The Perfect Dark Chocolate Sugar Cookie

Perfect Dark Chocolate Sugar Cookie via Sweetapolita

Happy November to you!

That’s it. I’ve officially got the November-but-soon-to-be-December-cookie-making itch. Don’t you? My favourite cookies to make, bake and create with are sugar cookies. Variation is great too, but in the end I just love a perfect little sugar cookie. That’s not to say I love every sugar cookie, but the right sugar cookie has my heart. It has to buttery, slightly crispy, full of either pure vanilla or deep dark chocolate flavour, and absolutely must keeps its shape when baked.

Perfect Dark Chocolate Sugar Cookie via Sweetapolita

If you’ve read my previous post about The Perfect Sugar Cookie (and Cookie Pop), you know that I have a best-loved vanilla sugar cookie recipe (and technique for rolling and baking to ensure they keep their shape). So when I make the chocolate version, I use almost the same recipe, but I add some extra sugar (brown), premium dark cocoa powder, and an extra egg to make up for it. (I omit the lemon extract). And just like that they are the deepest of chocolate with the same delightful buttery, slightly-crispiness as the vanilla version. Doesn’t the cookie dough look so dark and decadent?

As for decorating these, anything goes of course. I love the visual of a pastel icing or fondant on a deep, dark cookie and, just as the vanilla version, they are perfect for cookie pops too. (You can learn about how to do that in the same post). Although the recipe helps keeps them from expanding, it’s the process that is key, in my opinion. It’s all about the chilling the dough, rolling it and chilling again before cutting shapes, then chilling (almost freezing) the shapes before baking. This will add to the baking time compared to other sugar cookie recipes, but it makes all the difference. Just make sure to bake the cookies long enough (even if it feels as though they’re taking forever), so that they are crispy on the edges, but not burnt. Burnt chocolate cookies can make you shiver–and not in a good way.

So albeit a simple and no-bells-and-whistles recipe, it’s only the beginning of countless (fabulous) chocolaty cookie designs. ♥

Perfect Dark Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Yield: Apprx 30 medium cookies, depending on shapes/size

Buttery, crisp and super-chocolaty, these sugar cookies are ideal for decorating, snacking, tea-time or gifting. If the steps are followed, they will keep their shapes well and won't expand while baking.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups (750 g) all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1-1/4 cups (137 g) dark cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon (8 g) salt
  • 2 cups (454 g)(4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (228 g) light brown sugar
  • 3 eggs, cold
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. In large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder and salt. Set aside.
  2. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until fluffy and pale, about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs until just combined.
  3. Add flour mixture and mix on low speed until thoroughly combined. Add vanilla and blend.
  4. Remove 1/2 of dough from bowl, make a ball, and place on a large piece of plastic wrap on counter.Wrap the sides of wrap over the ball, then press down with the palm of your hand and make a disc about 2" thick. Finish wrapping the disc with the plastic wrap. Repeat with 2nd half of dough. Chill both discs of dough for about 45 minutes.
  5. Remove one disc and remove plastic wrap. Place on top of a large piece of parchment paper (I use a silicone rolling mat underneath to ensure it doesn't slip while rolling, but you can even dampen counter so the parchment sticks a bit.), then place two 1/4" wooden dowels on either side of your dough, then another sheet of parchment paper.
  6. Roll dough (this will require a bit of elbow grease for the first few minutes until it softens up a bit) so it's flush with dowels--they will ensure that your dough is even thickness.
  7. Preheat your oven to 325° F. Slide your parchment paper and dough onto a board, then place in refrigerator for about 15 minutes.
  8. Remove from fridge, and cut your shapes using the cutters of your choice, placing them on a baker's half sheet lined with a silicone baking mat (or parchment), with 2" clearance around each one and the edge of sheet. Place sheet with cookies into freezer for 15 minutes before baking. Bake until cookie edges are just crisp, about 16 minutes.
  9. Cool sheets on wire racks for 10 minutes, then gently remove cookies and place on wire racks to finish cooling.

Notes

May be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. They also freeze well in an airtight container.

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Sweetapolita’s Notes:
Good luck & enjoy!

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Triple-Chocolate Sprinkle Birthday Cookies

Triple Chocolate Sprinkle Cookies via Sweetapolita

Happy Friday!

So since my last post, our littlest cakelet, Neve Winter (aka Lovie) turned 3. How is this possible, you ask? And that just yesterday she was a baby, you say, celebrating her very first birthday? And that I just posted this wee cake for her 2nd birthday? I know–it’s kooky the way time flies. Well, it’s true and what a curious, hilarious and lovie-licious little cakelet she has become. You might have noticed that she’s all me (sorry, Grant!) and even though I’m only 25% Irish, I can’t help but sense she’s a true Irish cakelet–everything from the hair to her humour, she’s got so much of my mom’s side of the family in her. Here are a few images from the past 3 years that I feel really capture her:

Sweetapolita

Sweetapolita

Ruffles & Roses Tea Party via Sweetapolita

Sweetapolita

Sweet, sensitive, mysterious, mischievous, happy and humourous — that’s our Neve. ♥

When it was time to decide what birthday treats to make for her, of course my first instinct was cake (which I did do a few days after because, let’s be honest, birthday cake isn’t optional), but the truth is I am literally always making cake with the girls, and so albeit backwards, I felt that for her actual birthday, perhaps a real treat would be something we rarely make: decadent cookies.

