Saturday, June 27, 2009
This month’s Daring Bakers challenge introduced me to something I’ve never tried making before. I guess that’s part of why I joined the group!
The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.
Apparently there’s a long-standing debate as to whether this type of dessert is classified as a “pudding” or as a “tart.” I am no expert on desserts from the UK, but to me, it appears to be more of a tart… Anyway, whatever it’s called, it turns out it tastes pretty good! It’s definitely a taste and texture I’m not used to, but I could get used to it pretty quickly. It also seems to be more of a breakfast or tea item rather than a dessert to complete a 4-course dinner – at least, that’s how it’d fit into my own menu lineup if I were to make it frequently.
This dessert/tart/pudding consists of a sweetened shortcrust pastry spread with a thin layer of jam, topped with frangipane, an almond-scented, cake-like layer, baked in a tart pan. We were required to make homemade crust and frangipane, and encouraged to make our own jam for the filling. Here's a closeup of the layers, so you have an idea of what it's supposed to look like:
I decided to make smaller-sized tartlets so I could experiment with a variety of jam flavors. The recipes shown here will make enough to fill six 4” tartlet pans.
While we’re on the topic of equipment, you’ll need to get out your kitchen scale! (Sorry, the original recipe was provided to the Daring Bakers in weight measurement only.)
I made two pan jams following the guidance of one of our co-hosts, Jasmine. She suggested trying a fruit-to-sugar ratio of 10:1 (for 100 grams of fruit, start with 10 grams of sugar, adjust it later if you want it sweeter). That should work for many varieties of berries, and I can say that it does work for both blueberries and strawberries, because that’s the flavors of jam I made!
Makes six 4” tartlets
Make the jam first – it needs to cool before it can be used. Note that each of the recipes listed below makes enough jam for HALF of the tartlets. You could also use store-bought jam. I admit: I did try one tartlet with store-bought raspberry jam and another tartlet with store-bought blackberry jam. (I like variety.) But that homemade blueberry jam won them all out - it is amazingly good and very simple! Give it a try!
Makes enough jam for three tartlets – double this if you want them ALL blueberry flavored!
A squeeze of lemon juice
In a medium-sized saucepan (nonstick is best), mix the fruit and the sugar over medium heat. Stir together, mashing the fruit with the back of your spoon. The mixture will become liquidy. Taste it and add more sugar if you want. Cook over medium heat, stirring and mashing frequently, for five minutes. Add the lemon juice – just a quick, small squeeze. Continue to stir and cook for another five or ten minutes depending upon how thick you want the jam. Pour it out into a small bowl and refrigerate it until it’s time to use it.
Makes enough jam for three tartlets – double this if you want them ALL strawberry flavored!
160g strawberries, hulled and sliced into small pieces
A squeeze of lemon juice
In a medium-sized saucepan (nonstick is best), mix the fruit and the sugar over medium heat.
Stir together, mashing the fruit with the back of your spoon. The mixture will become liquidy. Taste it and add more sugar if you want. Cook over medium heat, stirring and mashing frequently, for five minutes. Add the lemon juice – just a quick, small squeeze. Continue to stir and cook for another five or ten minutes depending upon how thick you want the jam. Pour it out into a small bowl and refrigerate it until it’s time to use it.
Next, make the Crust. It also needs to chill.
Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
225g (8oz) all purpose flour
30g (1oz) sugar
2.5ml (1/2 tsp) salt
110g (4oz) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 egg yolks
2.5ml (1/2 tsp) almond extract
15 to 30ml (1 to 2 Tbsp) cold water
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar and salt. Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the butter into the flour mixture.
Using your finger tips and working very quickly, or using a pastry blender, rub/cut the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Set aside.
Lightly beat the egg yolks with the almond extract. Use a fork to quickly mix the egg mixture into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.
Form the dough into a disc, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes
Meanwhile, make the frangipane.
