Monday, June 21, 2010

Ode to The Pioneer Woman, Cherry Chocolate Malt Cupcake Style

I have many things to thank The Pioneer Woman for: My go-to recipe for cinnamon rolls that invokes awe from all those who taste them, clear and helpful photography tips, hair care and makeup advice for those of us who fall squarely into the category of tomboy, and those 15 pounds I can't shake as a result of following her butter-laden recipe tutorials. But what I should probably thank her for the most is creating Tasty Kitchen, a vivid and engaging site for her readers to exchange thousands of recipes. What a resource this has become for me! I've even added a few recipes myself even though, as discussed in the previous post, it's rare for me to come up with my own concoctions. I felt guilty taking advantage of all of the recipes on there without contributing anything myself.

I have discovered everything from surprisingly good cranberry meatballs to stuffed French toast (see above) so delectable you'll need years of therapy to come to grips with the fact that nothing else you eat will ever be that good. I browse the site frequently and bookmark every recipe that features a pretty picture and a butter-to-sugar ratio of 1:1. Many times those recipes sit in my recipe box for months, alone and unloved, before I finally get around to trying them. Some are still lonesomely awaiting my return. But the one I spotted on Friday was printed out immediately and went home with me that very evening. After compiling the necessary supplies I whipped up a second batch of cupcakes that Sunday. I may not have needed to produce 24 cupcakes in one weekend but there was no way I was going to wait another minute to try these.

The Noshery's Cherry Chocolate Malt Cupcakes let me use some of that malted milk powder that had been sitting in my cupboard waiting for the right baking inspiration to come along. With the addition of cherries this recipe stood out and catapulted to the top of the pile of malted milk cupcake recipes I'd been collecting. I had to make a few substitutions to use up some ingredients I already had on hand. For starters I only had plain malted milk powder, not chocolate, but I made no additions to the recipe to compensate and still wound up with plenty of chocolate flavor. I also used a bunch of cherry pie filling juice (more like a gel) that had been taking up space in my freezer for two months. Freezer space is at a premium in my house what with the cartons of ice cream, gifts from Omaha Steak, and dismembered drifters vying for space in there so it was high time for that stuff to go. (Note to the authorities and readers who may not know me personally: That bit about the drifters was totally a joke. Do not be afraid of my pathetic attempts at humor. I'm really a perfectly normal, well-adjusted person. Aside from the parts of me that are German, of course.) Because the cherry pie juice didn't quite measure one cup and because I wanted the cherry chunks advertised in the description I chopped up a few canned whole Bing cherries from my supply until it leveled out at one cup.

I was a bit concerned about the lack of leavening in the recipe and worried I'd missed a step, but it turns out that omission is precisely what lends the cupcakes the almost indescribable texture that The Noshery limned in her intro. "Dense and heavy, yet incredibly soft and moist" might seem an incongruous description but those words pretty much cover it. My only disappointment was in how much the cupcakes fell once they were removed from the oven for cooling. Some wound up falling to about half the size of the cupcake well but I know some people who would be grateful for the smaller portion when eating something so rich and dense.

I was once again befuddled by the lack of an ingredient in the frosting; this time it was the omission of sugar. Because I'm a sugar fiend I simply could not wrap my mind around the concept of not pouring in cup after cup of powdered sugar. I dug out a few of my untested malted frosting recipes and adjusted The Noshery's version accordingly. This included the addition of some melted semi-sweet chocolate both to give it a more ganache-like feel and to make up for my using plain malted milk powder. I omitted the heavy cream since the mixture was already too runny and gradually added powdered sugar until it all came together and tasted sweet enough for my palate. Even then it was still fairly fluid but with a sticky texture that helped hold it all together. The end result is a uniquely-flavored cupcake with a rich chocolate taste. The crumbled malt balls on top round out the equation with a delicious crunch. I'm sure I'll be making something like this again.