Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bite-Size Desserts: Peanut Butter Mini Cupcakes

What is the ideal pairing?  I'm sure there are plenty of contenders, but I think I'm going to vote for peanut butter and chocolate.  I mean, you can't beat a Reese's peanut butter cup.  Those things are fantastic.  And these were a slow, sweet waltz in my mouth. The cake has a tender crumb, and the frosting has a rich, deep chocolate flavor. I highly recommend you make a batch of your own. I dare you to still have some left two days later.

Peanut Butter Mini Cupcakes
From Bite-Size Desserts by Carole Bloom

¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of kosher or fine-grained sea salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
⅓ cup smooth peanut butter
⅓ cup packed light brown sugar
1 jumbo egg, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup half-and-half
Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache Frosting
¼ cup salted peanuts (optional)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Use two 12-cavity 2-inch round silicone mini muffin pans. Place the mini muffin pans on a baking sheet.

Over a medium-size bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Add the salt and toss together to blend.

Beat the butter in the bowl of an electric stand mixer with the flat beater attachment or in a large bowl using a hand-held mixer on medium speed until it's fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the peanut butter and blend together until smooth. Add the brown sugar and beat until creamy, about 1 minute.

In a small bowl, use a fork to lightly beat the egg and vanilla together. Beat this mixture into the peanut butter mixture. Stop frequently and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. The mixture may look curdled as the egg is added, but as you stop and scrape down the bowl, the mixture will smooth out. Add the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture in 3 stages, alternating with the half-and-half, and blending well after each addition.

Use a 1½-inch round ice cream scoop to divide the batter evenly among the cavities of the mini muffin pans.

Bake the cupcakes for 15 minutes, until light golden and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and cool the mini muffin pans on racks.

Use a small offset spatula, a rubber spatula, or a spoon to spread the top of each cupcake with the ganache frosting. Or fit a 12- or 14-inch pastry bag with a large open star tip and fill it partway with the ganache. Pipe the ganache onto the cupcakes in rosettes, covering the tops. Sprinkle the top of each cupcake with peanuts, if desired.  Serve the cupcakes at room temperature.

Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache Frosting
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (66 to 72% cacao content), finely chopped
½ cup heavy whipping cream

Place the chopped chocolate in a medium-size bowl.  Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour the cream over the chopped chocolate and let it stand for 30 seconds. Use a heat-resistant spatula to stir the mixture together until smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill until thick but not stiff, 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Whip the ganache in the bowl of an electric stand mixer with the flat beater attachment or in a large bowl using a hand-held mixer on medium speed until it holds soft peaks, about 1 minute.

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