125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened
125g (4.5oz) icing sugar
5ml (1 tsp) almond extract
125g (4.5oz) ground almonds
30g (1oz) all purpose flour
Cream the butter and sugar together until the mixture is light yellow in color and is very fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle – that’s fine. After all three eggs are in, pour in the almond extract and mix for about another 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides again. Add the ground nuts and the flour; mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow color. This can be refrigerated until it’s time to use it.
On to assembly!
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut the dough into six equal-sized pieces. Keep the portions you’re not using immediately in the refrigerator. This dough has a lot of fat in it so it is difficult to roll out if it gets too warm - it becomes very sticky. The easiest way to roll it out is to do so with the dough sandwiched in between two sheets of waxed paper. (Parchment will work too, but that’s more expensive!)
Roll out a small circle about six inches in diameter. Peel off one sheet of waxed paper. Fold the sheet in half, sticky side inside (we’re reusing the waxed paper for a quick moment, and the sticky side will just make a goopy mess if it is facing out). Gently replace the folded piece of waxed paper back on your dough circle.
Flip the whole dough/paper assembly over and peel off the other piece of waxed paper. Fold it in half and save it too – we’ll use it again in a second. Place your tart pan upside down on top of the dough.
Invert the dough/pan and peel off the folded sheet of waxed paper.
If at any time you’re having lots of difficulty getting the papers to peel off, pop it all in the fridge for a couple of minutes. Do note that it will most likely be sticky, and residual dough will probably be left behind on the paper. If you end up having any holes, you can patch them up in a minute.
Use your knuckles to ease the dough down into the bottom of the pan.
Allow any excess dough to overhang the edge of the tart pan. Reuse that second sticky-side-in sheet of folded waxed paper from earlier: gently place it on top of the tart pan. Use your rolling pin to press down on top of the waxed paper and pan.
The effect: the pan acts as a “cookie cutter” and trims the dough for you – you’ll be left with perfect pretty edges.
Discard the goopy waxed paper and pick away the excess dough. Patch any holes using these scraps if necessary.
Yes, you do go through a lot of waxed paper - but by folding it in half you’re reusing it (well, for a while at least…that helps some). Yes, you COULD roll it out without the paper on a well-floured surface – but excessive quantities of flour will make your crust tough. The waxed paper method is easier and tastes better. And, trust me, you do NOT want to pick this sticky, buttery dough off of your countertop. (Especially if you have my impractical tiled countertop!)
Repeat the above steps to get the remaining five dough balls into your tart pans. As you finish each pan, pop them into your freezer for a few minutes. If you run out of room in the freezer, rotate them into the fridge.
Spread about 1 tablespoon of jam inside each chilled tart shell. Cover the bottom of the crust evenly. The jam layer should be rather thin, just enough to coat the bottom.
Top each tart with a scoop of frangipane, spreading it to the edges of the crust. The frangipane layer should fill up the remaining volume of the pan, and will be approximately equal in height to the tart crust.
Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the tops are puffy and a tanned golden brown. Do not underbake!
Allow the tarts to cool on the counter slightly – if you cut into them too early, the jam will run out. I waited until the tarts were cool enough that I could handle them without fear of being burnt – they were still slightly warm on the inside but were nicely set. Perfect!
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Here’s an easy pudding pie recipe you can make next time you have company over. It looks good without being overly pretentious, tastes delicious, and most of the prep can be done earlier in the day. (Actually, the pie requires time to chill, so you will NEED to make it ahead of time.) I’ve made this twice recently for dinner parties, and both times it was really well received.
This recipe largely comes from Diner Desserts, by Tish Boyle, a cookbook I’ve found is one of my favorites despite its somewhat narrow genre of recipes.
For easy serving and pretty presentation, I make this in a 9” fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. (The idea of a pan with a removable bottom is one of the best ideas ever!) It’s so much easier to get the individual slices out of the pie.
Chocolate Cream Pie
Makes 1 9" pie
Make the crust first, it needs to cool slightly.
16 ounces chocolate/cream sandwich cookies, like Oreos or a similar knock-off
8 Tbsp butter, melted
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9” tart pan with a removable bottom (a 9” pie pan will work if you don’t have a tart pan). Pam spray works well.