Triple Chocolate Sprinkle Cookies via Sweetapolita

Now the thing about Neve’s birthday is that it happened to be the same week as Reese’s first week in Senior Kindergarten and first day of ballet class, so there was a lot of excitement twirling, whirling and swirling around the house. I wanted to make a special treat that would make both of them happy, and Reese suggested “super chocolaty cookies with chocolate chips,” and Neve decided they should be “really sprinkly.”

Done, and done.

Triple Chocolate Sprinkle Cookies via Sweetapolita

So we made super fudgy chocolate cookies using Callebaut melted bittersweet chocolate callets, Cacao Barry Extra Dark cocoa powder and more bittersweet chocolate callets, butter, brown sugar, pure vanilla and more, and then we made a quick and easy dark chocolate glaze using more butter and chocolate. Finally, we covered them in a sprinkle medley and edible gold stars. Everybody wins!

Neve had a few mini birthday celebrations filled with family, chocolate, sprinkles, cookies . . .

Birthday morning fairy bread  . . .

And one seriously chocolate cake a few days later while she and her Grandpa celebrated their birthdays together (recipe to follow!).

These cookies are certainly decadent with their rich, fudgy, chocolaty, gooey, crunchy, sprinkly-ness, but I won’t lie–I love how quick and easy they are to make. ♥

Happy Birthday to our little cakelet, and Happy Weekend to you!

Here’s the recipe:

Triple-Chocolate Sprinkle Birthday Cookies

Yield: 12 medium cookies

Ingredients

    For the cookies:
  • 1-1/2 cups (280 grams) quality bittersweet (extra dark) chocolate, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons (45 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (215 grams) light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups (200 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons (15 grams) Dutch-processed dark cocoa powder (I use Cacao Barry Extra Brute)
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 grams) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) sea salt
  • For the glaze:
  • 3/4 cup (140 grams) quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) light corn syrup
  • For decorating:
  • Sprinkles of choice

Instructions

    Make the cookies:
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or a Silpat baking mat.
  2. Place 1 cup of the chocolate and the butter in a medium heatproof bowl over a saucepan of an inch of simmering (not boiling) water, stirring occasionally until melted and smooth. Meanwhile, sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or handheld mixer), beat the sugar, eggs and vanilla on medium speed, until well-combined. Add the chocolate mixture and beat until combined. Reduce mixer speed to low, and gradually add the dry mixture until everything is incorporated, occasionally scraping sides of bowl with a rubber spatula. Stir in remaining chocolate pieces/chips.
  4. Using two spoons or cookie scoop, drop 12 equal amounts onto baking sheet. Be sure to space them a few inches apart to allow for spreading in the oven. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until tops have a cracked appearance. (Be sure to not over-bake, or cookies will be dry and not fudgy.) Allow to cool on baking sheet on wire rack for 15 minutes, and then gently transfer cookies to rack to cool completely.
  5. Make the glaze:
  6. Place chocolate, butter and corn syrup in a medium heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of an inch of simmering (not boiling) water until melted and smooth, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
  7. Decorate the cookies:
  8. Line a baking sheet or tray with wax paper (or parchment or baking mat) and fill a medium plate or bowl with sprinkles of choice.
  9. Dip each cooled cookie into the glaze so that half of the cookie is glazed and then holding the cookie over sprinkle bowl drop a handful of sprinkles over glaze and shake off excess. Place each one on prepared sheet until you have decorated all of them, and then place sheet/tray in the freezer or refrigerator for 10-15 minutes to set.

Notes

[cookie dough adapted from Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook]

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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • Since the chocolate is the star of this show, I recommend using the best quality bittersweet chocolate possible. I used Callebaut Dark Callets 70.4 % , because I love the flavour, and the callets (chips) are so easy to melt and measure. If bittersweet is too dark for your taste, I recommend using it for the cookies, but using semisweet for the glaze.
  • For measuring cookie dough and placing on the baking sheet, I always use this 50mm Cookie Scoop–perfectly round and even cookies every time, which I love. I also swear by the Silpat Non-Stick Baking Mat, but just note that they are a tiny bit too big for some cookie sheets. You want to make sure you have what they call a Bakers Half Sheet. I use these for everything!
  • For the sprinkles on my cookies, I used Rainbow Jimmies + Chocolate Vermicelli  mixed together prior to coating the cookies and then sprinkled edible Gold Stars on afterwards. This is also the method I used for the birthday fairy bread–sprinkled it right on top of buttered toast. ♥

Good luck & enjoy!



