I bought the June issue of the Cook's Illustrated cooking magazine because they claimed to have mastered the Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake. I trust them and they've never let me down. The article explained about how a great chocolate cake batter doesn't necessarily lend itself to a great chocolate cupcake just because you pour the batter into a muffin tray instead of a cake pan. What? This was news to me. Apparently, the cake batter, while excellent when served as a slice of cake on a plate with a fork, could make a messy, crumby cupcake. And this is unacceptable. A cupcake must be "transportable", meaning, one must be able to eat a cupcake with their hands and no plate to catch the crumbs in order to be considered the "Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake". They also went on about packing as much chocolate flavor into the batter without the chocolate breaking down the gluten of the flour. Apparently, there is such a thing as too much chocolate. Also news to me. See why I love Cooks Illustrated?! I'd already learned two very important lessons and I hadn't even made the cupcakes yet.
They weren't kidding about elevating the chocolate flavor, these cupcakes pack a lot of punch by using a combination of cocoa, melted bittersweet chocolate and coffee. They're sort of the grown-up version of a chocolate cupcake. It's like the difference between eating a piece of milk chocolate and piece of dark chocolate. These cupcakes fall into the latter category. They were also ridiculously moist and, while tender, they did have a sturdy crumb that didn't fall all over the place.
Wait, I'm not done! They had another trick up their sleeve. The recipe starts off by making a dark chocolate ganache that you chill till slightly firm. Then after your batter has been divided into individual cupcakes, you place a small dollop of the ganache on top of the cupcakes. While baking, the cupcakes slowly absorb said ganache and the result is a truffle-like filling inside. Genius!
As much as I loved these cupcakes, the next time I make them I am going to use milk chocolate for my ganache filling for 2 reasons. One, because I prefer milk chocolate to dark chocolate; and two, because I think the milk chocolate will be more visible. Dark inside dark is hard to see, and when you've gone to this much work, you want everyone to be able to see it. But maybe that's just me. If you love dark chocolate, then don't change a thing. These cupcakes are the ultimate chocolate lover's fantasy.
The cupcakes were cooling off and I was making the icing while talking on the phone to my friend Joanna. It was about 10:30 a.m. Her little guy was demanding ice cream on the other end, while mine were demanding a chocolate cupcake. Joanna and I agreed that while relenting and giving them sweets in the morning was unacceptable, any time after 12:01 p.m. would be perfectly acceptable. I do love having like-minded friends support my parenting philosophies, it's so validating! So shortly after I got off the phone with Jo, I made an announcement to my kids. I told them that if they cleaned up their mess of toys without my help, they could have a chocolate cupcake for lunch, which was, incidentally, being served at 12:01 p.m. Immediately suspicious, they replied, "Wha? Chocolate cupcake for lunch, mom?" from 2 year old. And, "Whatchu mean?" from my almost 5 year old. Well, let me tell you...bribery works. I've never seen them work together so well cleaning up after themselves! It made me think back to the resident child psychologist who works at my daughter's old pre-school. He told me that bribery was not a good tool when trying to get your kids to cooperate, whether it be potty training or getting them to...well...clean up their mess. He said it sets unrealistic expectations for the child and that's not how the real world works. Yada yada yada! Whatev. It works. I'm a fan. I highly recommend it. Once you get over your irrational (albeit good-intentioned) desire to earn your perfect mommy halo, save yourself the frustration and employ this methodology. Just a small pearl of wisdom I thought I'd impart. : )
(BTW: my kids had already eaten pancakes, fruit smoothies, homemade banana bread and cheese - so I think I can polish my tarnished halo and hold my head up.)
Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes with Ganache Filling
(Source: Cook's Illustrated - June 2010)
2 ounces of good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 T. confectioner's sugar
Place chocolate, cream and sugar in microwave safe bowl. Heat on high till mixture is warm to touch (20 to 30 seconds). Whisk till smooth; transfer to fridge and let stand till just chilled, no longer than 30 minutes.
3 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
1/3 c. (1 ounce) cocoa
3/4 c. hot coffee
3/4 c. (4 1/8 ounces) bread flour
3/4 c. (5 1/4 ounces) sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
6 T. vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 t. white vinegar
1 t. vanilla
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 350 degrees. Line standard size muffin tins with liners. Place chocolate and cocoa in medium bowl. Pour hot coffee over mixture and whisk till smooth. Set in fridge to cool completely, about 20 minutes. Whisk flour, sugar, salt and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
Whisk eggs, oil, vinegar and vanilla into cooled chocolate-cocoa mixture until smooth. Add flour mixture and whisk till smooth. Divide batter evenly among 12 muffin cups. Place one slightly rounded teaspoon of ganache filling on top of each cupcake. Bake until just firm to touch, 17 to 19 minutes. Cool cupcakes in muffin pan 10 minutes, then lift each cupcake out and set on wire rack. Cool to room temperature before frosting (about 1 hour).
My filling sunk to the bottom - can you see it? That little chocolate blob? I promise, it's there.
Here's a close-up...