The easiest way to make the crust is to use a food processor to crush the cookies and mix in the melted butter. If you don’t have a food processor, you can smash the cookies sealed in a thick plastic zip-lock bag with a rolling pin – it will take longer and the results won’t be as even, but it will work.
Place the cookies in the work bowl of a food processor, pulse repeatedly to crush the cookies. With the processor running, drizzle the melted butter through the feed tube; process to incorporate. Scrape the crumbs out of the bowl into the prepared tart/pie pan. Use your fingers and a spoon to shape the crust up the sides of the pan; flatten the center part evenly into the pan.
Bake the crust for 8 minutes, until it has set. Let the crust cool on a wire rack. (Use caution when moving the pan around so you don’t inadvertently push up on the removable bottom and break the crust.)
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup half-and-half
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 cup granulated sugar
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, like 99% cacao
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, cocoa powder, and salt. Whisk in about 2 tablespoons of the half-and-half until it is a smooth paste. If it lumps up in the whisk, that’s fine, just shake it all out.
Whisk in the remaining half-and-half; keep whisking until the mixture looks kind of like chocolate milk. Set the bowl aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, sugar, and chocolate. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly with a whisk, until the chocolate has completely melted. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk about a 1/2 cup of the hot chocolate mixture into the half-and-half mixture.
Whisk this mixture into the remaining chocolate mixture in the saucepan. Return the pan to the heat an cook over medium high heat, whisking constantly. When the mixture begins to bubble, continue to cook, whisking constantly, for one minute.
Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter and then the vanilla. Scrape the pudding into the cooled tart shell. Cover the pie with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the pudding, and refrigerate the pie until thoroughly chilled, at least four hours.
Whipped Cream Topping
I usually wait until just before serving the pie to make the whipped cream topping. Then the cream is at it's maximum volume at serving time - looks the prettiest!
2 cups heavy cream
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Mini chocolate chips, for garnish
Using an electric mixer, beat the cream and sugar on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Beat in the vanilla.
There’s several options to apply the cream to the pie. You can simply scoop it on, using a rubber spatula to create swirly billows of whipped cream. Or, you can pipe it on with a pastry bag. In my photos I used a Wilton #364 tip fitted onto a pastry bag and made little stars over the top of the pie.
More recently, I purchased a Wilton #2110 (1M) tip (which takes the large size coupler) and piped big stars on the top of the pie. I preferred the appearance of the larger #2110 (1M), but didn’t have a chance to take any photos...so I guess you’ll have to take my word on it... At any rate, either will work, just get the whipped cream on the pie.
Once you’ve topped the pie with the whipped cream, garnish it with mini-sized chocolate chips.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Guess what - I was featured on the Daring Kitchen website, in a section called "On-The-Spot." If you want to read more about me, head on over to the Daring Kitchen and check it out! Thanks to our founders, Lis of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice, for featuring me!
Labels: The Daring Kitchen
Sunday, June 14, 2009
I first learned how to make Chinese dumplings during a college-sponsored trip to China nearly ten years ago. I participated in a study abroad program and spent the better part of a summer travelling around China with 12 classmates and two teachers. It was a great experience – one of our teachers was born in rural China so he took us to all of the places he used to go to as a child and young adult. Thus, it was a better experience than what I imagine most tourists’ visits might be like – less emphasis on the commercialized tourist-oriented sites and more emphasis on actually learning about Chinese culture. We stayed in our host college’s dormitories and our daily activities were more like those of a Chinese college student’s rather than those of an American tourist.
One day our Chinese friends taught us how to make dumplings – we were taught that the Mandarin Chinese word was jiao tze. We watched as they expertly rolled out each dumpling skin into a perfect circle (our attempts were not nearly as beautiful nor as efficiently done!). They filled their dumplings with a pork and cabbage mixture, and in the blink of an eye, pleated each dumpling into a perfectly ridged half-moon shape. They also demonstrated a different shape of dumpling – I don’t remember what the Mandarin word to describe them was, but the English translation was Beggar’s Purses, and they painstakingly tied thin threads of Chinese scallions around the tops of each dumpling. Beautiful – but not something I’d want to do for a weeknight supper! The dumplings were all placed in a bamboo steamer to gently steam the dumplings.
