August 27, 2009

a new favorite

I've been really bad about keeping up with this blog lately. Sorry about that. I went on a much-needed vacation to Mexico where I got to be lazy for four whole days. It was wonderful.

But I have been doing some baking in the mean time, believe it or not, and I think I've come up with a new favorite. Anyone who knows me realizes quickly that chocolate is my second boyfriend. But the thing I love even more than chocolate is chocolate + mint. Heaven.

It's sort of a weird coincidence that the city where I live, Springfield, Missouri, also happens to be home to one of the only artisinal chocolate makers in the whole country. Askinosie Chocolate was started by Shawn Askinosie, a defense attorney turned chocolatier, who makes amazing things from cocoa beans. Shawn is also the only chocolate maker who manufactures cocoa powder from the bean. It's pretty spectacular to see it all in action at his shop on Commercial Street.

Recently, Shawn was nice enough to provide me with some samples for baking, and I quickly fell in love with his product. Particularly the cocoa powder - it's hard to explain, but it's just so delicate.

In experimenting with the cocoa powder, I took my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe and added mint to the batter. I also topped it with mint cream cheese frosting, just for good measure. They turned out really well; just the right amount of mint, and I think the creamy frosting really makes it. Jason eats at least two of them in one setting.

The weather is turning, all of sudden, to fall. I think I'm ready for it.
chocolate mint cupcakes with mint cream cheese frosting
[adapted from a recipe by the Barefoot Contessa]
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp good vanilla extract
1 tsp pure peppermint extract
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 T brewed coffee
1 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup Askinosie cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees or 300 degrees for convection. Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy with a mixer. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. Set aside. In another medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Alternately add the buttermilk mixture and the dry ingredients to the butter mixter, starting with the buttermilk and ending with the flour. Mix just until combined, and then use a spatula to make sure everything is well incorporated.
mint cream cheese frosting
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
4-6 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp good vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp pure peppermint extract.
Once the cupcakes have cooled completely, top with mint cream cheese frosting. Finish it off with a sprig of fresh mint.