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Layered Chocolate & Lavender-Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

Chocolate Lavender Panna Cotta via Sweetapolita

I’m so truly excited for my talented (and crazy beautiful) friend Camille, from the entertaining site Camille Styles–just a few weeks ago she became a first-time mom to a gorgeous little baby girl named Phoebe. I can still remember those early days with my baby girls, and what a whirlwind it was–exhilarating, exhausting and emotional (the entire gamut). And yet, as unfamiliar as it all was (particularly with Reese, my first), it seemed strangely comfortable. I’m genuinely thrilled for Camille and her husband and their life ahead with Phoebe–there’s simply nothing like life with little girls. While Camille and her new little family spend these first few weeks together, I’m honoured to be one of the food bloggers contributing to her beautiful website with this Layered Chocolate & Lavender-Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta.

Since long before the time my love for sugar became my career, it seems I have had somewhat of a lavender obsession. I can recall becoming instantly smitten the first time I tasted a lavender & vanilla sugar cookie many years ago at a gourmet food show–with its subtle violet flecks, intoxicating fragrance and delicate-and-slightly-unexpected flavour this single cookie may be responsible for my love for infusing lavender into desserts. What surprised me most was how the lavender didn’t taste floral, but rather heightened the sweet vanilla tones of the cookie and married the sugar, butter and vanilla in magical way.

image source

Today one of the things I love most about incorporating culinary lavender in desserts is the curiousity it elicits from guests who may or may not be certain they would enjoy such a thing, and the element of surprise when they realize how much they do. Lavender pairs well with many sweet flavours, most notably lemon, chocolate, vanilla, honey and pear, as well as an entire host of savoury flavours. The possibilities are virtually endless, but the key to pleasant-not-perfumey lavender desserts is go easy! Use it sparingly, especially if you are adding it directly into the recipe (as opposed to straining the buds after flavouring).

Lavender Sugar via Sweetapolita

One of my favourite ways to bring its unique flavour into the mix without over-powering dessert, is by keeping a stash of lavender sugar handy. Simply add a few spoonfuls of dried culinary lavender to a sugar canister or jar filled with sugar, stir it up and keep it airtight when you’re not using it. The longer is sits, the more powerful the flavour, but it’s a great way to infuse in recipes by simply using the lavender sugar (or part) in place of regular sugar. Voila! You can even use it to sweeten lemonade, tea, simply sprinkle upon baked goods . . .

Chocolate Lavender Panna Cotta via Sweetapolita

Or, of course, you can use it to create Layered Chocolate & Lavender-Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta (with a dollop of Lavender Whipped Cream!) — my current favourite. Panna Cotta, an Italian pudding made mostly from simmering cream, sugar and gelatin, is truly unique in that it is one of the simplest desserts to make, yet extremely versatile and enthusiastically celebrated by those who taste it. Because it seems many people don’t think to make it at home, it’s often a special treat to dinner party guests. With its luxe texture and decadent taste, I find it to be reminiscent of lavish restaurant desserts, particularly when you add sophisticated elements, such as dark chocolate, vanilla-bean and lavender sugar.

I went ahead and made mini lavender & dark chocolate bars using this Chocolate Bar Mold I was dying to use, but even a small piece of quality dark chocolate on top would be a fabulous touch.

The Lavender Whipped Cream adds a dreamy lavender touch to the dessert and officially makes this a very indulgent treat.

And as much as I love adding fancy components to dessert, the truth is sometimes I simply can’t spend the time needed for complex recipes. As a mom of two little girls, my reality is that I can’t always predict how much kitchen-time I will get, and there’s nothing more rewarding than a show-stopping dessert that truly doesn’t take a lot of fuss. One of the ways I manage to make as many treats as I do with so little time, is by choosing recipes that have components that can be made ahead of time — so when my little one naps or at bedtime. This dessert requires less than 45 minutes active-time and can be made up to 2 days before serving, which makes it an ideal dinner party choice as well as a perfect mama-hostess choice. ♥

Layered Chocolate & Lavender-Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

Ingredients

    For the Lavender-Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta:
  • 6 tablespoons (90 ml) cold water
  • 4-1/2 teaspoons (22 ml) unflavoured gelatin (such as Knox brand)
  • 2 cups (500 ml) whipping cream (35% fat), or heavy cream
  • 2 cups (500 ml) half-and-half (10.5-18% fat)
  • 1 cup (200 grams) sugar (lavender sugar, if possible)
  • 2 tablespoons dried culinary lavender
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, seeded and scraped
  • For the Chocolate Panna Cotta:
  • 1-3/4 cups (437 ml) whipping cream (35% fat), or heavy cream
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons (6. 25 ml) unflavoured gelatin (such as Knox brand)
  • 2 tablespoons (24 grams) sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 ounces (60 grams) quality dark chocolate (at least 50% cacao), finely chopped
  • For the Lavender Whipped Cream:
  • 3/4 cup (187 ml) whipping cream (35% fat), cold
  • 1 tablespoon dried Culinary Lavender
  • 1 tablespoon (12 grams) sugar (or lavender sugar, if possible)
  • A drop or two of violet gel colour (optional)
  • For decorating:
  • Dark chocolate piece (or Dark Chocolate & Lavender, if possible)

