Sunday, April 24, 2011

My cupcakes bring all the boys to the yard: Chocolate Stout Cupcakes

I think there may be a few people waiting for this recipe. It is the one I get asked about most often. Maybe it’s the idea of combining two pretty awesome, yet somewhat unlikely things.

Beer and cake is not a natural match to a lot of people. There are plenty of recipes that use beer in cake out there though. Even Nigella makes a Guinness cake! This recipe is a hybrid version of a few that I came across, and it seems to give consistently good results with a number of different stouts. (I did actually try a different recipe to make Guinness cupcakes on St Patrick's Day, and ended up with a batch of fail-cakes. I'll stick to this recipe from now on!)

Maybe you didn’t think that chocolate cupcakes could get any better? Wrong. Beer makes everything better. Well, the right beer will, such as a stout that is dark and thick. The roasted malts used in the brewing process of stouts can often produce beautiful chocolate and/or coffee flavours. Some breweries take it a step further and will add chocolate or coffee to the beer to give those flavours a bit of oomph. Adding stout to a chocolate cupcake gives a beautiful moist texture with a lovely depth of flavour, as well as the slightest bite of bitterness. If you’re feeling decadent, try making them with an Imperial Stout…although you may get lynched by beer lovers who think it’s a waste of good beer.

This Easter we are lucky enough to have a special limited release chocolate stout from Mildura Brewery. Called 'Choc Hops' , we had a preview of this chocolate infused beer at the March microbreweries showcase. It has now been released in bottle form, as well as being available on tap at several good bars over the Easter long weekend. What better beer could there be to make an extra special Easter treat with?

The goodies...

125g unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/4 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
200ml (just over 3/4 cup) good stout – chocolate stout, coffee stout, oatmeal stout, imperial stout…they all work in slightly different but awesome ways.
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Now hop to it…

First, preheat the oven to 180C degrees and line your cupcake pan with pretty papers. (Note: They must be pretty or the cupcakes won’t taste as good.)

Cream the sugar and softened butter together, until pale. This is easiest done with electric beaters, but you can do it the old school way if you want the exercise.

Add the egg, vanilla and yogurt (or sour cream) and beat to combine. Add the stout, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you mix it in. (The batter may look oddly lumpy and curdled at this point, or maybe that’s just me? Still, it all works out in the end!)

Sift the flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder into a separate bowl and mix well. Add half the dry ingredients to the wet mixture; stir to combine. Don’t use beaters for this part – a wooden spoon is all you need. Add the second half. Stir until smooth, but try not to over mix. (The lumps should disappear into a smooth batter.)

Spoon or pour the batter into the cupcake pan, filling each ¾ full.

Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until the cupcakes spring back when you press the top. (Note: Make sure you lick the bowl clean. The batter is incredibly delicious and should not be wasted.)

…and to top it off…

1 cup icing sugar, sifted
50 g soft butter
2 tablespoons stout
110 g dark chocolate (I use 70%)

Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over hot water, or in a microwave. Set aside.

While the chocolate is cooling slightly, beat the icing sugar and butter together until blended and smooth. Gradually add the stout a little at a time, making sure it is thoroughly mixed in after each addition.

Carefully fold the chocolate into the icing mixture until it has a smooth consistency. Spread or pipe the icing onto cool cupcakes.

These should definitely be enjoyed with more of the same stout, or even a really good porter. Flavoured porters such as Holgate’s chocolate porter, 'Temptress', or the lovely Meantime coffee porter are fantastic matches as well. Basically, any dark style beer with those complimentary chocolate and coffee flavours will work a treat.

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