Sunday, March 29, 2015

Havana Cupcakes

There are a lot of good recipes out there that are being overlooked by most home bakers for several reasons. A few of the reasons are exotic ingredients and special equipment requirements. However, this particular recipe was most likely overlooked due to the quantity. The original recipe makes 6 cakes, 8 inches in diameter.

Fiddling around with the calculator on conversions can get overwhelming, but I was so intrigued by the flavors I set out to convert this one. I finally worked to scale it down for about 1 1/2 dozen cupcakes.

The cupcake is made up of a chocolate sponge cake that envelops a nutty layer of hazelnuts and almond paste. The meld of texture and flavor is amazing. Fluffy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Chocolate, hazelnuts and almonds are tasty enough in the cake, but the fudge frosting is something to rave about as well. It reminds me of the type of topping you would put on brownies. Just swirl it on with the back of a spoon and it will settle smoothly on top of the cupcake.

Take note that the recipe does not include baking soda or baking powder, so the cupcakes do not rise like the standard. The liners can be filled close to the top without fear of spilling over.

Havana Cupcakes
adapted from Mastering the Art and Craft: Baking and Pastry

Ingredients/Nut Batter
1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter plus 2 tbs
3 eggs
1/2 cup plus 3 tbs finely gnd toasted hazelnuts
5 oz of almond paste
1/2 cup 2 tbs sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs bread flour
Pinch of salt

Ingredients /Chocolate Batter
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup finely gnd toasted hazelnuts
Pinch of salt
8 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Ingredients/ Devils Fudge Icing & Topping
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 stick or 1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup plus 2 tbs corn syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup hot water
1 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp whipped cream stabilizer
2 tbs sugar
18 whole hazelnuts or almonds

Prepare pans by greasing the upper edge of the cavities and lining with cupcake papers. The first batter to make is the nut batter. Begin by pouring the ground hazelnuts into a bowl. Then sift in the flour and whisk together. Set aside.

Fill a the bowl of a stand mixer with the sugar, butter, almond paste, salt and vanilla. Using the paddle attachment, beat the ingredients together on medium speed for about 5 minutes. Be sure to stop occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. The end result will be a fluffy mixture that is light in color.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs together. Beat the eggs into the almond paste batter in 3 separate additions, running the mixer on medium speed for about 30 seconds each interval. Lastly, using a spatula, fold in the flour/hazelnut mixture. Set aside.

For the chocolate batter, whisk the salt and the ground hazelnuts together in a small bowl. Sift in the cocoa powder and cinnamon and whisk again. Set aside.

Pour the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whipping attachment, whip until soft peaks form.  At this point, continue to whip while slowly adding the sugar, until stiff peaks form. Stop the mixer and fold in the dry ingredients.  Lastly, stir in the vanilla extract. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare a piping bag with a large tip and fill with nut mixture.  Quickly scoop out a heaping tablespoon of the chocolate batter and place into cupcake cavity. Repeat process for 18 cupcake cavities. Then pipe a complete circle of nut batter on top of the chocolate batter of the 18.  Lastly, scoop out another heaping tablespoon of batter, placing it on top of the nut batter.  Smooth the top, insuring that the nut batter is completely covered.

Place pans in oven and bake until top is smooth and springs back when lightly pressed, about 25-30 minutes. Be sure to rotate pans halfway through the baking process. Once baked, place pans on a cooling rack for 5 minutes then transfer cupcakes to a rack to finish cooling.

Start making the icing by adding butter, cocoa powder, corn syrup vanilla and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer.  Beat at medium speed for about 5 minutes. Mixture should be very fluffy at this point. Stir in the hot water. Remove mixer bowl from stand and sift in 1/4 cup of confectioners sugar and stir with a wooden spoon. Repeat the process until all the sugar is blended. Adjust consistency to your liking by mixing in more confectioner sugar or hot water. Spoon icing on top of cooled cupcakes and smooth out with a spoon.

For the optional topping, whip heavy cream until thickened. Add stabilizer and sugar, then whip again until piping consistency is reached. Pipe a round shell on top of the center of the cupcake and then lightly press a nut on top of the whipped cream.

Tips and notes:
1. Dutch processed or regular cocoa is your choice. The recipe does not specify but I used Dutch.

2. Whipped egg whites do have a tendency to deflate as they sit, so act quickly.  The other option is to make half a batch and do 9 cupcakes at a time.  The nut batter can sit in the fridge while the first batch bakes.

3. There will be some nut batter left over, but the baked result is chewy enough to make for a good filling in a brownie or cookie as well, so feel free to experiment with what is left.
                               **LAST YEAR: Biscotti Aloha**