Instructions

    For the Lavender-Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta layer:
  1. Pour the cold water into a small bowl and sprinkle with the gelatin.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat the whipping cream, half-and-half, sugar, dried lavender and salt over medium heat until the sugar has completely dissolved and mixture just comes to a boil, about 5 minutes.
  3. Remove saucepan from the heat and pour mixture through a fine strainer into a 4-cup measuring cup with spout. Stir in vanilla bean seeds, followed by the gelatin mixture, and stir until the gelatin has completely dissolved.
  4. Divide among 8 individual serving glasses, custard cups or ramekins and bring to room temperature.Place on a flat surface in refrigerator for at least 5 hours, or overnight.
  5. For the Chocolate Panna Cotta:
  6. Once your Lavender-Vanilla Panna Cotta layer has set, make the Chocolate layer:
  7. Pour 1/4 cup (60 ml) of the whipping cream into a small heatproof bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Let sit for 10 minutes. Place the bowl into a larger bowl with hot water and stir mixture until gelatin has completely dissolved.
  8. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the remaining cream, sugar and salt just to a boil and remove promptly from the heat. Whisk in the chocolate until completely incorporated and smooth.
  9. Add the gelatin mixture and stir until well combined. Pour mixture through a fine strainer into a 4-cup measuring cup with spout and let sit until it reaches room temperature, stirring occasionally.
  10. Divide among the well-chilled/set Lavender-Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta layered cups, cover loosely and let chill in refrigerator for another 5 hours or overnight.
  11. For the Lavender Whipped Cream
  12. Prepare the whipped cream up to 2 hours before serving:
  13. Add dried lavender to whipped cream, cover and let sit for minimum 1 hour (the longer it sits, the stronger the flavour).
  14. Chill a stainless steel mixing bowl and metal whisk or hand mixer beaters for 15 minutes in freezer.
  15. Strain the cream into the mixing bowl, add the sugar (I used lavender sugar) and gel colour (if using), and beat just until it stiffens to peaks and keeps shape. Take care to not overbeat, or it will become grainy.
  16. Top each dessert with a dollop of Lavender Whipped Cream and a piece of dark chocolate, or dark chocolate with lavender.

Notes

Chilled Panna Cotta will keep well for 2 days.

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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • This recipe may appear lengthy or complicated, but it is one of the least fussy or time-consuming desserts you can make (I promise).
  • To make lavender sugar, simply add a few tablespoons of dried culinary lavender to your granulated sugar and stir it up. Keep in an airtight container and use in recipes in place of regular sugar, sprinkled on baked goods, or in tea. The longer it sits, the more intense the fragrance/flavour. I am hooked on this stuff! It also looks especially pretty sitting on the countertop in a clear glass jar. To make lavender-vanilla sugar (even more delightful), simply include  the scraped seeds of a vanilla bean and the pod in your sugar, mix well, and bury the vanilla pod.
  • Both the Lavender-Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta and Chocolate Panna Cotta variations are rich, creamy and incredibly satisfying desserts, so if short on time, even a single layer version would be a crowd pleaser.
  • You can make this dessert up to 2 days ahead–simply keep refrigerated and whip up the cream topping a few hours ahead of serving.

Good luck & enjoy!



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Highway to Heaven Cupcakes {and Sugar Cube Winner!}

Happy Monday!

Here is the winner of the The Sugar Cube: 50 Deliciously Twisted Treats from the Sweetest Little Food Cart on the Planet book giveaway:

#8 NanaBread (Jeanne): “dark chocolate & salted caramel is at the top of my list, along with coconut & chocolate, strawberry & cream cheese, and anything with cherries”

Congratulations! (I will be also notifying you by email.)

And thank you to everyone for sharing their favourite flavour combinations!

See you soon. ♥

The Giveaway:

When I was asked to be part of the Sugar Cube Blog Tour to celebrate the newly released The Sugar Cube: 50 Deliciously Twisted Treats from the Sweetest Little Food Cart on the Planet, it sounded like my kind of party, but I hadn’t heard of the book or the adorable Portland, Oregon food cart before. But, upon first glance I fell in fast love with everything about Kir Jensen’s delicious sugared world, and after first read and taste, the book is now in my leave-it-out-because-I-use-it-so-much collection. I had such a hard time deciding what to make first, and what to share with you, but when I set eyes on Highway to Heaven Cupcakes adorned with shards of Ruffles and read that she’s built her entire reputation on this particular cupcake, I knew that these had to be my first Sugar Cube experience.

So what’s this book all about (aside from its undeniably adorable cover)?

This covetable cookbook is a greatest-hits collection from Sugar Cube, a tiny pink food cart in Portland, Oregon, that is thronged daily by hungry hordes craving voluptuous sweets intensified with a spike of booze, a lick of sea salt, or a “whoop” of whipped cream. Sugar Cube founder and baker Kir Jensen left the fine-dining pastry track to sell her handmade treats on the street. Recipes for 50 of Kir’s most enticing cupcakes, cookies, tarts, muffins, sips, and candies are made more irresistible (if possible!) by 32 delicious color photographs. Sassy headnotes and illustrations that resemble vintage tattoos liven up this singular boutique baking book.

