Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chocolate Chip

I have flipped through this cookbook many times, contemplating which cupcakes I might like to try. I love chocolate, and chocolate in cute little chip form. But, for some reason I thought Chocolate Chip Cupcakes wouldn't do it for me. Especially a recipe that calls for regular-sized chocolate chips, not mini ones. Using regular-sized chocolate chips in cupcakes just can't be right, can it? I even hesitated in the grocery store when buying the chocolate chips. I was so close to throwing the mini ones in the cart, but told myself that wasn't the point of this project. It's to do things Martha's way and see how I like them the first time around. If I don't like the results then I can make changes next time. So, the mini morsels stayed on the shelf gazing longingly at me as I walked away. They're just so cute!

Chocolate chips in hand and with the rest of my ingredients ready I got to work. Back when I first started my baking hobby I didn't have many "tools of the trade" if you will. I had a hand mixer that quite possibly was older than me. If it wasn't from the 70s it certainly looked like it was. Think that brownish-orange reminiscent of the interior of an old Winnebago, or that brown carpet that everyone seemed to have in their bedroom as a kid. I had my 1970s mixer until a couple of years ago when my mom bought me a new Cuisinart one for Christmas. That bad boy can mix! I'm afraid of what might happen if I ever actually mix anything using the highest setting. All I picture is dough everywhere. I also have a 15-quart stand mixer and it might be the most amazing kitchen appliance I own, and I own a lot of appliances. My parents got it for me for my 24th birthday and I scream-squealed (that's the perfect union of a scream and squeal) when I opened the box. First out of surprise because I never thought I would own such an amazing piece of kitchen equipment, and second because I was so excited to have one.

I took you on that little journey through my kitchen equipment to bring you here. Normally when I bake I use my stand mixer for things like cakes and cupcakes. I prefer the hand mixer for cookies. Don't ask me why, I don't have a good answer, just a preference of mine. However, for this batch of cupcakes I used the hand mixer because Martha said so, and we've already been over my wanting to follow Martha's directions to a T.

The recipe itself is easy to follow, the hardest part was beating the egg whites to get those pesky peaks to form. It's truly exhausting, even when using a mixer. People who try to do it by hand are just overachieving (showoffs!). And, I never quite understand what constitutes a "soft" peak, so I just beat the eggs until my arm starts to hurt from holding up the mixer, and I can see some semblance of a peak. Then into the batter they go! Probably not how Martha would do it, but I'm trying. So, egg whites into batter, chocolate chips into batter, batter into paper-lined tins, tins into oven and we're on our way.

I always start with a little less baking time than a recipe calls for because all ovens are different and you can't reverse what's already been baked. I can always add more time. So, I started with 20 minutes, but I found that just as the recipe states (that Martha knows her stuff) 22 minutes was perfect. The cupcakes will stay a pale color, don't be alarmed if they're not golden, just make sure that toothpick comes out clean! I let the cupcakes cool on a wire rack and then put the cupcakes in an airtight container overnight and worried about icing them the next day. When I have the luxury of time, I like to spread out my baking. Less dishes to do in one day. I like to make a big mess, but I don't enjoy cleaning one up. Some day when I'm rich and famous (ha!) I'll have someone to clean the kitchen for me.

Making icing is one of my least favorite things to do because I find it to be so touchy (there's a better word for this, but my brain just can't find it. It's tired from work). If you do one thing wrong, the whole batch is no good. When I find a recipe for icing that's good and simple I usually stick with it and don't venture to try something new. But, in the spirit of Martha I embraced her Dark Chocolate Frosting that accompanied the Chocolate Chip Cupcake recipe. I was pleasantly surprised with how it turned out, though it was a little thin for my liking so I added a little extra confectioner's sugar... don't tell Martha!

Before the frosting of the cupcakes began I wanted to perform a taste test of the cupcakes sans icing. My goal was to see how much the frosting helped or hurt the cupcake (like it could really hurt). I wanted to know if the cupcake could stand on it's own without icing. Without icing, the cupcake was good. I thought it was a little dense (not a thick dense, more like a jam packed dense, if that makes any sense). Maybe I didn't beat those egg whites enough. Who knows. However, I was pleased that all the chocolate chips didn't sink to the bottom. Baking tip, if you toss the chocolate chips in a little flour before you put them in the batter, it helps them stay afloat. Most importantly, I didn't mind the regular-sized chips.

Normally, I like to use my frosting gun, yes, you read me correctly, frosting gun, to decorate cupcakes. If you don't have one, get one, it's almost as amazing as my stand mixer. But, in the picture from the book, it appeared that Martha just lathered it on. Since my new motto is do as Martha does, I grabbed my knife and spread away! Time for taste test No. 2! Cupcakes with frosting... better than cupcakes without frosting. I can't quite put my tongue on it, but the frosting just completed the cupcake. I suppose that's the point of it. What's your favorite kind of frosting?