Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Knowing that it is about time to put the peanut butter and chocolate combination to work for me, I created these Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Buttercream frosting.

Without causing a small riot, I will admit that my love for peanut butter is not on the charts like it is with most people. I am picky. I do enjoy a good peanut butter cup, and am dedicated to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches like any American raised kid should be, but for whatever reason I don't favor the ingredient in most other forms. This is not to be confused with disliking peanut butter, but simply not being drawn to it. But I do know that the general public fancies it, so am compelled to appease them. And the reviews on this cupcake came back very positive: good balance between chocolate and peanut butter.

The frosting was simply:
• 1/2 cup butter, softened
• 1 cup peanut butter
• 3 tbs milk
• 2 cups powdered sugar

Do the blending of the first two until they're nice and creamy then add the sugar in batches until it gets too thick, so you pour a little milk in to loosen it up, then more sugar, then more milk, etc, until you have a super fluffy and creamy frosting. I noticed when piping it on that there were a lot of little air bubbles that sort of disrupted the otherwise pristine smooth texture a more denser frosting would have.

I feel the need to explain one more thing about this cupcake and my process making it. I am generally very interested in using and eating ingredients that are minimally processed and not full of weird additives. For example, I try not to consume things with high fructose syrup (though sometimes too cumbersome to avoid), and only use real butter, etc. But I have a small list of exceptions that I can't seem to give up: Dreyer's ice cream (mainly Spumoni), the occasional soda, and peanut butter. I can't stand "real" peanut butter. I don't know what it is about hydrogenated vegetable oil that not only gives peanut butter the shelf-life of a twinkie, but also a distinctive flavor. The real stuff has this natural, earthy tastes way too much like ground-up peanuts. And kudos to those who enjoy spreading hard, refridgerated peanut butter on their soon to be mutilated piece of defenseless bread - because I can't. Anyway, that's my admission for the day. I'm not proud of it, but please don't make me use real peanut butter.

I also changed one constant in my "make chocolate cake taste good but also rise to a nice rounded top" experiment, but it didn't work. The recipe I had been using called for you to mix hot water to your batter (effecting the cocoa powder to get max flavor points). I thought that maybe the adding of the hot water was causing the butter to turn into more of a liquidous oil instead of the solid it started as, and thought it might contribute to the flat-top of my cupcakes. But it didn't seem to have an effect when I let the cocoa and hot water mixture cool before adding to the rest of the batter. All it really did was make my batter look strangely bespeckled (should have taken a photo!).

And just for fun, here's a little bit of info I discovered while perusing the web earlier: "... the name 'cup cake' was first used, not to describe its size, but to how the cake's ingredients were measured. ... Before the 1880's, ingredients for baking cakes were 'weighed' so when recipes started to be written with 'cup' measurements, they were named 'cup' cakes to reflect this difference."

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