S’mores Cupcakes

Purpose:

To make a summer party-worthy dessert for a non-chocoholic as quickly as possible.

Protocol:

Materials:

  • All-purpose flour
  • Graham crackers or crumbs
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Cinnamon
  • Unsalted butter
  • Granulated sugar
  • Dark brown sugar
  • Eggs
  • Buttermilk
  • Milk or semi-sweet chocolate
  • Heavy cream
  • Cream of tartar
  • Vanilla extract

Equipment:

  • Kitchen Aid mixer
  • Kitchen scale
  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Spatula
  • Muffin tin with cupcake liners
  • Pot that fits Kitchen Aid bowl

Procedure:

This protocol was adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s S’more Cupcakes. I love Deb AND many of her recipes make me say “ain’t nobody got time for that.” Below is a quick and dirty way to make these marvelous cupcakes. I got home from work after 7 and was out the door by 8:45, having eaten dinner and made the cupcakes. My sous chef had done steps 1-4 before I arrived to save time! (Lessons from the lab – delegation is key, take all shortcuts that don’t negatively affect the outcome/reliability of the data.)

Prepare the cupcakes:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and place cupcake liners in a 12-cup standard tin.
  2. Food process 7 graham cracker sheets to make crumbs.
  3. Chop 4 oz chocolate.
  4. Weigh 125 g flour, 110 g graham cracker crumbs, 3/8 tsp baking powder, 3/8 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon into a bowl and stir.
  5. In Kitchen Aid, cream 1 stick butter with 67 g granulated and 106 g dark brown sugar.
  6. Add eggs one at a time, mixing and scraping between.
  7. Add 1/3 dry ingredients, mix. Add 1/2 C buttermilk, mix. Repeat. Add remainder of dry ingredients.
  8. Distribute batter among cupcake liners and bake 20 m or until toothpick comes out clean. While the cupcakes are in the oven, make the filling and frosting.

Prepare the filling:

  1. Put 4 oz chopped chocolate, 1/3 C heavy cream, and a pinch of salt in a small microwaveable bowl.
  2. Nuke for 30 s, followed by 15 s increments, until chocolate begins to melt. Stir until fully melted and set aside.

Prepare the frosting:

  1. In a VERY CLEAN Kitchen aid bowl, put 2 egg whites, 133 g granulated sugar, 1/4 tsp cream of tartar, and 3/4 tsp vanilla into a heatproof bowl and set over a pot with 1/2″-1″ of water on low to medium low heat.
  2. Whisk about 3 m, until sugar dissolves and egg whites are warm.
  3. Move the bowl to the Kitchen Aid with whisk attachment, gradually increase mixer speed to high, and beat until stiff peaks form, 4-7 m.
  4. Add vanilla and mix to combine.

Assemble the cupcakes:

  1. When the cupcakes are cooked, pop the whole tin in the freezer until the metal is cool to the touch.
  2. Use a measuring Tsp to remove cake from the center of the cupcakes.
  3. Use a table teaspoon to fill the whole with chocolate filling.
  4. Use a table tablespoon to dollop frosting on top.

Results and observations:

cupcakes

The cupcakes were tasty! Very summery, very s’mores. This is definitely the 80/20 rule (80% of the output is due to 20% of the input) version of the recipe – I’m sure they would have looked nicer and had a slightly better texture if I let them cool normally and used a piping bag for the filling and frosting, but for me it’s not worth the time. I did end up toasting the ends of the frosting with a flame later on, as it gives it the final touch.

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Chocolate-dipped Salted Caramels

Purpose:

To make completely homemade chocolate caramel candies.

Protocol:

Materials:

  • Unsalted butter
  • Chocolate
  • Sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Heavy cream
  • Vanilla beans/vanilla extract

Equipment:

  • Kitchen scale
  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Spatula
  • Accurate digital thermometer or candy thermometer (good for 80-250 F)
  • Waxed paper
  • Sharp knife
  • Dipping tool or fork or toothpicks

Procedure:

This protocol was adapted from Food & Wine’s Chocolate-Dipped Vanilla Caramels.

