Peanut butter mousse cupcakes

Time saver: Phil does his bit for the obesity epidemic in New Zealand.

First off, this recipe isn’t my own, the credit goes to Ms. Humble of Not So Humble Pie, with her Dead Man’s Peanut Butter Cupcakes. I’ve made them a couple of times now, so this is just a record of my attempts to adapt them to the New Zealand market.

When I was younger I used to watch Sesame Street, and back then, the Cookie Monster really loved cookies. These days I think he says things like “Cookies are a sometimes food”, which is kind of a sell out for a creature whose life is devoted to the finding and devouring of cookies. Be that as it may, today kids, I’m here to say ”Peanut butter mousse cupcakes are a sometimes food”. If you eat these regularly they will probably kill you. Fair warning.

The first I knew about these was when a young friend of mine (Jonathan DeGenius) gave me one to try. I didn’t know what I had, so I took it home and halved it with my wife. I think we nearly cried. Here’s the email I sent immediately afterwards:

Subject: “Amazing awesome deliciousness, or something to that effect…”

“Hey Jonathan, that subject line is from my wife who just had half of that cupcake. We both agreed it was the best cupcake we’ve ever eaten. The peanut mousse is incredible.”

After finding out where he’d got the recipe from I couldn’t wait to make them myself, and so I did. The cupcakes were brilliant, but I did notice a few things. When you follow the original recipe, it kind of feels like you’ve buying every possible dairy product imaginable. (You basically are, it uses: sour cream, butter milk, butter, cream cheese, and regular cream.) The other thing is that you’re left with the somewhat daunting task of disposing of 24 substantial cupcakes. (Once your friends hear about them it’s not actually that hard to offload them.) As well as that, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t pipe enough peanut butter mousse onto each cupcake to use it all and was left with quite a lot of it in a bowl in the fridge. I took care of that with judicious use of a dessert spoon over the next few days, culminating in what was either an absolute high or low point (you be the judge) where I re-melted the remaining chocolate coating and then ate the mousse, dipping spoonfuls of it into the liquid chocolate. Hopefully I can save you from that same awful fate.

Anyway, I figured that with such a decadent topping you could probably get away with a much simpler cupcake recipe. It should also be possible to make a smaller quantity of the peanut butter mousse, using quantities that fit better with the quantities sold in New Zealand shops. Also, if the cupcakes were mini-sized they’d be a bit less daunting for your wimpy friends.

So, when I made these for my brother’s birthday, I used a simpler cupcake recipe, and scaled down the peanut butter mousse. As it turns out, Ms Humble has already given a peanut butter mousse with reduced quantities in her Dead Man’s Peanut Butter Pie recipe. So you could just go and read that recipe, however, if you prefer the metric system (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?) read on…

Peanut butter mouse cupcakes – makes around 36 mini-cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 125g butter, softened
  • ½ cup white sugar (caster or granulated)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup white flour (if using self-raising flour, omit the baking powder below)
  • ¼ cup cocoa (I used Dutch cocoa, if you don’t have it just use normal cocoa)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1-2 tsp natural vanilla essence
  • 36 mini-cupcake cases (paper, or if you can find them, the foil ones are even better)
  1. Pre-heat oven to 180°C (160°C if fan-forced).
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together, then beat in the eggs.
  3. Sift in the flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda. Add the milk and vanilla essence and stir to combine. (You could do all of this in a food processor if you were so inclined.)
  4. Place the cupcake cases in mini-muffin tins, then use a couple of teaspoons to spoon the mixture evenly into the cases. The cases should only be about half full, since we only want the cupcakes to rise as high as the edges of the cases (everything else will be chopped off).
  5. Bake for around 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cupcakes comes out clean. Cool on wire racks.
  6. Using a sharp bread-cutting knife, cut anything higher than the edge of the cupcake case off the top of each cupcake. This is to give you a nice flat surface to pipe the mousse onto.

