I promise this is the last non-primal post for a while! I did a lot of cheating over the holidays and who doesn’t love to indulge every now and then? When I got to LA, the first friends I made were self-proclaimed “beer nerds.” Not to mention they love food too (and whiskey)! Obviously I fit right in with this crowd and was soon invited to one of their beer-tastings, where each person brings 2 or 3 22oz. bottles of delicious, high quality craft beer. Each beer is divided between however many guests there are. Basically it’s like wine tasting for the beer connoisseur. Since then, we have managed to do a tasting roughly once a month. 🙂 In fact, I am hosting this month. Just before we all left town for the holidays, we had a holiday-themed beer tasting. I had been wanting to try a Smitten Kitchen recipe for years for chocolate stout cupcakes with whiskey ganache and irish cream frosting (inspired by a car bomb). And I couldn’t think of a better crowd or setting for it! I also had my eye on the salted caramel pretzel thumbprint cookies from the holiday cookie edition of the Food Network magazine. So I got baking!
Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Whiskey Ganache and Irish Cream Frosting (slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
(Difficulty-Medium; Makes ~10 cupcakes **I halved the original recipe**)
For the cupcakes:
1/2 c. stout beer (I used my favorite- Young’s Double Chocolate Stout)
1 stick unsalted butter, room temp.
1/4 c. + 2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 c. all purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, room temp.
1/3 c. greek yogurt or sour cream
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1/3 c. heavy cream
1 Tbsp. butter, room temperature
1 tsp. Irish whiskey (I used Jameson)
Irish Cream Frosting:
1 cup confections sugar (I reduced this from the original recipe as I found it much too sweet when combined with the Baileys)
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 Tbsp. Baileys
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 12 cupcake cups with liners (I found cute red and green striped ones at Michaels which I had to buy!). Bring stout and butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric or stand mixer, beat eggs and greek yogurt in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.
To make the ganache, chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. (If this has not sufficiently melted the chocolate, you can return it to a double-boiler to gently melt what remains.) Add the butter and whiskey and stir until combined.
Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped,. about 10-20 minutes if you stick it the fridge. Meanwhile, using a serrated knife or 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer (I didn’t have one), cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes about 2/3 of the way to the bottom, being careful not to cut all the way through. I ate these pieces to make sure the cupcake was edible. 😉 Put the ganache into a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.
For the frosting, whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes, until it is light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time. Pour in the Baileys and whip it until combined. This frosting has a nice thick texture and holds up well when piped. Ice and decorate the cupcakes. I used a star tip and made little stars everywhere (which coincidentally ended up looking a little like snow balls) and used a microplane to shave some dark chocolate on the top.
Salted Caramel Pretzel Thumbprint Cookies (courtesy of Food Network Magazine)
(Difficulty-Easy; Makes ~2 dozen cookies)
- 1 1/2 c. broken thin pretzel sticks
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2/3 c. sugar
- 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
- 2 Tbsp. honey
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp. fine salt
- 1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
- 1/2 c. fleur de sel or caramel sauce (I loved this one at Trader Joes)
- Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
Put 1/4 cup pretzels in a resealable plastic bag and crush into coarse crumbs with a rolling pin.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Whisk the egg yolks, honey, vanilla and salt in a medium bowl, then add to the butter mixture and beat until incorporated, scraping down the bowl as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low; add the flour and pretzel crumbs and beat until just combined.
Put the remaining 1 1/4 cups pretzels in the resealable bag and roughly crush with the rolling pin; spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Drop tablespoonfuls of dough on top and roll into balls, pressing so the pretzels adhere. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Arrange the cookies about 1 1/2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets; make a deep indentation in each with your thumb. Bake, switching the position of the pans halfway through, until lightly golden, 15 to 18 minutes. Re-indent with the back of a teaspoon, if necessary. Let cool 3 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to racks to cool completely. Fill each indentation with dulce de leche and sprinkle with sea salt. This cookie is a perfect combination of salty and sweet. And what goes with beer better than pretzels?!