganache – where to start? There’s something so completely decadent about a chocolate cupcake topped with a piped swirl of chocolate ganache, and something even more so about a mini one. The ganache I found in the freezer was sour cream ganache, from The Cake Bible. The technique for making it is dead easy, but you do need to make sure that the sour cream (or crème fraiche) is at room temperature. Literally all you do is melt chocolate, either in a microwave or in a bowl over some simmering water, and mix it with room temperature crème fraiche (the chocolate will seize if the crème fraiche is too cold). Mix just until it’s a uniform colour then it’s ready to use. This ganache can be refrigerated or frozen, and when you want to use it you just need to bring it up to room temperature again and if it’s still too firm just stick it in the microwave for about 20 seconds or put in a bowl over simmering water. Really, this stuff is so easy to make, so easy to work with, and so so tasty. The crème fraiche tones down the sweetness of the chocolate and just gives the ganache a certain decandent mellowness.
I didn’t quite have ganache enough to cover all the cupcakes, but I think we’ll survive. The finished result actually tasted like a peanut butter cup, but not as sweet. The cupcakes themselves were moist and had nice little chunky peanutty bits in them. The smooth chocolate ganache on top complemented the peanut butter flavour perfectly. Funnily enough each member of the family enjoyed them - we are not a family of picky eaters when it comes to sweet things!
Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cupcakes
Adapted from How To Be A Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson
- 200g plain flour
- 225g caster sugar
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 200g soft unsalted butter
- 30g cocoa powder
- 150 ml sour cream or creme fraiche
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 200g peanut butter (preferably chunky, all natural peanut butter)
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius/375 degrees Farenheit. Prepare your muffin trays by either lining with paper liners or buttering & flouring them.
In a small bowl mix together the sour cream/creme fraiche, eggs, vanilla extract & peanut butter.
In your mixing bowl put the flour, caster sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, cocoa powder, and butter. Add 1/4 of the sour cream mixture and beat on a low speed (and I do mean low) to combine. Once the danger of flour coating your entire kitchen has passed, turn mixer to medium speed and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl, then add 1/3 of the remaining “wet” mixture and beat for about 20 seconds until combined. Repeat twice more with the remaining wet mixture.
Divide the batter evenly into your muffin tray(s). I find this amount of batter makes either 12 quite large cupcakes, or 12 mini + 12 medium cupcakes. The mini cupcakes take 18-20 minutes to cook. Medium take about 25 minutes. Large would take closer to 30.
Ice cupcakes with a chocolate topping of your choice. My favourite ganache recipe is below.
Chocolate Creme Fraiche Ganache
Adapted from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum
- 400 grams crème fraiche (or sour cream) at room temperature
- 340 grams chocolate, chopped (I used Callebaut 53.8% cocoa content chocolate buttons and this gave about the right sweetness – if you use chocolate with a higher cocoa content it may not be sweet enough)
Melt chocolate in a bowl over simmering water (the bowl mustn’t touch the water) or in 20 second bursts in a microwave. Remove from heat just before it’s all melted and stir to melt the remaining chunks. Add the crème fraiche to the chocolate and stir until just combined. Use immediately. Remember to wash your face to remove all traces of the ganache that you had to taste, frequently, for quality control purposes.
Makes enough for about 15 large cupcakes or to cover a 9-inch round cake. Ideal for piping.
Can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks, or frozen for several months. To use, bring to room temperature and if not soft enough then either soften in a bowl set over simmering water, or in the microwave in 20 second bursts. Stir until uniform, then go crazy!