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!
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Hot Cross Buns

Time saver: as the current of cold water moves up the coast, the stage is set for one of nature’s great events: the hot cross bun run… (apologies to David Attenborough and the sardines).

hot cross buns platedEvery year on Good Friday my mother cooks up an enormous batch of hot cross buns, which are basically all devoured on the spot within minutes of leaving the oven (and some sooner than that). Warm and delicious with that sticky sugar glaze, they never last for long. When we were kids we weren’t that keen on the ones with fruit in them, so Mum kindly left it out of half of them. After a while I realised I could maximise my hot cross bun consumption by diversifying, so I’d eat the fruit-free ones until they ran out, and then branch out into the fruit ones. Eventually I came to prefer the fruit ones, but for that sugar glaze I’m happy to go either way.

Today I’ll share with you the recipe she uses. She originally heard it over the radio and diligently wrote it down. This is the version she dictated to me over the phone when I moved away and had to start making my own. (Slightly modified to fit my format.)

The buns it makes are different to the ones you’ll buy in a shop – for one thing, they’re best eaten fresh (although you can freeze them). They’re at their very best when eaten straight out of the oven. You shouldn’t have any problem finding people to help you do that. You can make them with fruit, or if that’s not your (or your kids) thing, you can leave it out (try buying them like that…).

Hot Cross Buns – makes around 30

For the buns:

  • 5+ cups plain white flour (split into two parts, one of 2 cups, one of 3 cups)
  • 1-2 Tbsp yeast (e.g. 1 Tbsp dried active yeast, 2 Tbsp Surebake yeast)
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup cold milk
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 50g melted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup mixed fruit
  • 2 Tbsp mixed spice
  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp flavourless oil (e.g. grape seed or rice bran oil)

For the crosses:

  • ½ cup plain white flour
  • 2 Tbsp flavourless oil
  • water (just enough to form a smooth paste)

For the sugar glaze:

  • 4 Tbsp sugar
  • 4 Tbsp water

In a large bowl mix together 2 cups of flour, the yeast, brown sugar and salt. Combine the cold milk and boiling water in a jug, then add to the other ingredients and mix well. (I use a large flat wooden spoon for this and it works well.) Leave for 3-5 minutes (for the yeast to activate).

Add the melted butter, egg, mixed fruit, mixed spice, cinnamon, and at least 3 cups flour into the bowl and mix well. Keep adding and mixing additional flour until you have a firm enough dough to start kneading. If making fruit-free ones then obviously leave out the fruit. If making half and half, then don’t add the fruit at this stage. Halve the dough at the “knead lightly” stage (after the first rise), and knead ½-1 cup of mixed fruit in then.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board/bench and knead for 5-10 minutes (depending on texture) until the dough goes from lumpy and resistant to silky and smooth. Add extra flour as you knead it (hah).

Put the dough back into a clean bowl (ideally the old bowl, recently washed in hot water so the bowl is warm), with 2 Tbsp flavourless oil. Turn the dough so it is well coated with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put into a sink half-full of bath temperature water. Leave for 30-60 minutes, until the dough has doubled in size. While you wait, turn your oven on to heat on its lowest setting (for me this is 90°C). Turn it off about 10 minutes before you continue with the next step.

Knead (very) lightly, and cut into 30 even sized pieces. (These are quite small, so can be made into 28 or fewer if larger buns are desired.)

Form into a round by pushing the dough through a circle formed by the thumb and index finger of the left hand. Put into greased pans or cake pans, leaving room for buns to double in size. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the warmed, turned off oven. Leave to rise until just a little more than doubled in size. (Up to an hour, in fact, sometimes longer.)

Remove the buns from the oven 20 minutes before you plan to cook them, so you can pre-heat it to 230°C. (I use my oven’s high bake setting, which runs the element on the bottom, and one on the side with a fan. There’s no way to turn off the fan in my oven.)

To make the crosses, mix together ½ cup flour, 2 Tbsp oil and just enough water to make a paste that can be piped, or squeezed through a plastic bag with the corner snipped. It can be quite hard to judge this, but a smooth paste is essential. (Too wet though and it won’t hold its shape once piped onto the buns.) Pipe the crosses on just before baking – do all the horizontal lines first, then all the vertical lines.

hot cross buns uncookedTurn the oven down to 220°C when the buns are put in. Cook for 10-15 minutes. (They brown quickly on the top. If removed too soon they may be too doughy in the middle. If the look like they’re browning too much you can put tin-foil, or baking paper over the top.)

To make the glaze boil together the sugar and water. Dissolve the sugar in the water while heating, stirring constantly until sugar crystals are dissolved, then bring to the boil. (Do this just before you take the cooked buns out of the oven.) Brush this mixture over the buns as soon as you take them out of the oven. (If glaze looks a little crazed it’s because it was cooked too long, or there was too much sugar to amount of water, but this doesn’t affect the taste too much.)

Serve immediately with plenty of butter, using a knife to separate the buns if necessary (and a spatula/fish slice to remove them from the pan).

hot cross buns tray cooked