Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Iron Chef Coconut: Coconut Hostess Cupcakes

Well done, Ben and Dina -- coconut was an excellent Civil Appellate Iron Chef theme ingredient.  I'd recently made chocolate cupcakes with coconut milk when I didn't have enough regular milk, and they'd had a subtle coconut flavor.  I loved Hostess cupcakes as a kid (and into adulthood, until I discovered to my chagrin they are not vegetarian!), and so I was inspired.  I was pretty proud of my (now award-winning) coconut Hostess cupcakes; a mix of creativity, nostalgia, chocolate, and child-friendly servings makes for an Iron Chef dessert crowd pleaser.

At least a few hours (ideally overnight) before beginning the active preparation, stick a can of full-fat coconut milk in the fridge.

I started with Smitten Kitchen's "I want chocolate cake" cake, subbing coconut milk for 1/2 cup of the buttermilk and coconut flour for 1/3 cup of the flour.  (In retrospect, I'm not sure the coconut flour did much for flavor, and it made for a slightly drier texture.  I've not experimented enough to compensate for that.)  This is a smallish recipe, making about a dozen full-sized cupcakes, so I doubled it.

6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 (145 grams) firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup coconut milk (I used light coconut milk, but I bet full-fat would be even tastier)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1/2 cup (44 grams) Dutch cocoa powder
2/3 cup (85 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup coconut flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table or fine sea salt

Heat the oven to 350 F (175 C).  Line cupcake trays with paper liners.  In a large bowl, use a hand or stand mixer to beat the butter and sugars until fluffy; scrape down the bowl.  Add the egg, yolk, and vanilla and beat until combined, then add the milks and mix again.  Scrape the down the bowl; don't worry if the batter looks uneven.  Sift flours, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the batter bowl.  Stir on low until just combined; scrape down the bowl a final time.  Scoop batter (I use a small ice cream scoop) into the cupcake trays and smooth flat.  Bake for about 18 minutes for full-sized cupcakes (10-12 for mini ones) until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  

While the cupcakes are baking, make the whipped coconut cream and the chocolate ganache. The refrigerated coconut milk will have separated into a thin liquid with a solidified layer on top.  Scoop out the solid layer into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Beat on high with a whisk attachment until fluffy (this only takes a few minutes).  Add a few teaspoons of powdered sugar (to taste) and half a teaspoon of vanilla extract and beat to combine.  Divide the whipped coconut cream (unevenly -- about 90% and 10%) between two pastry bags and stick in the fridge.

Next, make a quick chocolate-coconut ganache.  I don't follow a precise recipe for this -- basically you just want a smooth texture that's pourable when warm and more solidified when cooled.  Melt about 8 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips/chunks.  (I like a makeshift double boiler, a pyrex bowl over a small pot of simmering water, but the microwave would work -- just make sure to heat in short bursts so that you don't scald the chocolate.)  Add about half a cup of coconut milk and a tablespoon of room temperature butter and mix until smooth.  Let cool while you prepare and fill the cupcakes.

The assembly of the filled cupcake is the most time consuming part, but relatively easy.  (Another good combination: lemon cake, lemon curd filling, marshmallow frosting.)  First, cut a cone out of the top of the cupcake with a small pairing knife, leaving a good-sized hole in the cupcake without piercing the bottom.  (Sometimes I scoop a little extra cake out of the hole to allow for more filling.)

Level off the cone to leave a thin cake cap, discarding the now-smaller cone/any crumbs.  (I like to save them for cake pops.  Just eating them also works; quality control is an important part of my baking process. :))

Pipe the whipped coconut cream (from the more filled pastry bag) into the cupcake hole:

Replace the cake cap over the now-filled hole:

Now, decorating!  Coat with ganache (while it's still warm enough to be spreadable, but not so hot that it just drips off the side) in a thick enough layer that you can't see the seam of the cake cap.  Fill a second pastry bag with more of the whipped coconut cream, this one with a tiny tip (or just a cut a smaller hole) so that you can pipe curlicues on the top.  Et voila!


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