Sunday, February 5, 2012

Coconut-Pecan Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache

You may or may not remember a post from the past about these coconut cupcakes. In that post I expressed my dislike of coconut and even went so far as to complain about all the ingredients I had to buy to make them. One of those ingredients being coconut extract. If I remember correctly (and I know I do because I checked my post) I even asked in regards to the coconut extract, when am I ever going to use this again? Well my friends, today is the day! To both my surprise and displeasure, coconut extract is one of the components in coconut-pecan cupcakes (no link from Martha, sorry, blame her, not me).

To date, this recipe has been the most difficult in terms of being able to find all the ingredients that I needed. Luckily, the recipe listed some options for substitutions so I didn't have to leave anything out. Things I was unable to find included creamed coconut and unsweetened coconut flakes. I was able to find sweetened flaked coconut, which I used for both the batter and the garnish because that's the best I could do. I'm not sure what the difference is between flaked and shredded coconut, but the store only had flaked so that's what I used. According to the recipe it was permissible to substitute 4 tablespoons of butter for the creamed coconut. I always have plenty of butter so this was a great option for me.

As you know I'm coming off a brief cupcake hiatus so I'm still a little rusty. I didn't read the recipe all the way through, nor did I leave out all the ingredients to get to room temperature. There were only 2 (butter and eggs) and I remembered to leave out 1 (butter). Oh well. I at least took out the eggs while I was working with the coconut and pecans so they could get as warm as possible before I put them in the batter. Better than nothing.

The most time consuming portion of making these cupcakes was using the food processor to grind the coconut, and the toasting and food processing the pecans. After this process was complete the rest of the recipe was easy. I was skeptical of what the batter would taste like since it was riddled with coconutty items. However, if there was any potential saving grace it was that both the coconut and the pecans were ground up so you mostly got flavor and not the texture of the coconut and pecans. I enjoyed the batter, which gave me hope for the finished product.

In an exciting turn of events I now own 2 cupcake pans! My wonderful former college roommate and current bridesmaid got me a cupcake carrier and it comes complete with a cupcake pan as well. I don't think it gets any better than that. So now, I can fill 2 pans at once and if I need to do more than one batch of cupcakes, which I always do, I don't have to wait for the first pan to cool before I can bake another batch. It'll save me baking time as well as energy/power used to keep the oven at the appropriate temperature while I waited to put in the second batch. Everybody wins! Now, on to filling my 2 cupcake pans.

The batter wasn't quite at a pourable consistency so I had to use a spoon to fill the liners rather than my Pyrex measuring cup that I like to use when I can. I filled each liner to about three-quarters full. They weren't perfect but they were all pretty close in fill level. I definitely got less cupcakes than the recipe said I would, 6 less as a matter of fact. I'm not sure if I made the cupcakes too big, but they all came out to be a pretty good size, so I was pleased. Each batch baked 20 total minutes with a turn halfway through the baking time. I did contemplate baking 2 batches at once since I'm now the proud new owner of 2 cupcake pans. But I was concerned the cupcakes wouldn't bake evenly and didn't want to risk it.

Per my norm, I tried a cupcake before I ganached (technical term) and garnished them because I like to sample every phase of a cupcake. They were good. I was surprised. The texture of the coconut flakes was there just a little bit, but not enough to turn me off. I even had Bobby taste one, but I didn't tell him what kind they were because I knew he wouldn't try them if I did. He's not a fan of coconut either, but he agreed the cupcakes were good.

Next step, ganache and garnish. First, I toasted the coconut. Martha says that you should toast 2 cups of unsweetened shredded coconut. Because I didn't have that, I toasted 2 cups of sweetened coconut flakes. I don't know if the difference between the two is all that much, but I had to work with what I had. I also don't know if the fact that the coconut I used was sweetened mattered either. But again, it's what I had. I don't think Martha would be too upset, do you? I toasted the coconut for 10 minutes and had I toasted it any longer I think I would have had some seriously burnt coconut. For the most part the coconut was toasted to perfection, but there was some that was a little crisp, so I tried to set that aside so it didn't get mixed with the good coconut.

While the coconut cooled I worked on the ganache. The ganache-making process is painless. A little chopping, measuring, simmering and stirring is all that's required. Once I had my ganache I dipped each cupcake in it and then garnished each cupcake with the toasted coconut. I tried out 2 different garnishing methods. For the first method I sprinkled coconut across the top of the cupcake, so the majority of the surface was covered. For the second method, I sprinkled the coconut in more of a little heap in the center of the cupcake, which looked much better.

Moment of truth... taste test. I won't say I loved them, but I will say they were quite good. Even the toasted coconut garnish didn't really bother me. Would I prefer the cupcakes didn't have it? Of course. But, is the garnish the deal breaker? No. I never thought such a thing would be possible. Martha does it again.