And they do not lie–this book is everything they say it is, and more. It is really special. What I love is how Kir really pushes the boundaries of classic and comforting treats in a gourmet and innovative way (think Vanilla Bean Risotto, Coffee Mallow Meringue Pie, Cream Soda Ice Cream and more). The recipes are easy to follow and the flavors and textures almost leap straight off of the page. I am sincerely excited to make each and every recipe in her fabulous book, and I’m also excited that 1 lucky reader will win their own copy! But, let’s talk more about the recipe I made to share with you, these Highway to Heaven Cupcakes . . .

But don’t be fooled: What makes these cupcakes so incredible isn’t just the fact that there are salted caramel drizzled Ruffles chips on top, because that’s simply an added bonus (a sweet & salty, crunchy, heavenly bonus, that is), because there’s so much more depth and decadence to relish in here. The cupcakes are a moist super-chocolatey delight that are brushed with coffee syrup, injected with homemade salted caramel sauce, topped with a rich sexy bittersweet ganache, drizzled with more salted caramel sauce and then, if you love double-wowing the crowd, spears of caramel-drizzled potato chips, of course. As far as cupcakes go, it just doesn’t get any sexier.

These were so enticing in all of their dark, glossy, drizzled, crunchy goodness that I couldn’t stop taking Instagram photos while I was making them. When you’re trying to decide where to start in the flurry of decadent treats in this book, I can safely say this is an ideal place to start. (It’s also safe to say I’ll be making these cupcakes at least *once a month* for years to come.) Girls, who’s with me?

Here are the details and how to enter this giveaway:

1. Leave a comment and tell me, “What is your favourite dessert flavour combination?”

2. For an extra entry, tweet: “I want to win a copy of @TheSugarCube’s book from @Sweetapolita!” Simply come back here and leave a comment telling me you tweeted.

3. Contest ends Sunday, May 20th, 2012 at 11:59 pm (EST) and winner will be selected using random.org and notified by email and announced here on the blog. You must leave a valid email address (will not be displayed) in your entry.

4. One entry per person, please (or two, with tweet). *Your comment may not appear at first, but it’s there.

*Prize courtesy of Chronicle Books. Contest is open to US and Canadian residents only.

Good luck, everyone!

Now, here’s the recipe, shared with permission and as written in the book: The Sugar Cube: 50 Deliciously Twisted Treats from the Sweetest Little Food Cart on the Planet

highway to heaven cupcakes

makes 24 cupcakes

ingredients

cupcakes

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups warm strong-brewed coffee or french-pressed coffee
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups vegetable oil

coffee syrup

  • 1/2 cup strong-brewed coffee
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 recipe sexy bittersweet chocolate ganache

1 recipe salted caramel sauce, at room temperature

instructions

  • To make the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.
  • Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, coffee, eggs, vanilla, and vegetable oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk just until incorporated and there are no lumps. (It’s a thin batter, but it will bake up beautifully.)
  • Divide the batter equally among the muffin cups, leaving about 1/4 inch room at the top. Bake until the tops spring back when lightly pressed, 20 to 25 minutes.
  • To make the coffee syrup: In a small saucepan, combine the coffee and sugar and bring to a boil over high heat. Continue to boil for 1 to 2 minutes more to concentrate the mixture.
  • While the cupcakes are still hot, brush the tops with coffee syrup. (You’ll use most but not all of it. Just discard the rest or use it in a cocktail.) Let the cupcakes cool completely before filling and frosting.
  • Place the caramel in a squeeze bottle. Insert the tip into the top of each cupcake and squeeze in some caramel. (You’ll see them plump up a bit, but don’t fill them with so much that the cupcakes split.) Dip the tops in ganache, then tilt to shake off the excess. Let the chocolate set (it will be glossy but not runny) for about 30 minutes before drizzling with more salted caramel to serve.

sexy bittersweet ganache

makes about 2 cups

ingredients

  • 12 ounces chopped good-quality bittersweet chocolate
  • 14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, but into cubes
  • 1/4 teaspoons good sea salt, such as fleur de sel
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup

instructions

  • In a medium metal bowl, combine the chocolate, butter, salt, and corn syrup. Put the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and heat, stirring, until the chocolate and butter have melted. Remove from the heat.
  • Use as a glaze for cakes, or let cool until spreadable and use as a frosting or filling. Ganache can be refrigerated for 1 week. To gently rewarm, heat it in a microwave on 50 percent power or put it over a saucepan of barely simmering water and give it a good whisking.