After returning to the US, I searched for and found a recipe that was fairly close to what I remembered eating in China, and have been making steamed dumplings on a regular basis ever since then.
I was excited when I learned that the Daring Cooks June Challenge was Chinese dumplings and potstickers, hosted by Jen from use real butter. Since I have never made potstickers, I decided to try making them instead of following my usual method of steaming the dumplings. Their crispy bottoms are a delicious contrast from the soft texture of the rest of the dumpling wrapper.
I actually made steamed dumplings about a week prior to the announcement of June’s challenge recipe, but I did not make homemade dumpling wrappers. The only stipulation of this month’s challenge recipe was that we make our own homemade dumpling wrappers. Therefore, my previous effort would not “count” towards fulfilling the Daring Cook’s challenge. However, I have included a few photos from that endeavor because they illustrate steaming the dumplings, and the method is the same regardless of the type of dumpling skin used.
You could use storebought wrappers – again, the method is the same, except you will require a small amount of water as “glue” – dab it on the edges of the skins before you start to fold the wrappers. But I encourage you to give the homemade wrappers a shot – they taste much better!
Yields 25-50 dumplings, depending on how large you make each wrapper
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup warm water (as hot as your tap will go)
Flour for work surface
Note: Depending on how large your food processor is, you might need to mix this in two batches. A Kitchen Aid 12 cup processor can do it in one batch. Use your judgement based on that... Place the flour in the work bowl of a food processor with the dough blade. Run the processor and pour the warm water in until incorporated. Knead the dough with the food processor for several minutes until the dough travels around the bowl with the blade. (You may need to add additional flour or water to achieve the proper results.) The dough should be firm and silky to the touch and not sticky. [Note: it’s better to have a moist dough and have to incorporate more flour than to have a dry and pilling dough and have to incorporate more water).
Cover the dough with a damp towel for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, make your filling. I have provided you with two choices – each option makes enough to fill one batch of dumpling wrappers.
Pork and Cabbage Filling
1/2 lb napa cabbage
3/4 lb unseasoned coarsely ground pork
1 Tbsp finely minced ginger
1/4 cup coarsely chopped green and white scallions
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp coarse kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Chop the cabbage until it is pea-sized. Place in a large bowl. Add the ground pork and sprinkle the remaining ingredients on top. Stir until well blended – but don’t overstir it and create mush.
Veal, Fire-Roasted Corn, and Red Pepper Filling
2 ears corn – do not shuck – leave the husks on!
2 red bell peppers
6-8 large shitake mushroom caps
1 lb ground veal
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 Tbsp ginger, minced
3 ounces spinach, finely chopped
4 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp coarse kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
2 tsp brown sugar
Preheat your grill to obtain medium-high heat. Run the corn – husks and all – under cool water. Grill, turning as necessary, until the husks have blackened and the corn is tender, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, quarter the bell peppers. Discard the seeds and ribs. Grill until the skin is blackened and the peppers are tender, 5-8 minutes.
During the last five minutes of grilling time, grill the shitake mushroom caps on the coolest part of the grill until they are tender, about 5 minutes.
Allow the grilled vegetables to cool slightly. Pull the husks and silks back off of the corn – but do not remove the husks from the corncob. Carefully cut the corn kernels off of the corn cobs. The easiest way to do this is to cut off the last inch of the tip of the corncob opposite of the stalk, creating a flat end. Place the end flat on your cutting board and use a large, sharp knife to carefully cut straight down the cob, using the husks/stalk as a handle. CUT CAREFULLY! Place the corn kernels in a large bowl.
Carefully use your fingertips or a knife to remove the skins from the red peppers. Roughly chop the peppers and the mushrooms, and add them to the corn. Add the remaining filling ingredients and stir to combine. Don’t overstir or you’ll end up with mush.
A note for vegetarians: I think this filling recipe would be a great starting point to create a meatless dumpling. I'd suggest increasing the mushroom quantity and possibly adding some firm tofu (panfried before finely dicing for a little added flavor?)