Peanut Butter mousse

  • 1½ cups fresh cream
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 250g cream cheese (not spreadable, not low-fat, if you’re worried about that, don’t make these cupcakes)
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter (this is around 275g)
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  1. Add the sugar to the cream, and whip until fairly firm, then set aside.
  2. Combine the cream cheese, icing sugar and peanut butter and beat till smoove. (This sticky mixture had a tendency to climb up my beaters, so I had a spoon handy to push it off it got too high.)
  3. Add the whipped cream to the mix, and beat on low until just combined.
  4. Put the mousse in the fridge to chill (or freezer if you’re in a hurry, but keep an eye on it), and lick the egg beaters clean. Sigh with delight.

The cupcakes are ready, the mousse is chilled. Time to align those synergies.

Peanut butter mousse cupcakes

  • 250g milk chocolate (I used Whittaker’s Creamy Milk Chocalate – 33% Cocoa) (if you want to be sure to have enough chocolate, maybe consider getting another 50g bar just to be safe)
  • 2 Tbsp flavourless oil (I used rice-bran oil – yes this seems strange, but it solves the problem of tempering the chocolate, and means you can bite into the cupcakes without the tops shattering)
  1. Line the cupcakes up on your bench.
  2. Equip a large piping bag with a round tip (I used one with an 11mm wide opening), then carefully spoon the peanut butter mousse into it. (If someone else is around, get them to hold the bag for you.)
  3. Pipe some mousse onto the top of each cupcake – place the tip just above the centre of each one, hold it steady and pipe out a big blob (so that it almost reaches the edge of the cupcake), then raise the tip a little and pipe out a second smaller one. Don’t worry if they’re not perfect, no one will care.
  4. Put them in the freezer as you go to firm the mousse up for the next stage.
  5. Once all the cupcakes are safely in the freezer, break the chocolate up and put it in a small microwaveable jug/bowl, along with the oil. Microwave it carefully (it should take around 1 minute) until melted. Stir to take care of any remaining lumps. (If you don’t have a microwave you can melt it on the stove using a double-boiler technique, melting the chocolate in a metal bowl sitting over a small pot of water, heated gently and stirring constantly.)
  6. Transfer some of the melted chocolate to a small tumbler/rammekin – you want something fairly short and narrow that you can lower the tops of the cupcakes into.
  7. Take the cupcakes from the freezer (maybe in batches of 12), carefully lower each one mousse-first into the melted chocolate, down to the edge of the case (but not over the edge or it makes it hard to get the cases off). Lift it up and let the excess chocolate run off, then set down on the bench. Because the mousse is cold the chocolate should set fairly quickly. Transfer the cupcakes to the fridge as you finish each batch. Top up the tumbler with more chocolate as needed. Repeat until finished.
  8. Store in the fridge until you’re ready to eat them. If you want to you could take them out 30 mins before eating to bring to room temperature. They should last for a couple of days in the fridge, but you probably won’t need to find that out. Enjoy!

Mini Apricot Danishes

Time saver: mini apricot danishes, just like regular apricot danishes, only smaller.

mini apricot danishHere’s a treat you can put together pretty quickly. Tasty little parcels of pastry and apricot with a sweet glaze to finish it off. Good for a light breakfast/brunch, or just whenever you feel like it.

Mini Apricot Danishes – makes around 18

  • 400g tin apricot halves (drained, but reserve syrup, you should hopefully get around 18 halves)
  • 2 sheets flaky puff pastry
  • 8 Tbsp icing sugar
  • 2 Tbsp apricot syrup
  • (optional) 1 egg + 1 Tbsp water for egg wash
  1. Pre-heat oven to 200°C on fan-bake.
  2. Cut each pastry sheet into 9 even sized squares (i.e. 3 x 3 grid).
  3. Place an apricot half (cut-side down) into middle of each square.
  4. Fold up two of the corners of each square so they wrap around the apricot and overlap in the middle. Use a little apricot syrup to wet the pastry where it joins, then press down firmly.
  5. Place danishes on a sheet of baking paper on a baking tray.
  6. For a good finish to the pastry, prepare an egg wash by beating together an egg with a tablespoon of water and brushing lightly over the pastry on each danish.
  7. Bake danishes in oven for around 15 minutes, until pastry is golden brown, then remove from oven and transfer to cooling rack.
  8. In a small jug mix together the icing sugar with 2 Tbsp apricot syrup (or just plain water). Using a piping bag or teaspoon, drizzle glaze over danishes in a zig-zag pattern. (Note: if the danishes are warm the glaze will melt and run, if you’re serving immediately that won’t matter so much, but otherwise you should wait until they’re cool before glazing.)