salted caramel sauce

makes about 2 1/2 cups

ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel
  • 2 cups heavy cream, warmed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

instructions

  • In a deep heavy-bottomed pot, combine the sugar, water, and salt and stir until well mixed. Cook over high heat until the sugar starts to color around the edges of the pot, swirling the pan to promote even caramelization of the sugar. (Do not stir or the sugar will crystalize, that is, harden.) Continue cooking, swirling occasionally, until the caramel is very dark mahogany is color and lightly smoking (it should be on the verge of burning), 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Immediately remove the pot from the heat, and while stirring with a whisk or wooden spoon, add the warmed cream in a steady stream. (Since you’re taking the caramel to the dark side, you have to work quickly and being adding the cream right away to stop the cooking process. But you don’t want to add it all at once, so pour it in a continous, steady stream. Be careful: The mixture will steam and bubble up furiously. (I recommend wearing an oven mitt on the hand that’s stirring in the cream.) Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a metal bowl. Stir in the vanilla and let cool at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour. Refrigerate, uncovered for several hours to thicken.
  • Whisk before using or transferring to an airtight jar for longer storage. It will keep refrigerated for at least 1 week.

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • I followed the recipes for each of the components exactly, and they were a success.
  • I served and tasted several of these sans potato chips, and just drizzeld in the caramel sauce, and they were incredible too.
  • As with some of my other favourite chocolate cake recipes, the coffee in these cupcakes simply enhances the deep chocolate flavour–they don’t taste coffee-ish, I promise.
  • As Kir explains, the sexy bittersweet ganache goes on super glossy and dries with a nice sheen.
  • I used Fleur de Sel for the salted caramel sauce and the sexy bittersweet ganache, Cacao Barry Extra Brute Cocoa Powder for the cupcakes, and Callebaut Dark Callets and the ganache.

Good luck & enjoy!


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Homemade Puffy Cloud S’mores

Cloud S'mores via Sweetapolita

S’mores are a dessert phenomenon, really. S’mores are the beloved treat made from graham crackers, marshmallow and melted chocolate, typically put together and enjoyed fireside. It’s definitely a delightful idea. They say that the first recorded version of the recipe can be found in a 1927 Girl Scout publication, which would make a lot of sense. If you put enough girls around a fire, someone is going to come up with a way to make dessert happen, one way or another.

The thing is I’ve never been a S’mores girl (until now), and yet I didn’t know why. It seemed like everything was there on paper: my like for graham crackers, check; my love for chocolate, check; my obsession with toasted marshmallows, double check. But put it all together, and it just never excited me (however, I’ve also never understood the whole Brad Pitt thing, so it’s possible I come from the far away land of backwards). Come to think of it, I’m nearing my 100th blog post and 38th birthday and I’m pretty sure that I have just written “s’mores” for the first time in my existence. Make that the second time. And for the record, this cake or these cupcakes aren’t “s’mores cake” or “s’mores cupcakes” since there’s no graham representation. Okay, I finally got that off my chest.

Cloud S'mores via Sweetapolita

So then why am I sharing Homemade Puffy Cloud S’mores with you? Because I realized what’d been missing all of this time was the homemade factor. It changes everything in the mysterious my-not-loving-s’mores case. See, what happened was that I received my much-awaited copy of my good friend Shauna Sever’s new book, Marshmallow Madness!: Dozens of Puffalicious Recipes a few weeks ago, and even though I knew it would be fabulous, I didn’t expect to be so very inspired to make homemade marshmallows.

I literally couldn’t wait to make them, so I started with a batch of the Classic Vanilla (seemed like a great place to start). I was a little unsure what to expect, but I discovered that it was simple, fun and downright rewarding to successfully make a batch of homemade puffy, gooey, vanilla marshmallows. Then I spotted her recipe for Homemade Graham Crackers in the book, and I knew they were going to be yummy. So there it was: I was about to be s’mored. Or s’more someone else. Or worse. Little did I know that I was going to add a new sweet addiction to my collection, or that I was going to create crazed little cakelet girls who would literally follow me around with “Shauna’s book” begging me to make more “clouds.”

Cloud S'mores via Sweetapolita

Yep, clouds. Why not, right? I just knew that cloud-shaped anything would likely taste a smidge better than square, and it just seemed like the right thing to do. I didn’t have a cloud cutter on hand, but when this girl wants cloud s’mores, she gets cloud S’mores. I took the largest of the a set of this popular daisy-style cutters (Wilton Set of 3 Flower Cut Outs) that I knew I’d likely never use, and MacGyver’d it to make a cloud cutter by squishing it ever so slightly (I’ve also had my eye on this gorgeous Cloud Cookie Cutter). I used it for the graham clouds (above) and, of course, the marshmallow clouds.

I should tell you that even if you get a chance to only make one of these two components (homemade graham crackers or the homemade marshmallows), you can’t lose. The graham cracker were, thanks to Shauna’s fabulous recipe and easy-to-follow directions, simple to do and so tasty. Much like the marshmallows, I had never thought to make my own graham crackers before, and I am excited to add these to my cookie repertoire. They’re buttery, rich and kind of cute really.

