german chocolate cupcakes

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I made cupcakes. And lemme tell you, they were goooood. After a long, hard last day of a long, hard week, all it took was some baking for me to de-stress. Yes, I’ve been away, but for legit reasons – we started seeing patients! A particularly noteworthy, much dreaded milestone was reached Monday morning when, at 9am, I led my first ever living, breathing human patient into my allocated little cubicle. Not gonna lie, for the entire appointment I thought I was going to shit my pants and run out crying, swearing to leave dentistry for good. It was extremely nerve-racking, which given the circumstances is perfectly normal, but I tried my hardest to put on my most professional face, instead of doing the whole eyes staring wide in horror thing that one tends to gravitate towards under extreme stress.

Other than a lot of waiting for my supervisor to come by and check every step, and a few minor brain-farts, it was fine – I did it! No manslaughter was committed, no one got jabbed by a bloody needle; although a nervous breakdown was imminent…

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Of the million things that Australia has yet to catch up to the rest of the world with, German chocolate cake is certainly one of them, in my experience. Ever since I heard of it, I’ve been intrigued by the supposedly amazing gooey coconut-pecan filling. I finally went down to business with them last time after spotting pecans that were on sale, and you can guess how many times I resisted the temptation and failed to sneak bits of that caramelly filling while I was making the batter. I even poked holes in the centres of each cupcake and filled them with leftover caramel from the marshmallows I made before (that recipe will eventually get up on the blog… one of these days… maybe), but even then they were overly sweet, thanks to the dark chocolate and the other complex flavours from the roasted coconut and pecans.

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German chocolate cupcakes (makes 12)

For the chocolate cupcakes:
125g or 2 extra large whole eggs
60g white sugar
20g brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
12g cocoa powder
60g just-boiled water
56g dark chocolate
75g unsalted butter, softened
100g flour
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
118g buttermilk (or 50% milk, 50% plain yogurt)

For the filling:
50g sugar
25g water
45g sweetened condensed milk
50g glucose1 tsp vanilla
25g butter
pinch of salt
25g toasted flaked/shredded unsweetened coconut
48g chopped pecans

For the chocolate buttercream:
110g unsalted butter
60g icing sugar
pinch of salt
40g dark chocolate
20g heavy cream

To mix the batter, whip the eggs with the sugars and vanilla until the foam barely drips down when you lift the whisk (ribbon stage). Pour the hot water over the cocoa and stir, then add the chocolate to melt. To the chocolate mixture, whisk in the soft butter until combined. Stream into the egg mixture while folding gently but efficiently, using big strokes from the bottom of the bowl, being careful not to deflate the eggs too much. Sift the dry ingredients together and add about 1/3 of it to the batter, again being very gentle. Add in half of the buttermilk, fold to combine, add 1/3 of the flour again, then the rest of the buttermilk, then the rest of the flour. Scoop evenly into lined cupcake holes and bake in a preheated oven at 175C for 21-22 mins or until springy to the light touch. Leave in pan until cooled enough to touch, then cool completely on a wire rack.

For the filling, boil the sugar, water, condensed milk, glucose and vanilla together until it thickens a bit, approximately 3 mins. Then add the butter and salt and boil for a further 30 seconds before adding the coconut and pecans. Cover and cool completely before using.

For the buttercream, whip the butter by itself for a few minutes until the colour lightens, then add the icing sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Boil the cream and add it to the chocolate to make a ganache, and add it to the butter-sugar mixture once it’s completely cool (can place in freezer for a minute to speed up process), along with the salt. Beat until the mixture is a homogenous, glossy, chocolatey, delicious cloud.

Scoop about a tablespoon’s worth of filling onto each cupcake, then pipe a ring of buttercream around it. Homemade chocolate sprinkles to serve.

brown butter + orange madeleines w/ caramel

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Apparently madeleines are one of those things that the non-French picture the French to be snacking on all day long. Like Camembert and snails and whatever else. However it is one of the innumerous pastries I’ve only had the inauthentic renditions of (meaning, I made it or a local bakery that doesn’t give a shit about honouring tradition did) and would pay to learn how to make properly.

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I have great love for these dainty, slightly pretentious little treats. But they tend to be on the dry side once cool. So I thought, if I’m going to re-warm one later (yeah I know they’re best fresh, but it’s the second best alternative and I don’t have to heat up the entire oven again), it might as well have hot caramel sauce oozing out of it.

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Not exactly what a purist would applaud, but actually when it comes to finding the best recipe I will not rest easy knowing there’s a better/more traditional recipe/method out there. I can end up looking for hours for the one I’m looking for, the one that’s more proven, that more have tried, the one created and used by pros. So when I headed to my usual trusted sources for such recipes for the real French madeleines and ended up with 3 slightly different recipes and very different methods, I was torn. Some called for the batter to be chilled before adding the butter, some after, some required one hour and some one day. Eventually I settled on what worked best faster, since I only have one pan: chill an hour before adding butter and freeze half an hour in the pan just before baking.

And of course I had to brown the butter.

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Brown butter orange madeleines with caramel sauce (makes 18 medium-sized ones)

For the madeleines:
2 eggs (115g)
75g granulated sugar
zest of 1 orange
145g self-raising flour
110g unsalted butter

For the caramel:
100g granulated sugar
20g water
40g cream
heaped teaspoon of butter
pinch of salt

Prepare a madeleine pan by lightly greasing (no big chunks of butter in the grooves) and flouring it.

Rub the zest and sugar together until moist and fragrant. Add to the eggs and beat until paler in colour, about 3 minutes if using an electric whisk. Gently fold in the sifted flour. Cover and chill in the fridge for an hour.

Close to the hour mark, start browning the butter. When it’s warm and not hot, drizzle into the chilled batter, folding at the same time to incorporate. Scoop the batter into the holes about what you imagine would fill 3/4 when spread out, but don’t spread it (or about 1 tbsp). If you can wait, freeze for half and hour. If not, bake in an 260C/500F oven for 5 minutes, then a further 7 minutes at 180C/350F.

For the caramel, melt sugar with water over medium-high heat in a deep pot. Occasionally brush down the sides with a wet pastry brush, or alternatively, put a lid down and let the condensation drip down the sides. In the meantime, warm up the cream until almost boiling and set aside. Once the sugar has turned golden, swirl the pot a bit to distribute the colour. When it’s amber all over, very carefully pour in the hot cream, and the butter, and stir until homogenous. Add salt to taste.

When the caramel has cooled enough to touch but not too viscous, pipe into the madeleines. Or drizzle it on. I even tried blobbing it onto the batter before baking. You can’t go wrong with caramel. Just remember to brush your teeth after smothering your whole face with it.