Tue 6 Apr 2010
Perhaps the only beverage the Irish drink more often than beer is hot tea. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack break, there will certainly be a teapot filled with the caffeinated elixir nearby.
It’s also what you offer to anyone and everyone when they visit. I think I’ve heard the question, “Would you like a cup of tea?” about a half-million times since I arrived here a month ago. The time of day doesn’t matter; you always ask if your visitors want tea. I’ve also noticed that everyone here has a cabinet (called a “press” here) with dedicated space for a variety of biscuits and cakes that go with tea, and that a good host will typically bring out a plate of sweets for guests. Back home in Los Angeles, I hardly ever kept cookies or cakes in the house, but here I always make sure I have at least two kinds of GOOD biscuits on hand. I suspect there is a hierarchy of biscuits and that if I serve the store-brand kind that’s always on sale, this would be considered a big faux pas. Of course being new here, I have little clue as to what makes a good biscuit so I find myself loitering in front of the cookie aisle at Tesco desperately trying to pick ones that won’t disappoint my friends. My tactic has been to go for the one with the prettiest box, and it hasn’t failed me yet.
I can just imagine the sheer horror if my friends stopped by and I offered them a cup of tea…and nothing else. They are too kind to say anything to me but I’m sure my naïve mistake would be duly noted. “Oh, she’s American,” they would say, as they left with empty stomachs. “She doesn’t know any better.” I refuse to be the center of that kind of post-visit gossip!
The best way to avoid such disappointment? Make something yourself that will knock their socks off. I baked these cupcakes (though my friends here call them “buns”) the other day for an Easter party and the response was very positive, which might have something to do with two, very Irish ingredients: Guinness and Bailey’s Irish Cream. Don’t worry if you don’t like stout beer – the Guinness cooks off but will make the chocolate cake very rich. The cakes are then filled with a chocolate ganache, then topped with a frosting made with Bailey’s. If I had these around every time my friends popped by, it’s safe to assume I’d be in the clear from any teatime criticism. Now if I could just get my hands on a non-leaky teapot…
Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes with Bailey’s Frosting
(adapted from the recipe by Smitten Kitchen)
(makes about 20 cupcakes)
For the Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes
1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 cups icing sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperatue
3 to 4 tablespoons Baileys
Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 20 cupcake cups with liners. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17-20 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.
Make the filling: Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. (If this has not sufficiently melted the chocolate, you can return it to a double-boiler to gently melt what remains. 20 seconds in the microwave, watching carefully, will also work.) Add the butter and stir until combined.
Fill the cupcakes: Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped (the fridge will speed this along but you must stir it every 10 minutes). Meanwhile, using your 1-inch round cookie cutter or paring knife, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes. You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom — aim for 2/3 of the way. A slim spoon will help you get the center out. Put the ganache into a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.
Make the frosting: Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time. Spread on cupcakes (I used a very small amount on each cupcake as I topped them with candied sprinkles as well) and serve. These will keep in a sealed container, refrigerated, for about 24 hours.