A few months ago, I decided to start this blog in an attempt to a) combine my greatest passions into one productive outlet that allowed me to practice both my writing and baking skills, b) assemble some sort of writing portfolio for any possible future career, and c) pass the time while I was living back at home in the interim between moving from Portland, Maine to San Francisco. Everything was going great—I was baking every day, writing constantly, and feeling generally inspired. But things started to go sour after about three weeks. The novelty of enjoying a new, homemade baked good every day began to wear off as my parents were becoming increasingly embittered about the pastries calling to them every morning for breakfast, after every meal, and at every teatime.
Waistlines expanded as tensions rose. We ran out of freezer space and I ran out of things to bake. My clothes were all stained with chocolate, flour was coming out of my ears, and my mind was turning into a cookbook, perpetually sifting through the recipes that had become encyclopedia-ed into my brain. Don’t even get me started on my computer—the only websites you would find in my bookmarks were recipe sites, my internet history was entirely devoted to baking blogs, and my picture folder contained snapshots of all my baking endeavors. Like a thirteen-year-old boy who had just discovered the world of pornography, I confined myself to my bedroom, attempting to hide from the world the crazed obsession that had taken hold of me.
I awoke one morning after a particularly tormented night of sleep to recount to my parents the dream that had haunted me all night long: I came home around 6 o’clock in the evening, where I found my father, gripping a large tumbler of whiskey, teetering aimlessly in our uncharacteristically messy kitchen.
“Oh good, you’re home,” he mumbled incoherently. “I didn’t know what we were going to do about dinner.”
“Are you drunk?” I asked.
“Yes, I am!” he announced, rather proudly.
Then, I saw it. A large platter, once full of several dozen miniature cupcakes had been entirely devoured. “Did you eat all of those?” I questioned, in disbelief. “No…” he replied. I spotted the traces of chocolate frosting on the corners of my father’s mouth and smeared on his shirt collar, and my suspicions were confirmed. But I couldn’t dwell on this horrifying fact for too long, as my attention was quickly diverted by the smell of smoke. I looked toward the toaster oven, where I noticed a slice of bread burning away. Two cold-looking croissants lay buttered, jammed, and untouched in front of the smoking toaster. It was chaos. My mother was nowhere to be found and my father, left to his own drunken devices, had polished off a Costco-size tray of chocolate cupcakes. I had the sinking feeling of guilt as I tried to wrap my mind around what had happened—what had I done?
Relief washed over me as I saw my mom enter the kitchen. But this feeling didn’t last long as she spotted the croissants, exclaiming: “Oh, the croissants I buttered! I forgot all about them!” Picking one up and realizing it was cold, she opened the freezer, which was packed to the brim with an array of breads, bagels, cakes, and scones. She considered, with sadistic delight, which would become her next snack victim.
“What about dinner??” I pleaded. Where was the protein? The vegetables?… for the love of all things savory!
And then, I awoke. I took a deep breath, realizing it was only a dream, that I hadn’t really thrown my once orderly and healthy family into complete gluttonous disarray.
I recounted this dream to my parents, and instead of taking it as a sign that maybe I needed to get outside, take a walk, and smell the flowers (no, not the flour), it dawned on me that this would make for a very entertaining blog entry. Yes, in keeping with my one-track, blog-obsessed mind, this dream did not act as a cautionary tale, deterring me from baking further, but rather, merely fostered my baking mania. And so, I sighed, apologized to my poor parents for what was about to come, and began baking these chili-chocolate cupcakes—unsweetened dark chocolate with a kick of ancho chile spice—rich and spicy enough to make you insane.
Chili Chocolate Cupcakes with Chili Chocolate Ganache
- 4 ounces unsweetend chocolate, chopped
- 1/4 cup rich cocoa powder
- 1-1/4 cup water
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cake flower
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 tablespoons ancho chili powder
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks butter
- 1-1/2 cups dark brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Boil water in a kettle then measure out 1-1/4 cup.
Combine the chopped chocolate and cocoa powder in a medium sized bowl, add the boiling water, and whisk until smooth.
Sift the flours, baking soda, chili powder, cayenne, and salt onto parchment or into a separate bowl.
In yet another bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the brown sugar and beat for about three minutes, until fluffy. At a medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each. Then add the sour cream and vanilla and beat until combined, scraping down the bowl. Add about a third of the flour mixture, then about half of the chocolate mixture, beating in between each addition. Repeat, adding flour, chocolate, then flour, but do not overbeat.
Transfer batter into large pastry bag with a plain tip, pipe into mini-cupcake pans with mini-cupcake liners, about 3/4 full. Bake for about ten minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- 1-1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter
- 2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
Heat cream and butter over medium heat until butter is melted and cream bubbles around saucepan edge.
Place peppers and chopped chocolate in a medium sized bowl, pour heated cream and butter over the chocolate. Let the mixture sit for about 30 seconds then start whisking it until smooth.
Set aside the mixture and stir occasionally with a wooden spoon, it should reach piping consistency within an hour or two.
*If you don’t know the title reference, do yourself a favor and check out Winsor McCay’s classic comic strip: “Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend”