Sunday, December 18, 2011

Peppermint Bark Cupcakes

Don't forget to enter the "Good Cookie" spatula giveaway! Details at bottom of post!

The Setting: The air outside may be cold and damp, but the air inside smells like chocolate!

The Soundtrack: Amy Grant holiday radio on Pandora.

Steaming up the Oven: Dark Chocolate Cupcakes.

The Scenario: Because it is the holiday season, because I am newly obsessed with the theme of peppermint bark, and because I have committed to bringing two dozen cupcakes to a party tonight, dark-chocolate cupcakes, peppermint-flecked whipped-white-chocolate ganache, and spears of peppermint bark will come together to make sweet, sweet, Peppermint-Bark-Cupcake love.

Step one: Peppermint Bark

See last post for the how-to. Reserve 1/4 cup of very finely crushed peppermints and powdery bits.

Step two: White Chocolate Ganache

1 pint heavy whipping cream
12 oz white chocolate chips (for an airier frosting, or 16 oz for a thicker, richer frosting)
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

In a large microwave-safe bowl or 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup, microwave cream for 70 seconds. Stir and microwave an additional 70 seconds. You want the cream to be hot enough to melt the chocolate, but not quite to a simmer.

Whisk in the white chocolate, whisking till completely melted. Whisk in the vanilla. Allow to cool completely at room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge overnight or in the freezer for two hours.

Step three: Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

Make dark chocolate cupcakes and allow to cool completely.

The recipe I use comes from Cooks Illustrated and includes both cocoa powder and semisweet chocolate for deep, dark chocolaty-ness and butter and sour cream for richness. Unfortunately, it is not my recipe, so I cannot disclose it to you, but if you are an online subscriber of Cooks Illustrated, definitely check it out! Otherwise, I'm sure a chocolate cake mix or your favorite chocolate cupcake recipe will be perfect.

A totally unsolicited note on Cooks Illustrated: If you are not an online subscriber to Cooks Illustrated (the publication from the folks at America's Test Kitchen), you can generally sign up for a free 14-day trial, which is how they got me. If you are like me, though, you'll go ahead and let your credit card be charged once your trial is up, as Cooks Illustrated is one of, if not THE best resources online for TESTED and perfected recipes, kitchen-gadget recommendations and tips, and they have absolutely no advertising, which is why they charge a subscription fee.

Step four: Assembly

Remove white chocolate mixture from fridge and whip with an electric mixer on low one minute. Increase the speed to med-high and whip till fluffy and able to hold stiff peaks. Avoid overbeating, which could cause the mixture to separate.

Break up/fluff reserved 1/4 cup peppermint powder with a fork if it is caking together.

With mixer on low speed, pour peppermint powder into the white chocolate ganache, whipping just till incorporated.

Transfer icing to a pastry bag and pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

Stick a spear of peppermint bark into the top of each iced cupcake. Enjoy!

Don't forget to enter the OXO "Good Cookie" Spatula Giveaway!

This spatula rules, and it will be given away FREE to one of my lucky readers! OXO is even paying for the shipping!

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