Chocolate Stout Cupcakes Redux
Lately I’ve become convinced that no one actually reads food blogs. Maybe the faithful followers of a particular blog read it thoroughly, but otherwise, visitors are just scrolling down to the prize — the recipe. As I see it, I don’t really develop recipes. I pretty much feel that all of the good recipes have been written and everyone else is just adapting them. Just my two cents…although I’ll give Dominque Ansel props for the Cronut. I spend most of my days in a neurobiology lab adapting “recipes” and tweaking “ingredients” and methods to either prove or disprove a theory. I don’t have much time or patience for that in my kitchen, so if I adapt a recipe and it’s a hit, great! If not, oh well…I might get back to that experiment in another few months or years.
I would like to point out that experimentation is fun when you and your [human] guinea pigs are eating the results, but when you are baking for customers, it’s best to go with the tried and true recipes. This is I why I love Martha Stewart, her recipes are well-written and I’ve never had to re-bake a cake for a client when I have used her recipes.
Last week I finally got back to a baking experiment that needed tweaking. After perusing Pinterest for what seemed like hours, even though I wasn’t actually reading the blogs, I was still at a loss for the recipe that I was searching for: Stout Buttercream. Three years ago I made Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Stout Whipped Cream. They were quite good, but I had boiled the stout into a syrup and added it to the whipped cream and it was rather…yeasty. Not a fail, but not ideal, either. I didn’t want to use an Irish Cream or whiskey buttercream because I’m a beer lover and I wanted a strong stouty flavour.
I’m a huge fan of Swiss meringue buttercream. Along with ganache, meringue frosting, whipped cream and cream cheese frosting, these comprise just about the only suitable cake condiments, in my opinion. The American classic style buttercream is really what I consider frosting. It’s a whole lot of sugar and not much butter. Suitable for kids, but not suitable for adults. Again, that’s my opinion.
SMB, however, does not lend itself well to adding vast quantities of liquid and I wanted to add lots of stout, syrup reduction not being an option. Finally I came across a recipe for stout cupcakes and a vanilla buttercream that could allow me to make the adjustments that I needed. A cooked milk and flour buttercream. Yes, that is really what I said.
A few years back I bought Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito’s Baked Explorations while wandering about Georgetown, DC. I remember it being a moment of great excitement because this book that I was drooling over for months was ON SALE! Honestly, their Salted Caramel Brownies recipe was worth the price of admission alone. Sadly, though, I have made little else from that cookbook, even though I pored over every photo, recipe and note. These guys are the owners of the famous Baked in Brooklyn and ostensibly know their sugary stuff. However, I could not comprehend why they would ever want to cook flour and milk together to make a buttercream. Had they never heard of Swiss meringue buttercream? Their cakes look divine, but I was dubious.
When I found the stout cupcakes recipe on Pinterest, which the baker had paired with a cooked flour buttercream, I decided it was finally worth the experiment because I could substitute half of the milk with the stout (Wellington Brewery’s Chocolate Milk Stout) and I balanced it with a mixture of cream and milk to make up for the loss of fat in the stout. I usually have a good spidey sense for when an experiment has a potential for failure and I sure felt it this time. How I wish that I had hauled out my copy of Baked Explorations because I would have seen that their cooked milk and flour buttercream recipe called for cooking the sugar along with the flour and milk. My instincts were telling me that was what I should do, but I second – guessed myself, thinking that I shouldn’t tinker with the recipe too much.
The results: stouty flavour and an unstable buttercream! I don’t know whether to blame the stout or the method, but either way, the buttercream was soon perspiring a stouty glow. The cupcakes were super delicious, having a rich and moist chocolatey stout base, a layer of ganache and the subtly sweet stout buttercream finish. However, it was enough of a fail that I’m not going to link back to the original recipe, which I fully admit that I didn’t follow, but neither can I vouch for it.
Maybe next year I’ll take this experiment another step forward and try Lewis and Poliafito’s method for floured buttercream with the stout…that’s about the rate at which I seem to be able to write a blog post anyway…speaking of which, why did I bother to write a blog post if I believe that no one is reading it? Mostly for me – it’s a fun way to keep track of my experiments at the very least – and maybe for the potential one or two people who might enjoy a good Chocolate Stout cupcake. Actually, there is no recipe pay dirt in this post! Sorry to all of you who only scrolled to the bottom, just kidding! Check out my older post for the Chocolate Stout cupcakes recipe. http://christiescakes.ca/2012/03/18/chocolate-stout-cupcakes-slainte-mhaith/ Once I’ve experimented more with a cooked flour and milk buttercream I will post the results – I promise.