I can hardly believe it myself – two recipe posts within one week?! Why yes, I’ve been doing quite a lot of baking lately and trying out a couple of recipes. I made these fudge ball cupcakes topped with homemade white peppercorn caramel (my first time!) and topped with a little bit of sea salt for a baking contest we had at work earlier this week. I know you’re probably thinking, “white peppercorn?! did she do that on purpose?!” and the answer is yes: the theme for this particular contest was “salt and pepper”. If you think outside the box, you could interpret “pepper” to include things like bell peppers, jalapenos, etc. I went ahead and stuck with the traditional spice idea but challenged myself to make something sweet instead of savory.
So I thumbed through some of my cookbooks and decided to make the fudge ball cupcakes that I found in this cupcakes! cookbook (page 114). “But then how do I incorporate the pepper?” I asked myself, and decided to try making caramel. Except I would add in some white peppercorn to give it a little kick, and to fit in with the contest theme.
I think they turned out great – the cupcakes were tasty and not too heavy (as the title of “fudge” might imply), and there was just enough zing of pepper in the caramel but it didn’t linger too long. It was also great because I could make the cupcakes all in one bowl and without lugging out the huge (and heavy!) Kitchen Aid mixer.
– 1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter, cut into a few pieces
– 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped into smaller pieces
– 2 large eggs
– 1 and 1/4 cups of sugar
– 1/4 teaspoon of salt
– 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
– 3/4 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour
(This recipe was from Heather Tirrell, former of Hungry Mother. It goes with her “salted caramel cake with candy bacon and vanilla bean anglaise” recipe that she demonstrated for us at a Boston University food seminar featuring pastry chefs back in October 2010. Read the post about that here.)
– 1 cup of heavy cream at room temperature
– 1/2 cup of dark brown sugar
– 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
– 1 and a 1/2 teaspoons of fine grind sea salt
– 1 teaspoon of ground white peppercorn
1. Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees farenheit and position a rack in the middle of the oven. Line a muffin pan tin with mini-paper liners (I used one pan that can hold 24 cupcakes, and then a smaller pan that can hold 12 cupcakes but only ended up using 7 of the spaces). Set aside.
2. Start a double boiler or simply put an inch of water in a small pot over high heat and let it get to a boil. Turn the heat all the way down to low so that it just simmers.
3. In the meantime as the water heats up, chop up the chocolate and add it to a heat proof (preferably glass) mixing bowl that is larger than the pot that the water is boiling in. You want to be able to rest the bowl on top of the pot but not let it actually touch the water. Add the butter.
4. Once the water is simmering, place the bowl on top of the pot and let it sit for a minute allowing the chocolate to melt. Stir with a whisk once in a while to incorporate the butter until you can see that all of the butter and chocolate has melted. Remove the mixing bowl from the pot onto the counter covered with some dishtowels or an oven mitt so you don’t burn the counter.
5. Add the sugar, salt, and vanilla then whisk until it’s well blended. Add the eggs one at a time making sure to whisk it in right away. Then add the flour and mix until completely absorbed.
6. Spoon a little bit of batter (the recipe says about 1.5 tablespoons) into each cupcake liner. I used a really small ice cream scooper so it was probably a little bit less than what they meant by “to just below the top of the liner” in the cookbook, but I managed to get 31 cupcakes in the end vs. 24 like the recipe says.
7. Bake until the tops feel firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it, about 24 minutes. Cool the cupcakes for 10 minutes in the pans on top of wire racks.
8. While the cupcakes are baking, start making the caramel. In a saucepan, combine the cream and sugar. Over medium heat bring it to a rolling bubble for about 8 to 10 minutes, but watch it carefully because you don’t want it to boil over. Use a candy thermometer and cook till the mixture reaches 215 degrees. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla, pepper and salt. Let it cool for 10 to 15 minutes and then pour through a strainer.
9. The cupcake recipe instructs you to peel the wrapper off each of them and to proceed by coating the bottoms of them in melted chocolate. In this case, I kept the wrappers on and packed them into a Tupperware container to carry to work the next day. To construct them, simply put a dollop of the caramel on top of each cupcake and sprinkle with a little bit of coarse sea salt. Enjoy!