22 January 2009
Drunken Pear Cupcakes
(This is my second entry in the Iron Cupcake:Earth challenge for January in which the Ingredient is Wine. Please see my UltraViolette Kir Royale posting for more info on IC:E).
In Paris, most buildings are maintained by a live-in employee better known as a gardien or a concierge. The gardien is kind of like a jack-of-all-trades fulfilling a hodge podge of duties such as those normally done by a superintendent, doorman, porter, handyman, building manager, janitor, etc. It varies from building-to-building and person-to-person. We've learned the hard way that being on good relations with your gardien should be one of your highest priorities when it comes to Parisian apartment living. Thankfully, we have a charming couple from Portugal who fill the role of gardiens in our building, so it would be very difficult not to like them.
As is their tradition every Christmas, they offer us a bottle of porto from Portugal. And believe me, they know their porto as witnessed by their jovial manner and usually red faces anytime we knock on their door after-hours. They usually offer us something a little off-beat that you won't find in the corner liquor store. This year, it was a sweet, dry white porto called Ramos Pinto Lagrima. (I just love their mascot who looks a little "spiritual" if you know what I mean).
I noticed a lot of bakers in this month's competition making cupcakes with champagne (which had been my first inclination too) and red wines, so I wanted to try something a little different. Since we had the port opened and on-hand.....I had several ideas going on at once for this cupcake...poached pear, chocolate, caramel. It is a rather lengthy recipe if you are going to try it at home so I would recommend making it in steps. But the final results are so worth it! I am not usually a big pear fan but this was one of the dreamiest combinations I have ever whipped up.
I offered some to my gardiens as well and though I am pretty sure they have never seen a cupcake before, when I explained what was in them, well I got a smile and after the first bite, a big thumbs up! So here is my recipe for Portugese-approved Drunken Pear cupcakes:
Drunken Pear Cupcakes (makes 16)
For Poached, Caramelized Pears:
3 cups Port (I used Ramos Pinto Lagrima which is a dry, white port)
½ cup sugar
Rind of 2 oranges
4 cinnamon sticks
10 whole cloves
6 firm pears peeled and sliced about an 1/8“ thick
3 ozs. unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- In a medium saucepan, combine the Port, the cinnamon sticks, the cloves, and the rind, bring the liquid to a boil, and boil the mixture for 5 minutes. Add the sugar and simmer the syrup, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved.
- Add the pear slices and simmer them for 5 to 7 minutes, or until they are tender. Remove pears and let the infused port syrup simmer down til there is approximately one cup. Sieve port reduction and set aside for cupcakes, discard cloves, cinnamon and rinds.
- Melt butter in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Once butter foams, add sugar and cook until bubbling and dissolved, about 3 minutes. Add pears and cook, stirring rarely, until mixture is caramelized and pears are well coated. Remove from heat and let pears cool.
For 16 cupcakes:
4 ozs. unsalted butter, softened
½ cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. baking soda
½ vanilla bean
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ cups flour
½ cup buttermilk
1 cup infused port reduction (left-over from poached pears)
- Pre-heat oven to 350F/180C. Grease or place cupcake liners into cupcake tins.
- To make cupcakes, cream together sugar and butter until smooth. Add egg, seeds scraped from vanilla bean, baking soda, salt and mix until well-combined. Alternate adding flour and buttermilk in 3 batches, mix well until smooth. Add port reduction last and mix to combine
- Bake for 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove cupcakes from tin and let cool on wire rack.
For Chocolate Ganache Filling :
2 bars dark chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
1 oz. unsalted butter
- For chocolate ganache filling, heat butter and cream in a small saucepan over low heat until butter is dissolved. Stir often and do not let boil! Add in chocolate and remove from heat. Stir until smooth. Let cool several minutes.
- Using a small sharp knife, cut a small cone shape out of the top of each cooled cupcake and set aside. Spoon 1-2 teaspoons of ganache into each cupcake and replace top (you may need to cut away part of the cone to get a good fit). The cupcakes are now ready to be frosted.
For Caramel Buttercream (from Martha Stewart. Note I halved the recipe that follows and had more than enough to frost 16 cupcakes):
2 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 pounds (6 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
9 large egg whites
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Make caramel for buttercream (can be done several days ahead): combine granulated sugar and 1/2 cup water in medium saucepan; bring to boil over medium-high heat. Brush down sides with damp pastry brush to prevent crystallization. Continue cooking, without stirring, until dark amber color. Remove from heat; slowly stir in cream with wooden spoon until completely smooth; set aside until cool to touch.
- In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter until fluffy and pale. Transfer to a medium bowl.
- Whisk together remaining 1 cup sugar and egg whites in clean bowl of mixer. Set over pot of simmering water; whisk gently until completely dissolved, about 3 minutes.
- Transfer bowl to mixer stand. Using whisk attachment, beat on medium speed until fluffy and cooled, about 10 minutes. Increase speed to high; whisk until stiff peaks form. Reduce speed to medium-low; add butter 1/4 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Whisk in vanilla.
- Switch to paddle. Add caramel; beat on lowest speed 3 to 5 minutes. Leave at room temperature if using same day. Refrigerate in airtight container up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature; beat until smooth.
To assemble cupcake, scoop about 1 tablespoon caramel buttercream on to each cupcake and spread to cover. Assemble pear slices in fan shape on top of cupcakes. Drizzle with caramel sauce. Enjoy!