Last week my friend Miquel came to visit from Spain. The two of us met when I was studying abroad in Barcelona and he was the R.A. in my dorm. Back then we weren’t as great of friends as he was always upset with me for finding wine in my closet or staying out too late. I was in Spain (and college) – give me a break. Fast forward 2 years later and we are much better friends considering I’m not threatening his job for the sake of a couple glasses of Rioja. It’s working out quite well.
So during his time in Chicago, what did we do, you ask? No, we did not go to the top of the Sears—ahem, Willis—Tower. No, we did not ride the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier. One thing we did do, though, is make cupcakes. Yes, I said cupcakes. They don’t have these things in Spain.
Ok, yes they do–but my friends Claire and John are getting married (heyo!), and their engagement party was one of the nights that Miquel was in town. Miquel also shares a love for baking so we made them these delectable brown butter and hazelnut cupcakes with chocolate ganache. Yes, I did say brown butter, hazelnut, and chocolate.
I’ve never made brown butter before, but honestly it’s really easy. Just make sure to watch it because it will burn quickly if you let it cook too long. The second the foam turns brown turn off the heat. The butter sits in the pan afterwards for 10 minutes, so keep in mind that it’s going to continue cooking while it cools down.
I also decorated them with mustaches in honor of John’s infamous facial hair, and eye glasses for Claire’s physical misfortune that she’s been able to make the best of with her stylish glasses.
Also, Miquel brought his fancy camera so these pictures are much better than my past posts, but please don’t get too comfortable with them because my next post will be back to my mediocre camera. Until then, enjoy!
Hazelnut Brown Butter Cupcakes
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen (surprise, surprise)
5 ounces (about one heaping cup) hazelnuts, blanched to remove dark skins*
1/2 pound unsalted butter (plus 1 tablespoon melted extra for greasing the pan)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar, plus extra for dusting the cake
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
5 extra-large egg whites (I used 6 since I was using large eggs)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 350 °F.
Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet, and toast 12 to 15 minutes, until they’re golden brown and smell nutty. Let them cool.
Place the rest of the butter in a medium saucepan and cook the butter until the butter browns and smells nutty (about 6 to 8 minutes). It helps to frequently scrape the solids off the bottom of the pan in the last couple minutes to ensure even browning. Set aside to cool. Add vanilla extract.
Grind the hazelnuts with the confectioners’ sugar in a food processor until they’re finely ground. I still don’t have one so several batches with my coffee grinder did the trick. Add the flour and pulse to combine. Transfer to a large bowl.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the granulated sugar and mix on high speed 4 to 5 minutes, until the mixture forms very stiff peaks. When you turn the whisk upside down, the peaks should hold. Transfer the whites to a large mixing bowl.
Alternate folding the dry ingredients and the brown butter into the egg whites, a third of a time. Remember to scrap the bottom of the brown butter pan with a rubber spatula to get all the little brown bits.
Pour the batter into the prepared cupcake tin, and bake for 20 minutes. Cool on a rack 30 minutes.
Covers at least 12 cupcakes (I had about 1/3 cup left over)
4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips or finely-chopped chocolate
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules
Melt the chocolate, heavy cream, and coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. Dip cupcakes in warm ganache and refrigerate for 10 minutes to harden before decorating if you choose to do so.