Saturday, August 21, 2010

Banana Walnut Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Frosting

Recently, while at a doctor’s appointment, I made the mistake of stepping onto a scale. It was a watershed moment. Nothing would ever be the same. I think it was Pope who wrote, “Where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise.” Truer words have never been spoken, 

Mr. Pope. Anyhow, after the initial shock, I regrouped, and came up with a sensible exercise plan (as Browning said, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”). Sorry, enough of the English poetry. To be blunt, despite the rush of endorphins, serotonin and all those other happy chemicals that are supposedly 

released during vigorous exercise, I pretty much hate every part of it. Oh, the monotony. Give me a good competitive game of tennis and I’m happy, but that’s not always possible or convenient to arrange. There’s no getting around it: jogging on a treadmill like a hamster on a wheel is just plain boring, even with a TV, iPod and newspaper to sweeten the deal. So now I walk/jog back and forth

across the Brooklyn Bridge every morning, and pick up the occasional weight. Trying to avoid bumping into tourists on the bridge at least keeps my mind off of the exercise. It’s been about a month, and I’m getting sort of used to it. The best part is that now I feel I can eat what I want, within reason. Which brings me to the 

subject of cupcakes, one of my favorite indulgences. I had been wanting to make some for a while, but it’s been too hot to bake. The temperature finally cooperated, so I whipped up a batch of Banana Walnut Cupcakes with a Dark Chocolate Frosting. The recipe is from a 2006 issue of Chocolatier, and was developed by my friend and exceptionally talented baker, Carole Harlam. The cupcakes are moist and very banana-y (as long as you use ripe bananas), and the frosting is intensely chocolate. Two strong flavors that work very well together. A perfect match— just like exercise and indulgence.

Banana Walnut Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Frosting
Recipe by Carole Harlam from Chocolatier June, 2006

Makes about 16 cupcakes

Banana Walnut Cupcakes:
2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/3 cup sour cream
1 cup (8.5 ounces) mashed ripe banana (not pureed)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
¾ cup finely chopped walnuts

Dark chocolate frosting:
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup dark corn syrup
14 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the cupcakes:
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line a cupcake pan with paper cups.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Whisk to blend.
3. In a medium bowl, stir together the sour cream, bananas and vanilla.
4. In an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for about 5 minutes, or until pale and fluffy. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the bowl as necessary. On low speed, add half of the flour mixture. Remove bowl from stand and, using a rubber spatula, stir in the banana mixture, then the remaining flour mixture, mixing just until blended. Fold in the walnuts. Scrape batter into the prepared cupcake liners, filling them two-thirds of the way. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until they are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Bake remaining batter and cool cupcakes completely.

Make the frosting:
5. In a medium saucepan, bring cream and corn syrup to boil over medium heat. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate, swirling pan to completely cover chocolate with hot cream. Let stand for 5 minutes to melt chocolate. Add butter and gently stir with a wire whisk until chocolate and butter are melted and mixture is well blended. Stir in vanilla. Transfer frosting to a bowl and refrigerate, stirring every 10 or 15 minutes, until spreadable consistency is reached.

Frost the cupcakes:
6. Spread or pipe a generous amount of frosting on top of each cupcake. 

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