Prepare the caramels:

  1. Melt 2 sticks unsalted butter over medium low heat. (Don’t let it get too hot – butter will smoke and burn low temperatures relative to cooking oils.)
  2. Stir in 500 g sugar, 1 C heavy cream, 1 C corn syrup, and seeds of 1 vanilla bean or 2 tsp vanilla extract.
  3. Gradually bring to a boil, stirring.
  4. Cook over medium low heat until it reaches 245 F. This takes about an hour, and the mixture will be sticky and light to medium brown. Be careful – it will burn you badly if you get it on your skin, because the outside will cool and harden while the inside continues to burn.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare a 13×9 pan by lining it with foil and spraying with canola oil.
  6. Remove caramel from heat and stir in 1 Tbsp salt.
  7. Pour/scrape into prepared pan, cover loosely, and let harden overnight. (You can also spoon some of the fresh hot caramel over ice cream. Yum!)

Temper chocolate and dip the caramels:

This protocol was adapted from David Lebovitz’s How to Temper Chocolate. The purpose of tempering chocolate is to ensure that you form as much as possible of the ideal polymorph of the cocoa butter (polymorph V) in the chocolate. For those of you who love science as much as I do, see Compound Interest’s Infographic on Structures of Chocolate or Chocolate Alchemy’s instructions on how an organic chemist would temper chocolate. Polymorph V gives a beautiful sheen and crunch to the chocolate.

  1. Set a bowl over a pot or skillet with an inch or so of simmering water so that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the bottom of the pot or skillet, and ideally does not touch the water either.
  2. Melt 10.5 oz 50-70% cacao chocolate in the bowl, stirring frequently with the spatula. Remove from heat once the chocolate reaches ~115 F, even if the chocolate is not all melted, and continue stirring until smooth.
  3. Once smooth, drop in a >1 oz piece of well tempered chocolate. I used a freshly purchased chocolate bar that was shiny and had a nice “snap” when broken. Do not use any chocolate that has any signs of fat bloom (that’s what it’s called when your chocolate is in the pantry too long or gets hot in the car and then turns white).
  4. Stir until the chocolate has cooled to about 80 F.
  5. Carefully heat the chocolate back up to 88-90 F, and try to keep it at this temperature throughout the dipping process by reheating as needed. If you heat the chocolate above 92 F, you technically need to start over.
  6. Turn the caramels out onto waxed paper sprayed with cooking spray and use a sharp knife to cut into 1″ squares.
  7. Dip the squares into chocolate and transfer to waxed paper. (This took me forever because I had poor technique – I stabbed them with toothpicks, swirled around in the chocolate, and then tried to scrape off excess chocolate. I have since learned that the correct technique is to use a dipping tool like a fork, submerge the caramel, and then hold the tool under the caramel in the chocolate and lift it straight out of the chocolate, and then tap it straight up and down against the surface of the chocolate until there are no more drips, ~3 times, then slide off the fork onto the waxed paper). Serious Eats describes this technique nicely.
  8. Let the chocolate set, then store at room temperature. Properly tempered chocolate sets very quickly, so if you want to decorate the chocolates with sea salt, do it right away. Callebaut has great suggestions for different ways you can decorate your chocolates.

Results and observations:

Caramels setting up overnight.toseton

Cutting into the turned out caramels the next day.cuttingcaramels

The caramels were delicious, if slightly salty for my taste. Next time I would use 1-2 teaspoons of salt in the caramel, and then use salt (maybe an especially pretty one like Himalayan pink?) to decorate the top.

Finished dipped chocolates.caramels

As I mentioned above, proper chocolate dipping technique is crucial. It’s pretty difficult to keep the chocolate at the right temperature for the amount of time necessary to dip all the chocolates, so next time I would use square or rectangular candy molds, paint in a layer of chocolate, cut the caramels the right size to fit, and then pour/pipe chocolate over the caramels to fill the mold. Alternatively, I could try a Sous Vide style precision cooker or a melting pot made to maintain candy temperatures. Molds are $2-5, the other solutions ~$190. 10.5 oz wasn’t quite enough for me to dip all the chocolates, but it might have been enough if I had used the fork technique. I wrapped the undipped ones individually in waxed paper. I didn’t decorate the candies this time, but I’m excited to try some decorations next time. This recipe makes a lot of chocolates, which is great for sharing! I plan to take these to the office 🙂