|Don't knock it 'til you've tried it|
Last weekend, I was sitting around having a few beers with the Safari boys, when Mentor started (jokingly) lamenting the fact I never bake any more.
At the start of my PhD, when I was working full time in hospitality (5 nights, with double shifts Fri-Sat) and studying part time (2-3 days a week), I used to have one blessed day a week off. Tuesdays were the one day I could sleep in, do my laundry, go to the shops, and finish my chores. It was the weekly Safari poker game. And it was baking. Usually it was cupcakes, because they're easy to make, easy to share, and easy to eat. My lemon cupcakes recipe is the most read post on this blog! Anyway, I'd bake them in the early afternoon, ice them early evening, and appear at the poker game with a box in hand. I remember one game where I was actually using the boys' kitchen to bake ginger cookies, rolling them while playing several hands. We had a new guy, who questioned my being allowed to play, let alone play while baking, only to be slapped upside the head and told to never question the method, "the cookies just appear!".
Other than the occasional birthday cake or lab meeting, I haven't really stretched my baking legs in the kitchen for 18 months, and I've missed it. So when Mentor started joking about it, I figured now was as good a time as any. A bit of discussion followed, and I decided to have another crack at the bacon/maple syrup/pancake theme. My original attempt involved pancake mixture with bacon mixed through poured into muffin tins, topped with maple icing and maple-tossed bacon pieces. While you got the idea, they weren't really cupcakey. Switch pancake for chocolate, and you get...
Chocolate, Bacon & Maple Syrup Cupcakes
(Because everything is better with bacon)
- 2 cups plain flour
- 2 cups sugar
- Pinch salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon bicarb soda
- 3/4 cup milk
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla flavour
- 150g dark chocolate (70% or higher)
- 50g unsalted butter
- Around 50:50 butter & cream cheese (I use 1/2 block Philadelphia)
- Icing sugar
- Maple syrup
Melt your butter and chocolate together in a non-stick pan over very low heat. Chocolate will help at blood temperature, so use your lowest setting). Meanwhile, pop all the other cupcake ingredients into a bowl and mix with a hand mixer to about 30 seconds, or until combined. Scrape down your bowl, and mix again for about 2 minutes, by which point your batter should be super smooth and your chocolate melted. Let the chocolate cool slightly, then add it to your bowl and give it another good mix until evenly distributed. Your batter should vaguely resemble slightly runny chocolate mousse.
Spoon/pour your batter into your lined tray, 2/3 filling each well. Into the oven for about 20mins, or until the spring back when lightly touched (or you can use the clean bamboo skewer method). Let them rest for 5 minutes, then remove from tin and allow to cool fully on a wire rack.
While your cupcakes are cooling, place your bacon onto a wire rack over a baking tray, and put it in the oven. The aim is super crispy bacon with as little fat remaining as possible, thus the rack. When it's starting to look golden brown, pull it out, and place on some paper towel to absorb any remaining grease. Don't worry if your rashers seem a bit pliable when fresh out the oven, they will go crisp after a few moments. Once cool, chop/break into small pieces.
On to the key part of this whole recipe: the maple syrup icing. Icing measurements are tricky, as they will vary depending on where you are. I generally start with a half-half mix of unsalted butter and Philly cheese, around 125g of each, a tablespoon of maple syrup (not the fake maple flavoured syrup) and beat using a hand mixer. Once combined, I gradually add icing sugar (not icing mixture, which contains extra starch) until I get the firmness of icing I'm after. You may want to give it a brief mix with a spatula, just to make sure there's no lumps of sugar, then put in the fridge to set slightly.
Once your cupcakes are cooled, add enough maple syrup to your bacon pieces to just coat. You don't want them soaked, otherwise you get soggy bacon pieces! Use a piping bag or butter knife to apply your icing, top with a sprinkle of bacon, et voila! Now try not to eat them all in one hit.
- I always cook more bacon than I think I'll need, because invariably a few pieces go missing before they make it onto the cupcakes.
- You can cut corners on some things, but try for good maple syrup. It will reduce the amount you need to use, and is what makes this unusual recipe really work. The most common comment from people when I make anything with this icing is that they would have been happy to ditch the cake and just eat the icing, and that's down to good syrup.
- BurgerMary posted a recipe for Bacon Praline yesterday. Haven't tried it yet, but could see it going very well on top of these instead of the maple-tossed bacon.