Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Make Mine Malt

Malted milk is a powdered food product made from a mixture of malted barley, wheat flour and powdered whole milk. Originially developed as a nutritional supplement for infants by London pharmacist James Horlick, it eventually became popular for its flavor and was the star ingredient in the classic American malt shake. Malt has a slightly sour, earthy flavor that works well with sweets and desserts. When I was a fresh-faced student at Smith College, one of most popular treats at the campus eatery was a Dusty Miller, a hot fudge sundae generously sprinkled with malted milk powder. The crunchy, earthy granules pair well with chocolate, giving it a malty endnote. Here’s a recipe for dark chocolate cupcakes topped with a silky chocolate malt buttercream and garnished with Whoppers, chocolate malt candies. Whoppers aren’t quite as good as I remember them when I was 12, but they do make a nice garnish that says “malt.” 
Chocolate Malt Cupcakes

Makes about 20 cupcakes

Deep Dark Chocolate Cupcakes:
1 3/4 cups (7.5 oz/212 g) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
11 tablespoons (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons/5.5 oz/156 g) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups (10.5 oz/300 g) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (2.1 oz/61 g) Dutch-processed (alkalized) cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups (320 ml) warm water

Chocolate Malt Buttercream:
10 ounces (283 g) high-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2/3 cup (160 ml) water, divided
3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
3 large egg yolks
1 cup (2 sticks/8 oz/227 g) unsalted butter, slightly softened
¼ cup malt powder dissolved in ¼ cup milk

Chocolate malt balls, cut in quarters, for garnish

Make the cupcakes:
1. Position 2 racks near the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line 2 12-cup muffin pans with cupcake liners.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk the dry ingredients until well blended and set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed for 1 minute, until creamy. Gradually add the sugar and beat at high speed for 3 minutes, until mixture is pale and well blended. Add cocoa powder and beat at medium speed for 1 minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary. Beat in the egg(s), one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract. At low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating it with the warm water in two additions. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and mix at low speed for 30 seconds. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pans and smooth the tops.
4. Bake the cupcakes minutes for t 25 to 30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center of the center cupacakes comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes in the pan, set on a wire rack, for 15 minutes.
5. Remove the cupcakes from the pans onto the rack and cool completely.

Make the buttercream:
6. Put the chocolate and 1/3 cup of the water in a medium stainless steel bowl and place the bowl over a pot of barely simmering water. Heat, stirring frequently, until the chocolate is completely melted. Remove the bowl from over the pot and set the chocolate mixture aside to cool until tepid.
7. In small, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar with the remaining 1/3 water. Place the pan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring constantly, just until the sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring, and increase the heat to high.
8. Meanwhile, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, begin beating the egg yolks at medium speed while the syrup cooks to the correct temperature. When the sugar syrup reaches 225°F on a candy thermometer, increase the speed of the mixer to high. Continue to cook the sugar syrup until it reaches 238°F on a candy thermometer. Remove the pan from the heat and with the mixer off, immediately pour about 1/4 cup of the hot syrup over the beaten eggs. Beat at high speed until blended, about 10 seconds. Turn the mixer off and add another 1/4 cup syrup. Beat at high speed for another 10 seconds. Repeat this process until all of the syrup is used. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the side of the bowl and continue to beat at medium-high speed until the egg mixture is completely cool, about 5 minutes.
9. At medium speed, beat the softened butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, into the egg mixture. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat the buttercream until it is smooth and shiny, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the cooled chocolate mixture, mixing just until blended. Add the dissolved malt powder and mix until blended. Stir the mixture by hand a few times to make sure it is well blended. Use the buttercream at room temperature.

Frost and garnish cupcakes:
10. Spoon a generous amount of buttercream in the center of a cupcake and gently spread it over the top. Garnish with a few malt ball quarters. Repeat with the remaining cupcakes.