mini apricot danishes

Almond and Orange Tuiles

Time saver: Phil tweaks Chef Eddy’s Almond Tuiles recipe, and reaps the sweet sweet benefits.

almond and orange tuilesWhen I first wrote about Almond Tuiles I said that I hadn’t changed the recipe at all. That’s different now, and I’m ready to stamp my mark on it. As I said the first time around, Chef Eddy’s Almond Tuiles recipe is my inspiration (reference, source), so feel free to refer to him or use his recipe instead of mine. (He has some great photos, so maybe check it out even if you decide to use my slightly altered one.)

Tuiles are a great crispy dessert cookie, with a distinctive curved shape. The combination of vanilla, orange and almond is subtle and (to me anyway) sublime. They’re best eaten on the day they’re made, but if you have a really airtight container you can try keeping them. (I’ve had mixed results – they stay crisp for a couple of days then go slightly chewy.)

The main changes I’ve made to the recipe are:

  • halved the quantities (and then adjusted slightly)
  • doubled vanilla
  • quadrupled the orange zest
  • reduced almond to a quantity commonly sold in NZ shops (impossible to find 90g bags)
  • shifted a lot of the weight based measurements to volume based – it’s less accurate, but faster if you don’t have to weigh everything

One of the great things about this recipe is that it leaves you with unused egg yolks, which is a nice problem to have. Sounds like you’d better make crème brûlée. I haven’t put up a recipe for crème patisserie yet (though I’m planning to eventually) but that would be a good option too. (Let’s not get me started on pastry cream, suffice it to say that I love it.)

Almond and Orange Tuiles – makes around 25

  • 60g egg whites (skip measuring and just use the whites from 2 large eggs)
  • 90g caster sugar (this is around 7 Tbsp or ½ cup minus 1 heaped Tbsp)
  • 1 tsp natural vanilla essence
  • 3 Tbsp white flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 30g melted butter (around 2 Tbsp)
  • 70g packet slivered or sliced almonds
  • 2 tsp orange zest (zest of around half an orange – or more if you love oranges)
  1. Heat oven to 205°C (I use “high bake” which uses the bottom and side elements with the fan going).
  2. Put almonds on a baking tray and roast in the oven for around 5-6 minutes – you should probably check them after 4 minutes or so and give them a bit of a stir. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool in a bowl.
  3. Whisk together the egg whites, sugar and vanilla essence in a stainless steel bowl. You’re not aiming for meringue, but whisk it to the point where it’s well-blended.
  4. Add the flour and salt and mix till smooth.
  5. Add the melted butter, cooled almonds and orange zest. Mix well.
  6. Line baking trays with baking paper, then drop teaspoonfuls of the mixture onto the paper. (Yes, it really is supposed to be that runny.) My baking trays aren’t that big, so I only get 9 per sheet (in a 3 x 3 grid). Leave plenty of space between each one as they can spread while cooking. Shape into rounds with a fork, which you can dip in melted butter to help get clean edges.
  7. Cook the tuiles (one tray at a time) for around 6-8 minutes until golden-brown. The edges will brown and the middles should be golden.
  8. Remove from the oven, then quickly lift each one from the tray with a metal spatula/fish-slice, and drape over a thin rolling pin to get the distinctive curved-chip shape. You may need to press them into shape. As they cool they’ll harden, at which point you can remove them from the rolling pin and leave on a wire-rack to finish cooling. If you don’t manage to shape them all you can return the tray to the oven for a few seconds to soften the remaining ones before attempting to shape them again.
  9. Serve on the side with coffee or ice-cream.

almond and orange tuile

Uncle Phil’s American-Style Pancakes (with berries)

Time saver: with the berries baked right into the pancake, you’ll forget that I’m not American, and that I’ve never cooked these for anyone who calls me “Uncle”. (One day my nieces and nephew, one day…)

blueberry pancakeAlthough I grew up on crêpes, I still like the fatter American-style pancakes from time to time. And when you include berries baked right into the pancake, they’re downright irresistible. I usually make these with strawberries grown on the deck, but you can use blueberries, raspberries, basically any berry you can get your hands on will probably be great. (The photos show blueberry pancakes.)

