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!

Happy New Year

Time saver: whatever else happens, stick with philcooks.com and you should have a great year. (Overstating it a bit Phil?)

In review of last year: 2011 saw the dawning of a new era of cookery, with the birth of philcooks. For anyone who’s interested, there were 2,668 views of the blog from its inception in July through to December, and I put up 32 posts with around 26 recipes. July was the most visited month so far, followed by December. Hopefully the blog’s been useful to someone.

So what does 2012 mean for philcooks? Well, I reckon I’ll keep posting recipes for the things I’m making, and I reckon you can keep saying “Oh yes, very nice Phil” and then not cooking them, and we’ll get along swimmingly. I also plan (well, as much as I ever plan anything) to brush up the Facebook page a bit. That way you can opt in to being my friend without opting in to being spammed, or vice versa. I’m also open to the idea of a bit of a redesign, and rearranging things to make recipes a little easier to find.

It’s a bit late to wish you a tasty Christmas, but here’s to a delicious New Year. I wish you all the best in all your endeavours, and happy cooking.

p.s. if you have a tablet/iPad and you haven’t checked out the blog on it yet, you should, it looks great.

Almond Tuiles

Time saver: I still don’t know how to pronounce “tuiles” properly.

If you know what a tuile is then you already know these are delicious. If you don’t, then they’re a little difficult to explain, except to say that they’re thin, slightly crispy, slightly chewy, often curved dessert cookies. When they come out of the oven they’re quite malleable, so are sometimes shaped into bowls for ice cream etc.

I haven’t internalised the recipe for these, or come up with my own particular spin on it. When I make these, I refer to Chef Eddy, who’s got a great recipe for Almond Tuiles on his site.

The one thing I did do was halve the recipe, but I don’t think that really warrants me writing it up here. (Unless someone requests it.) So go on, go follow Chef Eddy’s advice and make them. They’re really pretty easy.

National Roast Day

Time saver: Phil sells out to the marketing shills and cooks a roast.

So today (Sunday 7 August 2011) is Selaks NZ roast day. Why we need a wine company to tell us to make roasts is a bit beyond me, but hey. I’ve been meaning to do make roast beef with yorkshire pudding for quite a while, so I’ll jump on the gravy train (sorry) and do it today. I don’t know enough about roasting beef to go offering advice to anyone (though you’re welcome to share yours with me!) so there won’t be recipe for this one.

When I was growing up it was almost always Dad who made roast beef, I think it’s one of the things he really enjoys making and worked well. As kids we always thought the best bit was the yorkshire pudding, and I’m still pretty partial to them. (Straight out of the oven, covered in delicious gravy… who would eat peas when there’s yorkshire pudding to eat?)

If it looks good I’ll put some pictures up. If it doesn’t we’ll have poached eggs for dinner and I’ll delete this post…

Update – complete success!

Plated roast beefIt all worked brilliantly and my wife ate so much she says she wants to spew… (One note about the picture – the meat looks quite pink in it. It was definitely medium-rare, but not as pink as that in real life. Blame the camera and my photography skills rather than the food.)

As it was, I was too busy carving and serving to take any photos at the time we ate, but I went back and plated up some leftovers. Note the complete absence of yorkshire pudding. As per Dad’s style, I cooked them in a muffin tray, making 12 small puddings. And yes, we ate them all before I got around to getting the camera out.

I cooked a sirloin roast, using this recipe from the NZ Beef & Lamb website as the base. As per Jamie Oliver’s instructions for consistently good gravy I put the whole thing on a vegetable trivet while roasting in the oven. It must have worked, because the gravy was fantastic.

For the veges I just chopped up 3 potatoes, about a quarter of a pumpkin, a large kumara and a couple of parsnips. Put it all in a roasting dish, then covered in olive oil, mixed in a little garlic and thyme and then seasoned with salt and pepper. Roasted at 200°C for about 45 minutes.

Measuring cheese

Time saver: Phil rants about  measuring cheese. No really.

Helpful tip: if you genuinely came here hoping to find out how much cheese to use because someone’s failed to take the advice of yours truly and specified the quantity by volume rather than weight, this may help. As a rough guide, 1 cup of grated cheese is equal to around 125g (which is 0.27 lbs or 4.4 oz). That holds for mozarella and cheddar anyway, good luck with anything else.

So tonight I got back from a kayak rolling session at the pool (after four months off – BOOM still got it) and felt like a bit of a snack. I decided I’d try out my tuna melt parcels again, cooking off the recipe to make sure I’d gotten it right. And, well I mostly had – I’ve updated that recipe with a couple of minor changes, and I’ve got a few more photos to clarify a couple of steps – but then I got to the cheese.

It turns out that measuring cheese by grated volume is insane. As in, completely crazy, utterly wrong-headed and extremely unhelpful. It just doesn’t work. It’s so bad that not only did I immediately vow to never post a recipe with the cheese measured by volume again, I decided I should go back and fix up all of my old recipes as well. (This will happen as I go back and cook things again.)

I’m actually going to go further than that, and say that no one anywhere should ever specify cheese measured by volume in a recipe. Just don’t do it.

What’s so wrong about it? Well, consider that a recipe essentially has two parts, the list of ingredients (with measurements), and the method. To get the desired product, you measure out the ingredients, and combine them in the way specified. The problem with measuring cheese by volume is that it’s completely arbitrary – it’s impossible to do it accurately, or know quite how much cheese the creator of the recipe actually intends for you to use. If you can’t measure the ingredients correctly, then the chances of you ending up with the result you want are greatly diminished.

Here’s a concrete example, with a recipe for grated cheese:

Grated cheese on a plate

  • 1 c grated cheddar cheese
  1. Put grated cheese on a plate.

Here’s the thing: how much cheese do you now have on the plate? What I found out tonight is that there could be as little as 50g on there, or as much as 150g. While I was making the tuna melt parcels I wanted to measure out a ½ cup of grated cheese. I cut off a 50g chunk of cheddar (I weighed it), then grated it finely. At the end I was left with what looked like 1 cup of cheese – twice as much as the recipe said. So I pushed it down into the ½ cup measure and made it all fit. My full cup of cheese had just turned into a ½ cup. A few nights ago though, I was measuring grated mozarella (grated thickly)  for the New York style pizza and found that about 1 cup was around 125g. But I could have easily pressed in more and taken it to 150g or more. So, depending on how it’s grated, and how aggressively it’s made to fit into the measure, how much cheese ends up on the plate could vary a lot.

Besides that, it’s basically impossible to measure the right quantity as you go anyway. Assuming you’re grating cheese, how do you know when you’ve grated the right amount? Do you keep stopping and checking to see if you’re reached a cup yet, or do you grate a whole lot and then try and stuff it into the measure?

So what’s the solution? It’s simple: specify the amount of cheese by weight. You can write 100g grated cheese into your recipe just as easily as you can write 1 cup grated cheese. Doing it by weight actually ensures that people can measure the right amount, doing it by volume just leaves it to chance. Not only that, but it’s easy to cut off a slab of cheese, weigh it to get the right amount, and then grate it. Try doing that when you’re measuring by volume.

When you consider all of these points, you can’t help but acknowledge that it’s inappropriate to specify the amount of cheese in a recipe by volume. If you consider it a little further it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that people who do specify the amount of cheese by volume do so because they don’t actually know (or care) how much cheese should be used. They’re effectively saying it doesn’t matter, and it’s up to the cook’s discretion, except they don’t actually say that. They’re not only being lazy, they’re also being dishonest.

The next time you see a recipe with cheese specified by volume and not weight, ask yourself why. And then ask the author to fix it.