Cloud S'mores via Sweetapolita

Simply put, the marshmallows are heaven. I’ve already made 3 batches of vanilla bean, and I’m not only ready to try all of her unique variations, but I’m inspired to start experimenting. I think what surprised me the most about making homemade marshmallows is that the active time is minimal (it was 20-30 minutes), the process is straight-forward, and they are so easy to work with once they’re set. I literally just pulled the entire square slab from the pan in one piece, placed it on a cutting board and cut my clouds with ease. For some reason, I envisioned a sticky mess of sorts. I made these with pure vanilla extract and the addition of a vanilla bean–I am a huge vanilla bean lover, and I knew it would heighten the vanilla flavour and would be a lovely visual (who doesn’t love those glorious vanilla bean flecks?).

Cloud S'mores via Sweetapolita

I decided to coat the entire cookies in milk or dark chocolate (I was inspired by these adorable bits of awesomeness) and then sandwich them together, in typical s’more fashion. My cakelets went crazy for these, and so did I. The homemade quality to it all really converted me, and I’ll never look back. Ever.

Cloud S'mores via Sweetapolita

Because these keep well for several days, they make super gifts. I built each one in a mini loaf liner and then boxed some up for a friend, and she loved it. Or, of course you can always just keep’em around in case of emergencies.

Cloud S'mores via Sweetapolita

On repeat: “Mum, can I have more clouds?” I may have created little cloud s’more monsters, but they sure had fun while it lasted.

Cloud S'mores via Sweetapolita

Who doesn’t love dessert clouds?

cover photo (and all book photography) by Leigh Beisch

So here’s where the magic begins! How beyond adorable is the Marshmallow Madness! book cover? And the name? The colours? I love it all. Packed with approachable-yet-unique recipes and techniques (think Key Lime Pie Marshmallows, Sea Salt Caramel Swirl Marshmallows, Homemade Marshmallow Creme and so much more) and more visual yumminess than I ever imagined, this book is a new favourite around our house. I took away more than just the ability to make these recipes, but I acquired a versatile new skill. Love that.

I think what makes this book extra special is Shauna’s warmth, humour and innate ability to put people at ease (aside from her incredible talent). You simply want to be around her. I first “met” Shauna when she left a blog comment on one of my posts not long after I first started this blog at the end of 2010, and even after that first comment I knew she was going to be a friend. And she is. You can learn more about her over on her website and blog. And what’s more? She has a new book, Pure Vanilla: Irresistible Recipes and Essential Techniques, available for pre-order now and released November 6th, 2012. Congratulations, Shauna! xo

So, using 2 of the sweet and simple recipes found her book, here are the recipes and details on making these Homemade Puffy Cloud S’mores. I realize this looks like so much info and so much work, but it’s really not. I promise.

Homemade Puffy Cloud S’mores

Yield: 15 Smores plus additional 18 graham crackers

Ingredients

  • 1 batch Classic Vanilla Marshmallows (below)
  • 1 batch Homemade Graham Crackers (below)
  • 8 oz best-quality chocolate (extra dark, dark or milk)

Instructions

  1. Follow the instructions for the Classic Vanilla Marshmallows.
  2. Follow the instructions for the Homemade Graham Crackers.
  3. Coat the Graham Crackers in Chocolate:
  4. Line 2 baking sheets with wax paper or silicone mats. Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl in microwave, or in a heatproof bowl over a small pot of barely simmering water.
  5. Dip cookies into chocolate using two forks (or if you have a chocolate-dipping fork), covering entire cookie, letting the excess chocolate drip back into bowl. Place on Silpat or wax paper-lined cookie sheet. Place filled sheet in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to set.
  6. Assembly of the Homemade Puffy Cloud S'mores:
  7. Place one chocolate-covered graham cloud (be sure the chocolate is set) smooth side down into a baking liner (I used White Petite Loaf Baking Cups) or plate (you can even use cupcake liners, but depending on your cloud cutter, they may be too small). I popped mine in the freezer for a few moments before assembling them, to firm up the chocolate.
  8. Place cloud cut marshmallow (one side should be sticky) on top. Place second chocolate-covered graham cloud on top, smooth side up. If you need the top of the "sandwich" to stick to the marshmallow, you can try adding a dab of melted chocolate and letting set.

Notes

I used both Callebaut Dark Chocolate Callets (dark) as well as Callebaut Milk Callets (milk) and dipped half of my graham cracker batch in dark and the other half in milk chocolate .