To roll out the wrappers and fill the dough:
Take the dough and form a flattened dome. Cut into strips about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. Shape the strips into rounded long cylinders. On a floured surface, cut the strips into either 1/2-ounce or 1-ounce pieces (larger dumplings are easier to make if you’re a dumpling newbie). The recipe will yield approximately 50 dumplings if you use a 1/2-ounce size, or approximately 25 dumplings if your wrappers weigh 1 ounce each. Keep the waiting dough underneath a cloth to prevent it from drying out.
To roll out the wrappers, knead a dough piece in your hands for a few minutes until it is smooth.
Press your palm down on each piece to form a flat circle. With a straight (not tapered) rolling pin, roll out a circular wrapper from each flat disc. (I recommend using a thick dowel rod, or in absence of that, even a round, unsharpened pencil will work as a rolling pin - that's what I used in my pictures. A larger, standard-sized pastry rolling pin is too bulky to use. Take care not to roll out the skins too thinly or the dumplings might break - about 1/16th inch.
Leave the centers slightly thicker than the edges. Your wrappers will be between three and four inches in diameter.
Place 1/2 ounce to 1 ounce of filling in the center of each wrapper (depending on the size of your wrapper).
There’s lots of different ways to pleat a dumpling. Here’s the way I was taught in China. Create the top of the dumpling by pinching the dough together at the top, leaving the sides open.
Make three or four pleats along one side of the dough by folding the dough up, one pleat at a time, and pressing it flat.
Work from the center of the dumpling out towards the right to complete one side, then return to the center and work out towards the left to create the other side of pleats.
One side of the dumpling should have pleats, the other side should remain flat – this gives the dumpling its crescent shape. The dumpling should rest upright on a flat bottom, with a crescent ridge of pleats pointing up.
This month’s Daring Cooks host, Jen, uses a very similar pleating method to mine – you might want to check her website out to see how she does it.
You could also create a beggar’s purse by pleating in a circular fashion around the entire circumference of the dough. Some of the filling should be visible out of the top. Press in slightly to create an area where you can later tie a thread of scallion around the dumpling. They kind of look like little volcanoes! (I’m sure I have not refined the technique nearly as well as my Chinese classmates, who showed me how to make these ten years ago, have!)
Place the shaped and filled dumplings on a nonstick surface, such as a piece of parchment paper, until you are ready to cook the dumplings. If you desire, you can freeze the dumplings at this point and cook them from frozen later.
Choose a cooking method:
To make potstickers:
In a large nonstick sauté pan with high sides and a lid, heat 2 Tbsp oil over medium-high heat, uncovered. Add the dumplings – do not let them touch. Let them cook uncovered for approximately 2 minutes – long enough to begin to brown the bottoms of the dumplings.
Add 1/2 cup of water (careful, the pan will spatter) and immediately put the lid on the pan. Cook covered until the water has boiled away, then uncover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Let the dumplings cook another 2 minutes and then remove them from the heat and serve with dipping sauce.
To make steamed dumplings:
Line a steamer. I usually use a piece of parchment paper with a few holes poked through it. You could also use a single layer of cabbage leaves. Place the dumplings in the steamer basket – don’t let them touch one another.
Place the steamer over boiling water and cover – let them steam for about six minutes. Serve with dipping sauce.
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp white vinegar or unseasoned Chinese rice vinegar
2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp Asian chili sauce (or more to taste)
1 tsp white sugar
2 Tbsp thinly cut green and white scallion rings
Stir to combine all ingredients. Serve at room temperature.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
I love Hostess cupcakes. I rarely eat them anymore, but when I was a kid, my dad would occasionally buy them for me and my sister as a special treat. I would eat them upside down, saving the frosting for last, with special emphasis on attempting to preserve the line of white squiggly frosting for the very end.
I’ve always wanted to try making homemade Hostess-style cupcakes, but never have had the opportunity. I guess I just needed the right excuse to make them: an invitation to an early summer barbeque. So, I decided to give the cupcakes a shot!
