Friday, December 2, 2011

Vanilla Porter Cupcakes

11.11.11 has come and is long gone. The Canadian Chemist hosted the Nigel Tufnel Day festivities, and a good time was had by all. The Canadian Chemist also happens to be an accomplished brewer, with a brand-new batch of vanilla porter on tap. I had seen a recipe for Blue Moon cupcakes, and filed the idea away for later use...well, vanilla porter cupcakes with chocolate stout icing sounded like a good idea...

You would not think such a small number of ingredients could
wreak such havoc. You would be wrong.
These cupcakes were baked and eaten and enjoyed weeks ago. I am very late in getting this to post. I have about a million slips of paper with recipe notes, all over my house. I lost the slip with this recipe on it. I hate it when that happens. I find slips everywhere, which are unlabeled, consisting of just a list of ingredients in a mind-boggling mixture of weights and measures. What I finally found was a recipe fragment on the same slip as an unrelated recipe for pumpkin custard. A quick check of my reference recipe...yep, this is it.

Still looks pretty innocuous, doesn't it?
You want to lick that beater, don't you?
What You Need
  • 325g (2½ cups) all-purpose flour
  • 2½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 170g (6oz, ¾ cup) room-temperature butter
  • 350g (1¾ cups) sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 250ml (1 cup) vanilla porter beer
  • 60ml (¼ cup) milk

What You Do
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place paper liners in your muffin tins. You'll need 24. Exactly 24.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder,and salt.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar in the standmixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well between additions.
  4. Stir vanilla extract into the beer.
  5. Add the dry ingredients alternated with the beer. If the mixture is stiff, thin with a bit of milk (up to about ¼ cup). The batter should be thick and smooth, not stiff or runny.
  6. Fill the cupcake liners about ⅔−¾ full. Bake for about 15 minutes, until a cake tester pulls cleanly.
  7. Cool completely before frosting.

There is no reason on earth why your kitchen should end up looking like this.
What Happens When You Fail
The plan was to top these with a chocolate stout frosting, made with a tempered egg white meringue (a traditional Italian meringue buttercream). Sort of fluffy, like the foam on a pint. If your pint came with chocolate foam. Anyway: tempering the egg white meringue = FAIL. The process sounds simple: beat your egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Gradually add hot sugar syrup white beating, which tempers the whites (if you are wary of eating raw eggs). The problem is that if you add the syrup too fast, you will collapse the egg whites. Game over. Which is what I did, leaving me with a bowl full of chocolate-flavored beer syrup with eggs. Sounds disgusting, but if you think about it, add some flour and it's just brownie batter (literally).
I did not turn the failed frosting into a pan of chocolate stout brownies (maybe next time), what I did was default to my no-fail 20-second chocolate buttercream. Instead of using milk, I used the rest of the vanilla porter:
Exactly two dozen cakes. Ready for frosting, unless you collapse your
meringue. In that case they will just have to wait for a buttercream.
What You Need
  • 5 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 4 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 10 oz (2½ sticks) butter (no substitutes), room temperature
  • ¼−⅓ cup vanilla porter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
What You Do
  1. Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler, or carefully in the microwave.
  2. Let the melted chocolate cool while you get out the food processor. Seriously. The food processor. Here's to using all the kitchen machines to bake one cake! (If the crockpot is feeling left out, you could melt the chocolate in that instead of the double boiler.)
  3. Put all of the ingredients in the food processor. Pulse a few times to combine, then run the processor until you have a smooth frosting. Adjust the consistency with as much beer as necessary, but remember that it will firm up when it is chilled.
  4. If you make this ahead of time, keep it refrigerated but pull it out of the fridge about 20 minutes before you need to use it.
What You Eat
Sorry, no nutrition information. Really, do you even want to know? Lick the beater. Have a spoonful of frosting. Then take the cupcakes to someone else's house and leave them there. Nothing bad (like burst buttons or bigger pants) will happen if you eat just one, but walk away before the temptation to down another one gets overwhelming.
What You Learn
  • Not one tricky thing about these cupcakes. The measurements are spot-on for making a double dozen.
  • The rise is moderate on these; you can fill the tins about ¾ full and not worry about overflow. Note that they did not peak at the center, but rose very evenly.
  • You ought to have extra buttercream. Really, as generously as these are frosted, there was leftover chocolate buttercream. Put it in the freezer in an unlabeled container, behind some frozen vegetables, just to be on the safe side.
  • Try to pipe the frosting on with more control than I did. Seriously, these look like a junior-high home-ec assignment. I have no piping skills (and I clearly have no google or youTube skills either: here is an excellent reference on getting frosting onto cupcakes without utterly demolishing your kitchen).

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