September 13, 2015

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Chocolate and Peanut Butter.  What flavor combination could be more All-American than those two?  Little did I know that it's popularity extended beyond the borders of the red, white and blue.   

Case in point: Before heading to a work conference in Basel this past summer I had asked my co-workers if they wanted anything from the US.  How surprised was I when they requested Reese's Peanut Butter Cups?   Really....Reese's?   Ironic since they live in a country that produces some of the best chocolate in the world.    

So I dedicate these Chocolate & Peanut Butter Cupcakes to my friends and colleagues in the CH.  The cupcakes are super easy to make (no mixer required) and the addition of sour cream in the batter makes the crumb really tender.  For an extra treat I put a miniature Reese's peanut butter cup in the center before baking.   As for the frosting, I could have gone the cynical route and made Swiss meringue, but instead I opted for fuss free American style buttercream.   

September 6, 2015

Kouign Amann 2.0

My first attempt at making Kouign Amann was five years ago and unfortunately I didn't have much success.  You can see my first blog post about them here.  At the time I just couldn't get the laminated dough right which resulted in squat and dense pastries.  C'est pas bon

But now I'm very happy to report that after all this time I finally found a recipe that REALLY works!!!  And the hero of this story is none other than Paul Hollywood, celebrity baker from England and a judge on my favorite baking show The Great British Bake Off.  These Breton beauties were the featured technical challenge in the "Pastries" episode of Season 5.

Little did I know that the key to success was to only add sugar to the very last turn of the laminated dough.  My problem in previous attempts was that I was putting sugar in every turn which ended up melting in between the dough/butter layers.  

The pastry rose and puffed up beautifully in the oven and the sugar melted to a lovely caramel.  I admit I baked them a bit too long (notice the burnt looking bits) and they got darker than I would like so next time I'll take them out about 3-5 minutes earlier.   

This recipe may not be for everyone, but anyone who wants to learn more about laminated dough should give it a go.  Find the link to the kouign amann recipe on BBC's website here.

September 1, 2015

German Chocolate Cake

Don't be fooled by its name because German Chocolate Cake has nothing whatsoever to do with Deutschland.   This yummy dessert consisting of layers of moist, chocolate cake filled with coconut-pecan icing is actually American in origin and named after chocolate-maker Sam German.  Apparently he formulated a dark baking chocolate that was used in the original recipe.  See, you learn something new every day! 

I find that most versions of German Chocolate Cake have cloyingly sweet frosting.  Not my cup of tea at all.   When I saw that the Cook's Illustrated recipe called for less sugar I knew I had to make it.    The cake is super moist (with the addition of sour cream) and the coconut-pecan icing provides a delicious, chewy and nutty contrast.  

 What I really like about this cake is that it doesn't require any decorating skills at all to achieve a beautiful finished product.  If you're a novice baker this is a great recipe to try.  No need for a decorating bag or fussy decorating tips.  Simply split the cooled cakes in half and fill with the icing.   It couldn't be easier!  This recipe works great as cupcakes as well if you want a different twist. 

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