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Friday, September 23, 2011

Chocolate and Port Cupcakes

 Hints of cherry, deep chocolate, yet subtly sweet.  Ah, and a bit of ROMANCE you say?   Chocolate and wine seem to be the "go-to" romantic dessert of choice for those of us who have enjoyed the fruit of the grapevine for quite some time.  I first stumbled on this particular food pairing in my mid-20s.  A friend and drinking buddy, among other adventures in our early lives, introduced me.  I wasn't so sure.  One taste of a good dark chocolate and a good Cab, and it was a match not to be trumped for some time.

I made these cupcakes after sampling a port at my brother's house a few weeks ago.  He loves port.  He likes sweet wine.  I like it after dinner sometimes.  Mostly, I drink it when I go to his and my SIL's house.  I used it last year for a really great roast pork tenderloin with fig and port sauce.  Not a BIWB thang, so you're on your own for that one.

I used several recipes, and probably didn't follow any one in particular.  I made these buttermilk chocolate with port cupcakes based on the Sweet Chocolate Port Cupcakes from Cupcake Wars.  I did not include the filling.  I made the port reduction from this same recipe.  The frosting is my old stand-by buttercream, and I used port wine and port reduction in the frosting to substitute for the liquid.  The port reduction added a nice and subtle fruity note to this frosting.  B-E-A-U-TI-FUL color.  My favorite sugar pearls added just that little bit of elegance and savoir faire. 

My spin instructor and friend described these as "bliss."  I've added that to our BIWB vocabulary. :)

The stuff on which romantic cupcake dreams are made...
I didn't waste any expensive port here...No need.
Added the cocoa to the port wine.

I used a recipe that called for Dutch-processed cocoa.  This one ingredient has created quite a buzz in the culinary world, not to mention some serious discussions with fellow bakers.  I'm convinced that it was the same kind of cocoa we used  when I was a kid, or maybe even just 10 years ago.  Wasn't Hershey's just plain old, Dutch-processed?  Well, I did have Scharfenberger's but no Dutch-processed, so I followed the suggestion of adding the cocoa to liquid to help intensify the flavor.  I've recently stumbled on the website Joy of Baking and she provides a really nice discussion on Dutch-processed versus natural cocoa. She even provides conversions between these two types of cocoa, as well as the standard conversion of cocoa to melting chocolate.  Again, it's those pesky leveling friends of ours that rear their persnickety heads our way yet again in this conversion process: cream of tartar and baking soda. 

Between you and me: I'm switching back to Dutch-processed for baking
and retaining the natural for frosting.  Just cuz I can.  ;-) 
Mix it up.

You will make a chocolate slurry.
This will go into the batter at the
second mixing stage. 

I used the flour and fat method for this recipe.  I'm beginning to love it because it's really, really easy.  You can control the butter temp much better.  But, you need to be extra careful NOT to over beat the batter.  If you do this, you will create too much gluten which will make your cupcake too dense and chewy.  I'm still working on it.  I have great hopes!
You get a really silky batter like this: 
I fill my cupcakes using an ice cream scoop.  I'm working on the volumes for regular size cupcakes.  I want to make a cupcake that is 4 tbsp in volume.  Most standard ice cream scoops are 3 tbsp.  I'm convinced it's the extra tablespoon that gives the right volume of cupcake.  Next I'm going to find the perfect pan and liners.  I'm on a mission, if you haven't noticed.

Okay, so here is where I really goofed in my "instructive blog" technique: I forgot to show the port reduction step and what the consistency is like.  Just gently boil the port reduction mixer until you get about 1/3 cup, or so, and cool.  I filled my squeeze bottle for ease of application.  You can get these at any grocery store, even Winco has them...They might look like mustard or ketchup bottles, but they work just the same.  That's an 8 oz bottle, so you get the idea.

When your cupcakes are cooled, poke some holes.  I used a large bamboo skewer.  Easy.  Then I slowly, slowly, slowly, slowly (do you get the idea) squeezed the port reduction over the tops and let it absorb before I went back to add more boozy soaking liquid.  Had I to do this over, I would have used A LOT more of this port reduction.  Of the 12 cupcakes I made, I probably only used 2 tbsp.  Not a lot.  The cupcakes could have held more.
Once I achieved the first round of soak, I moved to using a brush.  This really helped control the flow and allowed me to add more boozy goodness. 

Love me this new zoom function on my camera.  It allows me to zoom and crop and save all on the camera.  Technology.  Love It.

Just wish I could see without my glasses.  Most of my shots look blurry.  Most look blurry for you, too.  But, I'm getting better.  Next, I'm working on adjusting the exposures.  I can't always cook in the morning to ensure maximum natural light...Really!

Try these for your next romantic dinner...You just might get lucky.  ;-)

My little romantic darling.  I used my rose tip for practice.
I'm in love with these sugar pearls. 
So pretty.  So elegant.
P.S. I found Dutch-processed cocoa at Winco in the AWESOME bin section.  5 bucks a pound for Guittard?  Are they CRAZY?
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1 comment:

  1. I got mentioned on the blog... woo hoo!! These cupcakes were delicious; I ate the two you gave me in a heartbeat completely forgetting I had intended to share them with my husband :) YUM!!


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