I always get a giggle whenever someone tells me about their “famous [fill in name of food dish]”. Recently while dining with acquaintances we were informed that we were about to be treated too our hostess’s “famous meatloaf”. She actually informed us that she “was famous for her meatloaf”! Now don’t get me wrong, it was actually quite a delicious meatloaf but I had no idea our hostess had acquired a degree of notoriety for it. Quite honestly, I had never heard of her meatloaf before that evening. Perhaps I’m just not as au currant as I thought I was? (I read the New York Times daily. I even read People magazine and when nobody is looking I’ll even pick up The Enquirer. Never heard of her meatloaf.) Just this past year, however, I have been treated to “famous lemon bars”, “famous Asian salmon”, and more recently, “famous artichoke dip”. (Trust me, as delicious as it is, NOBODY’S artichoke dip is worthy of fame.)
My friends would probably have a hard time associating me with any one particular dish. Maybe if you pressed them they might laugh and say “ croquembouche ” — even though I haven’t actually made one since 1996. I was young and too foolish to know that some recipes should only be admired –not attempted. I had just caught my first glimpse of a younger, slimmer Martha Stewart in a set of VHS videos that belonged to my mother. She stepped her viewers through the very complicated recipe — assuring us along the way how easy it was at each step. When I saw Martha spinning the sugar and wrapping it around the festive assembly of puff pastries I was hooke and determined to make it for my next holiday party. Surprisingly, it turned out pretty darn nice even thought it took several batches of cream puffs to get enough good ones to complete. One of my guests was so enthralled by the whole thing that he started eating it piece by piece, one puff at a time, turning my creating into a culinary game of Jenga. Before I could do a formal presentation to my guests most of its structural support had been eaten away. When I went to check on it and get it ready I found 25% of it missing! Traumatized, I have not made another one since. The stuff of legend.
The recipe is adapted from Ina’s to make them less sweet and a bit deeper and darker in cocoa flavor. I also add some baking powder to get just a tad more lift. She makes them plain but I always decorate a few with toasted walnuts or slivered almonds.
- 1/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
- 11 fluid ounces Hershey’s chocolate syrup (1 can)
- 1 TBS baking powder
- 1 TBS cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- Toasted slivered almonds
- 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 8 ounces good semisweet chocolate chips
- 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a muffin pan with paper liners.
Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time. Mix in the chocolate syrup and vanilla. Add the flour and coffee granules and mix until just combined. Don’t overbeat, or the cupcakes will be tough.
Scoop the batter into the muffin cups and bake for 30 minutes, or until just set in the middle. Don’t overbake! Let cool thoroughly in the muffin pan.
For the ganache, cook the heavy cream, chocolate chips, and instant coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally.
Dip the tops of the cupcakes into the ganache. Do not refrigerate.