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Classic Vanilla Marshmallows

Yield: About 2 dozen 1 1/2"-inch mallows

shared with permission, as written in the book Marshmallow Madness!: Dozens of Puffalicious Recipes by Shauna Sever

Ingredients

    For the Marshmallow:
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup, divided
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup Classic Coating, plus more for dusting
  • For the Classic Coating:
  • 1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup cornstarch or potato starch

Instructions

    For the Marshmallow:
  1. Lightly coat an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Whisk together the gelatin and cold water in a small bowl and let soften for 5 minutes.
  3. Stir together the sugar, 1/4 cup of the corn syrup, water, and salt in a medium saucepan over high heat. Boil, stirring occasionally, until the temperature reaches 240°F. Meanwhile, pour remaining 1/4 cup corn syrup into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Microwave gelatin on high until completely melted, about 30 seconds. Pour into the mixer bowl. Set the mixer speed to low and keep it running.
  4. When the syrup reaches 240°F, slowly pour it into the mixer bowl. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 5 minutes. Increase to medium-high and beat for 5 more minutes. Beat on the highest setting for 1 to 2 minutes more and beat in the vanilla; finished marshmallow will be opaque white, fluffy, and tripled in volume. Pour it into the prepared pan, using an offset spatula to smooth it into the corners. Sift coating evenly and generously over top. Let set for at least 6 hours in a cool, dry place.
  5. Use knife to loosen the marshmallow from the edges of the pan. Invert the slab onto a coating-dusted work surface and dust it with more coating. Cut into whatever size pieces you wish (a pizza cutter works great for squares). Dip the sticky edges of the marshmallows in more coating, patting off the excess.
  6. Super vanilla-ize these mallows by adding a scraped vanilla bean or dab of pure vanilla bean paste along with the vanilla extract.
  7. For the Classic Coating:
  8. Sift the ingredients together in a large bowl or combine them in a food processor. I tend to make several cups' worth at a time and store it in an airtight container; it keeps forever.

Notes

For the my cloud s'mores I did the vanilla bean version of these, so in addition to the pure vanilla extract I added one scraped vanilla bean. It makes the vanilla flavour even more heavenly, and those beloved little black vanilla flecks are gorgeous in these puffy, pure white cloud marshmallows.

I used Knox brand gelatin.

I used a 9" square pan, rather than 8" so they would slightly shorter for the cloud s'mores. This yields about 15 2" x 3" clouds.

The first batch I made took about 30 minutes active time, but after I got the hang of it, the following batches took about 20 minutes.

For sandwiching the mallows in the s'mores, I only coated the top of the mallow batch while it sets, but didn't coat the underside, so that they would stick to the cookies.

I let the pan of marshmallows set overnight, for about 9 hours, and then removed it in one big slab from the pan, onto a cutting board, then cut into clouds (you could do any shape you like) using a cookie cutter.

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Homemade Graham Crackers

shared with permission, as written in the book Marshmallow Madness!: Dozens of Puffalicious Recipes by Shauna Sever

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup stone-ground whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, blend together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon. Add the butter pieces and the honey and blend until the mixtures comes together. Scrape out the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and pat it into a rectangular shape; wrap well. Refrigerate until firm, but still pliable, about 1 hour.
  2. Position an oven rack in the center position and preheat to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll out thinly, about 1/8 inch thick (you can gather the dough scraps and reroll as necessary).
  3. Cut out crackers with a 2- to 3-inch cookie cutter (or cut into squares with a pizza cutter) and place pieces on the prepared baking sheets, a dozen per sheet. Prick each one several times with a fork and sprinkle with turbinado sugar, if desired. Chill the pieces on the sheets for at least 15 minutes before baking. bake for 14 to 16 minutes until golden. Let set for 1 minute before transferring the crackers to a rack to cool completely.

Notes

I used standard whole-wheat flour (because it's what I had on hand) and it worked fine, but you can find the stone ground variety here: Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour. I'll try it this way next time.

I rolled the dough, as I do most rolled cookie dough, between two sheets of parchment paper on top of a slip-free mat (I use my Fondant Work Mat for everything).

I chilled the rolled dough for 15 minutes in the freezer before cutting with the cloud cookie cutter, then put the baking trays back in the freezer for another 15 or so before baking.

I didn't sprinkle with turbinado sugar (since I was covering them with chocolate).

This batch yields about 4 dozen 2"x 3" graham clouds.

These are so tasty, even on their own! They make a great snack for kids, and they keep well in a sealed plastic bag at room temperature.

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Sweetapolita’s Notes (a few more):
  • For my clouds, I simply bent these cutters so they were cloud-like, but you can also buy a Cloud Cookie Cutter.
  • These are incredible on their own, so if you opt for making just the marshmallows, once you’ve cut them you can keep in single layers in an airtight container (with one corner cracked ) somewhere cool and dry (not the refrigerator).
  • You can watch Shauna make these marshmallows here.
  • I used both Callebaut Dark Chocolate Callets (dark) as well as Callebaut Milk Callets (milk) and dipped half of my graham cracker batch in dark and the other half in milk chocolate .
  • Timing of the Homemade Puffy Cloud S’mores Prep: I made the marshmallow batch first (and set the pan aside overnight). I made the graham clouds that same day and sealed them in an airtight bag overnight. The next morning I dipped them graham clouds in chocolate and let them set. Later that morning I cut the marshmallow clouds and assembled the s’mores.
  • The cloud cutter I used is about 3″ by 2″.
  • These finished s’mores are best stored in an airtight container at room temperature, and will last for several days.
  • Milk chocolate is a lot softer to work with than dark, so when assembling the s’mores you’ll likely need to put the tray in the freezer for a few moments when needed.

Good luck & enjoy!

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