You can also make these without including the berries. In that case, serve with maple or vanilla syrup, or stack with fried bacon and bananas and a light drizzling of maple syrup.

Uncle Phil’s American-Style Pancakes – serves 2 (makes around 5 pancakes)

  • 1 cup white flour
  • 2 Tbsp white sugar
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1-2 eggs (1 is fine, but you can use 2)
  • ¾-1 cup milk
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter (around 30g)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen berries (this is around 125g – if berries are large, chop to size of raspberries)
  • butter for frying
  • maple syrup OR vanilla syrup OR icing sugar to serve
  1. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre, and into this crack the egg.
  2. Also pour in the melted butter and milk, then stir to combine with a fork. Start in the centre and work your way out to the sides, mixing thoroughly to combine and remove any lumps. (There’s a balance here – the less you mix, the lighter the pancakes will be, but you don’t want lumps of flour from undermixing either.)
  3. Add the berries and stir through the batter.
  4. Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat (I use the 4 of the 1-6 heat-range of my element) . Melt a knob of butter in the frying pan and spread evenly over the frying pan’s surface. A small non-stick frying pan works really well and will help you get a round pancake. (They’ll work fine without it, but you may end up with irregular sides.)
  5. Pour a ladle-full of pancake mix (about ½ cup) into the centre of the frying pan (without tilting the pan). If necessary, push the berries around to distribute a bit more evenly. Cook on that side until bubbles begin to form on the surface, then flip and cook on the other side. (Flipping can be a little difficult at times – you don’t want the bottom to burn, but if the top isn’t cooked sometimes the mixture runs or splashes. If you’re really struggling, maybe try cooking on a lower temperature, which should give you more time before the bottom burns.)
  6. Serve with maple or vanilla syrup, or a light dusting of icing sugar.

blueberry pancake closeup

Midori and Lemon Sorbet

Time saver: Summer’s on its way, cool down with a refreshing sorbet.

Midori and lemon sorbet - in shotglassesThis is a variation on the classic lemon sorbet. The sweet melon flavour of the Midori complements the tartness of the lemons, while also adding a little colour. Although I’ve used Midori, you can probably get away with any of your favourite liqueurs/spirits.

Your freezer needs to be quite cold when making sorbet (or you’ll have to wait a long time for it to freeze). If you leave the sorbet too long without beating it (particularly before the first round of beating) the syrup may freeze solid. if that happens, just leave it to thaw for a few minutes, then beat and return to the freezer.

Midori and Lemon Sorbet

If well beaten, this recipe makes just shy of 1 litre.

  • 2 c water (use filtered/bottled water if the tap water is chlorinated)
  • 1½ c white sugar
  • 1 c freshly squeezed lemon juice (around 6-8 lemons, more if they’re small)
  • 3 Tbsp Midori Liqueur
  1. Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan, heat on a hot element, stirring frequently until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Let it come to the boil, and simmer for two minutes, then remove from the heat.
  3. While the syrup cools, juice the lemons. Strain the juice through a sieve into the saucepan of syrup, add the Midori, and mix well.
  4. Pour the syrup into a shallow freezer proof bowl and place bowl in the freezer. (I normally just use an old 2 litre ice cream container.)
  5. Leave to freeze for a couple of hours, then retrieve the bowl and beat with electric beaters/stick mix. After beating, return to the freezer.
  6. Repeat the beating process a couple more times, with hour long intervals. The more you beat it, the lighter and smoother the sorbet.
  7. Serve in chilled glasses. For a palate cleanser, use 40ml shot glasses, for dessert use larger chilled martini glasses.

Midori and Lemon Sorbet - in cocktail glass