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

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

Crêpes

Time saver: Phil whips up a tasty weekend brunch…

Rolled crepeCrêpes are a traditional thin French pancake. They’re very versatile, and can be filled with just about anything for a variety of different effects. You can make them ahead of time and stack them up, or serve them hot out of the pan (my preference).

When I was growing up we probably had crêpes for lunch about once every two weeks. Mum or Dad would whip up a batch of batter, then spend the next hour frying up delicious pancakes for the starving hordes (there are lots of kids in my family). We’d eat them with a sprinkling of sugar and a dash of lemon juice, or with maple syrup, rolled up and cut into segments. When we were younger Dad would help us put them together, but it always came at a cost, because then he’d yell “Tax!” and steal one of the crispy end pieces. (In some ways I guess that represented an important life lesson.)

For that reason, I’ve always been pretty familiar with crêpes, so I was a bit surprised to find that some people consider them tricky to make. The recipe itself is very straightforward and requires relatively few ingredients and not much skill to prepare. There’s a bit of a knack to getting the batter to spread while you’re cooking them, but once you get the hang of it and get used to the idea that the first crêpe is always going to be a disaster, they’re really pretty easy.

Crepe in the panI think the Edmonds Cook Book has had the basic recipe nailed for the past 100 years. They use a little less milk than my parents did – adding more helps you spread the batter and get a nice thin pancake. I’ve modified my parents’ basic recipe to scale it better for cooking for two hungry adults. The recipe can very easily be doubled or tripled etc depending on how many pancakes you’re wanting to make. I use a standard 9″ diameter frying pan to cook these in, you don’t need a special crêpe pan, and it doesn’t need to be non-stick. (Feel free to use a different pan size, just adjust the amount of batter you pour in to match.)

Crêpes – makes around 8 pancakes of 9″ diameter

  • 1½ c plain flour
  • 1½ c milk
  • 2 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 30 g melted butter (optional)
  • 8 small cubes of butter for frying
  1. Sift flour and salt into a large bowl.
  2. Add the eggs and milk, then beat with an electric beater till smooth. If you don’t have an electric beater, you can use a whisk or wooden spoon and a bit of arm power. In that case, you’ll want to add the milk gradually as you mix to help you avoid lumps (with the electric beater these really aren’t much of a problem).
  3. Add the melted butter and mix to combine. This is optional, particularly if you use a bit of butter to fry the pancakes in, and my parents never added it. I’m a fan of butter, and it improves the taste a bit.
  4. Put the bowl of batter in the fridge to chill for an hour (or more). This stops the crêpes from shrinking when you cook them. You can prepare the batter up to a day before you actually want to use it. If you’re in a big hurry (e.g. my parents cooking Sunday lunch) you can skip this step and cook the batter immediately, but the pancakes will contract as they cook and be slightly thicker than they otherwise would be.
  5. Take the batter out of the fridge and give it a stir. If it’s too thick add another splash of milk and stir it through.
  6. Heat a 9″ frying pan on a high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-high, and leave to settle for a couple of minutes. (My elements go from 1-6, I normally have it set to 4 when cooking these.)
  7. Put one of the small butter cubes into the pan, then lift the pan and swirl it around to spread the butter evenly over the base. (The butter will hiss and rapidly melt, this sound evokes a lot of delicious memories for me.)
  8. Pour some of the batter into the pan. I use a ladle that holds 1/3 of a cup, you could also use a 1/3 cup measure, or just pour it out of the bowl (you get a feel for how much you need). Don’t pour it directly into the middle – pour to one of the sides as it makes it much easier to spread.
  9. After adding the batter to the pan quickly lift it and tilt the pan around to spread the batter evenly. If the pan is too cold, the batter will slip and be hard to spread. If the pan is too hot the batter will cook too quickly, before you’re able to spread it. If the batter is too thick it will also be hard to spread (in that case add a bit more milk to the bowl of batter and stir it through). If you’ve used too much butter to grease the pan it will run up the sides and onto the top of the pancake – although that’s not really a problem because it just makes the edges a delicious crispy golden brown. Don’t worry if the first one turns out wrong or doesn’t spread evenly. This is your chance to thin the batter, adjust how much butter you’re using to grease the pan, or adjust the heat of the element.
  10. Cook on that side for around 1-2 minutes until the top is no longer wet. If you lift the pan and shake it slightly, the pancake should slide around. At that point, flip the pancake using a fish slice (wide spatula). If your pan has curved sides you can flip the pancake just by rapidly lifting the pan and moving it forward, up and then back towards you. It takes a bit of practice but is achievable.
  11. Cook on the remaining side for another 30-60 seconds.
  12. At this point you can serve immediately, or stack on a plate in a warm oven (90°C/200°F) to serve in one go.
  13. Return the pan to the heat for around 10-15 seconds, then add another cube of butter and repeat…

I’d then eat the crêpes, sprinkling some sugar (2-3 tsp) and a dash of lemon juice (1-2 tsp), then rolling them up tightly. Alternatively, use maple or vanilla syrup, a fresh fruit compote, vanilla ice cream etc. You can also fill them with savoury fillings, or roll them up and bake them like enchiladas.

(This morning we had them with chopped bananas and a hot vanilla-caramel sauce.)