Decadent Chocolate Cupcakes

I was heading to a board meeting yesterday and I wanted to take some cupcakes to help us act in accordance with the fiduciary duties of care, loyalty, and obedience. Because of where I am on my cycle, they had to be not just chocolate but chocolate on chocolate cupcakes.

The result was rich, dark and delicious. Because of the melted butter, water and buttermilk, these are super moist, too. Chop the pecans very finely, so they becomes little nutty bits within the frosting.

Decadent Chocolate Cupcakes

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

2 sticks unsalted butter
5 tablespoons good quality cocoa
1 cup boiling water

1/2 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs,
1 teaspoon vanilla

Place cupcake liners in 2 pans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, place the flour, sugar, salt and soda and stir to combine.

In saucepan, melt the butter. Once melted, stir in the cocoa and then add the boiling water. Pour the butter/cocoa over the flour mixture. Stir gently to combine.

In a separate bowl, beat together the buttermilk, eggs and vanilla. Pour the mixture over the batter. Fill cupcake liners about 2/3rds of the way full. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating pans midway through baking. A toothpick pressed in the center should come out clean.

Cool on wire racks before frosting.

The frosting is sweet without being cloying and is also deeply chocolate.

Chocolate Pecan Frosting

1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter
5 tablespoons good quality cocoa
6 tablespoons buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped

Melt butter in a saucepan. Remove from heat. Add cocoa and stir to combine. Add the buttermilk, vanilla and powdered sugar. Stir together until well combined. Add the pecans and stir together. Once cooled, spread over the cupcakes.

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Cinnamon Chocolate Pepper Cookies

I’m still in a holiday baking mood, so I made these spicy chocolate rounds that are almost like eating a cup of Mexican hot chocolate in cookie form. I dusted some with cinnamon sugar and others with red and green sanding sugar. They’ve got a sneaky little bite to them from the black and cayenne peppers, so make sure you have a tall glass of milk handy when eating.

Instead of vanilla, I added some Rum Chata. The mixture of rum, cream and spices gave the cookies a delicious twist.

Cinnamon Chocolate Pepper Cookies

1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon Rum Chata (or Mexican vanilla)
cinnamon sugar and sanding sugar

Whisk together the flour, cocoa, cinnamon, salt and peppers. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg and mix well. Add the Rum Chata (or vanilla) and then slowly add the dry ingredients. Mix just until combined.

Divide the dough in half and form into six inch logs. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to firm for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a shallow plate, place cinnamon sugar or sanding sugar.

Working with one roll at a time, either cut rounds off the roll of chilled dough or roll out and cut with cookie cutters. Gently toss the cookies in the sugar to evenly coat. Place on a parchment covered baking sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating pan midway through. Edges will look dry when done. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely before storing in an air tight container.

Meringue Bones

I’ve always loved Halloween. Part of the joy of living in cities like San Francisco and New Orleans is they are the perfect places for adults to costume and party and enjoy All Hallows Eve.

One of my favorites is making meringues in the shape of bones. These are pretty easy and very tasty.

Meringue Bones

2 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Beat eggs on medium until frothy. Sprinkle on the cream of tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks form. Increase the speed and add in the sugar. Continue to beat until the egg whites are glossy and stiff peaks form. Add in vanilla and mix until just combined.

Pipe the meringues onto the prepared baking sheet. To form bones, place two dots connected by a long line and two additional dots.

Bake for 2 hours or until you can easily peel the meringues off the parchment paper. Turn off the oven and let cool completely inside for a couple of hours or overnight if your house isn’t too humid.

Store in an airtight container or they will become soggy.

Peanut Butter Cinnamon Sugar Cookies

I was craving cinnamon and, after flipping through my cookie books, I found this one. It combines cinnamon in the dough and it is rolled in cinnamon-sugar but the peanut butter flavor totally raises this up a notch. These are a cinch to make – the hardest part is waiting long enough for the dough to firm up to roll.

Peanut Butter Cinnamon Sugar Cookies

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Optional – 1/2 cup semi-sweet morsels, chopped

Cinnamon sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix flour, the cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Whisk to combine and set aside.

