Sunday, 30 June 2013

Hazelnut and Chocolate Cupcakes

The name of this blog is particularly apt right now because what I should be doing is packing bits and bobs ready to move into the house I am renting with one of my friends for the third year of my degree. Note I didn't say final year. Nope, with me it's always the case of if I think I might be capable and if the effort will be worth it then I'll ouch for the extra little bit. Hence the reason why I chose to do a four year course with the penultimate year being spent in industry while doing a full years worth of modules simultaneously. But now isn't the time to be crying out 'Why? WHY did I do this?' I'm going to be brave and say everything will be ok and take comfort in the fact that my little bit of industry will be research and foodie based. It will be fun, a little bit away from the norm and the effort entirely worth it. Just like these (cup)makes really.

You see, the sponge and the icing of these aren't of the usual format, yet they are still gorgeously moist, springy and yummy. And hazelnuts are good for you right? So that must mean these cakes are practically healthy surely? Well I'll leave that decision up to you if you need the convincing. I used a recipe which cuts down on the added fat leaving the better for you oils from the hazelnuts do all the hard work, though now might be a good time to mention that it is probably best if you ignore the ingredients of the icing if you are indeed requiring some kind of justification that these cakes are the best option for a slightly healthier treat. I wasn't sure if the addition of ground nuts to such a liquidy cake mix would work but decided to go for it anyway and then thought why take one risk when I can take two and made up an icing that I haven't tried before. It's sort of like Italian meringue buttercream but not. However it does go along the same lines and use a sugar syrup to make a very light but ultra rich icing that would have piped like a dream if I hadn't been adamant that I wanted to practise the Hummingbird Bakery swirl. I thought now would be a good time to practise the swirl because if I made a complete mess of it the decoration would hide all my sins and it gave me the opportunity to christen my new mini palette knife that I treated myself to as a reward for my exam results. As it happened all my risks paid off. I got a half decent swirl (you can just see if peaking through in the picture if you know what to look for), a sponge that accepted the oddball ground hazelnuts and a lovely light cream that matched the base so very well.

If you are wondering what the chocolate topping is then you might be interested to know that it is the Ferrero version of the much celebrated Lindtt bunny. I found these for the bargain price of 60p and so thought I'd pop back for another to crush and put as a surprise in the centre of the cakes but sadly they had all gone. I found it very hard to break into cute chocolate animals but my taste buds won out here and I was soon in. It's the same chocolate found on the outside of a Ferrero Rocher ball sweetie which in my opinion could have been improved by a filling of Nutella and a few hazelnuts in the centre but the people at Ferrero spoiled my dreams. I don't believe for one second that I am the only person out there who thinks an animal sized Ferrero Rocher ball would be a brilliant idea so maybe it will give the company chocolatiers something to think on. If you can't get hold of one of these bunnies then chopped Galaxy with caramelised hazelnuts will be a perfect alternative. An added benefit in that case would be that there is more leftover to find a home for. Note that leftover chocolate does not like to live in kitchen cupboards. Keep it in your tummy for the greatest mutual benefit.

Cake:
100g hazelnuts
80g butter, cubed and softened
280g caster sugar
150g plain flour, sifted
1 tbsp baking powder
240ml semi-skimmed or whole milk
1tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs

Icing:
85g caster sugar
4tbsp water
2 large egg yolks
150g unsalted butter, cubed and very soft
About 28 whole hazelnuts
About 28 chunks of chocolate
Hazelnut chocolate, roughly crushed/chopped

  1. Roughly chop the hazelnuts and place in a pan over a medium heat and allow them to go a slightly golden brown, jiggling them about every so often. Be careful not to over toast them or they will taste nasty. A slight sizzling sound is fine. A burning smell/smoke isn't. Once done, spread on a board or plate to cool completely then grind up similar to a ground almonds consistency in a blender or food processor if you are lucky enough to have one to make me jealous. Adding a tbsp or so of the measured sugar will stop the nuts forming a paste.
  2. Set the oven to 190C/170C fan. Put the dry ingredients into a bowl with the ground nuts and stir together then rub in the butter so it looks sort of like breadcrumbs. 
  3. Whisk the liquid ingredients together in a jug then pour into the dry ingredients in a steady stream, whisking on a low speed all the while with an electric mixer. It's a good idea to stop midway and scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is mixed in evenly. 
  4.  Divide the mixture between muffin cases set in a muffin tray or two. I made 14 cakes but you could probably get 16 out of the mixture. Place a chocolate chunk and a hazelnut on top of each cake and gently push down slightly. Not so they disappear because they will sink down while in the oven anyway. This just stops them burning first. 
  5. Bake in the oven for 18-20 mins, turning after about 15 mins if necessary. Remove the trays from the oven when the cakes are risen, golden and a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 5 mins then remove the cakes from the tins and leave to cool completely. 
  6. To make the icing, place the sugar and water in a small heavy based pan and dissolve the sugar over a low heat. Then increase the temperature and bring the syrup to the boil then reduce the temperature as necessary to maintain a simmer while the syrup reaches 110 C on a sugar thermometer. Meanwhile, briefly beat the egg yolks in a bowl and when the syrup is ready, pour onto the yolks in a thin steady stream while whisking with an electric mixer until a very pale, completely cold mousse-like texture is achieved. Now whisk in the butter a bit at a time. You will notice the icing thicken and look more manageable. Once everything is incorporated pipe or swirl the icing onto the cold cakes and decorate with a whole hazelnut and a sprinkling of crushed hazelnut chocolate.
Enjoy!!

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