Cream the butter and the sugars in a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed. Add in egg and beat to combine. Add in peanut butter and vanilla. Scrape down the bowl. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until well mixed. If using chocolate chips, add them now. Refrigerate 1 1/2 to 2 hours to firm.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Mix cinnamon sugar by combining 1/4 cup granulated sugar with 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon in small bowl.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in cinnamon sugar mixture to coat. Place about 3 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Gently flatten with fork, pressing a crisscross pattern onto tops of cookies.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets 1 minute. Remove to wire racks; cool completely.

 

Chocolate Popcorn

Sunday is game day and I needed something salty, crunch and chocolatey. What hits the trifecta better than chocolate coated popcorn?

My friends, Charlotte and Thomas, gave me a Swedish popcorn maker from Lekue. It makes perfect popcorn every time, with very little oil and only few unpopped kernels per batch. It is one of my favorite gadgets for the kitchen and I use it all the time.

Chocolate Popcorn

1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup semi-sweet morsels
1 tablespoon butter

Make popcorn. Pick out any unpopped kernels (trust me, don’t skip this step). Salt generously. Melt chocolate with the butter. Stir in a large bowl until well coated. Gobble up a few handfuls while the oven heats to 260 degrees F. Place popcorn on a rimmed baking sheet and cook for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to recrisp the popcorn.

Serve in bowls with plenty of napkins.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake

My girlfriend likes to woo me with cheesecake. After a discussion of the merits of different kinds, we found that Martha Stewart had just the ticket on her website. It was a little fussier than what either Michelle or I usually do, so she altered it a bit. First, by adding more peanut butter. Also, layers seemed like a better choice than swirling in order to make sure you get equal amounts of peanut butter and chocolate in every bite. I know we are not alone in never having good luck with a water bath, so Michelle used her patent pending method of cooking it low and slow.

Very complex and delicious flavor with the bittersweet glaze, peanut buttery and chocolatey layers and the chocolate crust. Just what Aunt Flo wanted!

I know that in some parts of the country it can be hard to find Famous Chocolate Wafers. Here is a recipe from King Arthur Flour for them. Just bake the rolled out dough if you’re making a crust instead of cookies.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake

Chocolate crust:

1 box Famous Chocolate Wafers
5 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar

Filling:

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
Pinch of coarse salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter

Chocolate Glaze:

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon whole milk
2 teaspoons light corn syrup

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter bottom and sides of a springform pan.

In a food processor, crush the cookies. Add sugar and pulse a couple of times. Pour in melted butter and pulse just until combines. Press mixture firmly into bottom of pan, and bake until firm, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely before filling.

Reduce oven temperature to 200 degrees F.

Melt chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Let cool. Beat cream cheese with a mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low, and beat in sugar in a slow, steady stream until combined. Beat in salt and vanilla until thoroughly combined and completely smooth. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until combined after each addition (do not overmix).

Divide cream-cheese filling in half. Stir peanut butter into 1 half; stir melted chocolate into other half. Pour the chocolate layer over the crust and shake the pan lightly to settle it in. Pour in the peanut butter layer and tap the pan lightly on the corner to bring up in bubbles.

Bake for 3 hours in a low oven. Let cool in pan on rack for 30 minutes. Run a knife around the sides to release from the pan. Place in the refrigerator to cool completely before adding topping, at least three hours or overnight.

Unmold cheesecake and place on serving plate.

Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat, and stir in milk and corn syrup.

Pour glaze over top of cake, smoothing with an offset spatula and letting it drip down the sides.

 

Cream Cheese Fudge

I like fudge. I first learned to make it with the recipe on back of the can of Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk (ie Foolproof Fudge) but I didn’t stop there. I make Velveeta Cheese Fudge (ie Trailer Truffles) and Peanut Butter Fudge and, now, I’ve gotten Michelle to make me Cream Cheese Fudge.

Yum!

Nice and chocolatey without being too sweet. The nuts add a bit of texture with their nutty flavor.

Cream Cheese Fudge

1 -8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
3 cups powdered sugar



, sifted
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat cream cheese in large bowl with mixer until creamy. Gradually beat in sugar until blended. Add remaining ingredients; mix well. Spread onto bottom of lightly buttered 8-inch square pan.

Refrigerate several hours or until firm.