Wow. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to eat a store-bought Hostess cupcake again. These are so much better.
I used a certain layer cake recipe which I know from previous experience has a tendency to bake up rather flat. I filled the cupcakes with a marshmallow-tasting frosting, glazed the tops with semi-sweet ganache, and used leftover filling to create the squiggles on top. The cake and filling recipes came from Diner Desserts, by Tish Boyle, although the original recipes were not written with homemade hostess cupcakes in mind – they are components of a regular layer cake.
The end result of this little experiment: tender and moist chocolate cupcakes, with perfect creamy centers, and cute squiggly tops.
Makes 24 cupcakes
2-1/4 cups granulated sugar
1-3/4 cups cake flour
1-1/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
2-1/4 tsp baking soda
1-1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 large whole eggs
1 large egg yolk (save the white for the filling)
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
9 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
3/4 cup milk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place 24 cupcake liners in muffin tins. Set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until well incorporated. Set aside.
In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolk, vanilla, buttermilk, and milk. Whisk in the melted butter. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir only until barely combined and smooth.
Use a ladle to spoon batter into the muffin tins, filling approximately 2/3 full. (Note: I actually probably filled mine slightly too high in the picture below. They ended up rising out of the muffin tins, and it wasn't the end of the world, but they were a little more difficult to remove from the tins.)
Bake 23-28 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake tests clean. Cool the cupcakes in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire racks to finish cooling completely. The cupcakes will be very flat - even slightly dipped in the center. That's fine, because we're going to fill them later.
While the cupcakes are cooling, start the ganache:
Chocolate Ganache Glaze
Before determining the quantity of ingredients to buy, see the note a couple of paragraphs below...
18 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
Place the chocolate chips in a medium mixing bowl and set aside. In a deep saucepan, warm the cream over medium-high heat until it barely comes to a boil. As soon as it comes to a boil, pour it over the chocolate chips and let it sit undisturbed for five minutes. After five minutes has passed, whisk the mixture until it becomes a uniformly chocolate-colored liquid. Let the mixture cool slightly, stirring occasionally to keep it from hardening. We’re looking for a thick liquid glaze, not a stiff frosting texture.
Note: You may need to make more glaze depending on how generous you are in glazing the cupcakes later. If you discover you need more, make a half recipe, and pour the whisked glaze into a pie pan to get the glaze to cool more rapidly.
While the ganache glaze is cooling, start the filling:
3 egg whites
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
3 Tbsp water
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract
For the filling, you will need a good-quality electric hand mixer. You’ll have to have the mixer running non-stop for about 15 minutes straight, so don’t use anything too old that might break in the midst of your mixing session. Yes, this is personal experience talking. Once I made this recipe using an old mixer and by the end of the mixing process, I burnt the motor out and ruined the mixer. Hey, it was an excuse to get a new hand mixer! You will also need a thermometer that goes to 160 degrees F.
My pictures show a double batch of filling, so your quantities will be less than what is shown.
In a large deep bowl, combine the egg whites, sugar, water, and cream of tarter with a handheld electric mixer. Beat until foamy, about 1 minute.
Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Beat constantly on low speed until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F, about 7 minutes.
Remove the bowl from the heat, add the vanilla, and beat it on high speed until it holds stiff peaks, about 7 minutes.
Fit a pastry (frosting) bag with a relatively wide, round-shaped tip. I used Wilton #364 because it is the largest diameter tip I own, and although it happens to have small teeth, it doesn’t matter. You could use anything of a relatively similar size as long as it’s a round tip and not a flat tip. You'll end up needing two different tips for this recipe; here's what I used. The one on my fingertip is #364.
Fill the pastry bag with the white filling.
Use a chopstick, skinny dowel rod, skewer, or similar stick-like object to poke a hole in the center of each cupcake. Insert the pastry bag in the hole and squeeze a few teaspoons of filling into the cupcake, until it barely begins to bulge. Be cautious to avoid overfilling them – too much filling means it’s too difficult to eat without a fork. When you're done filling the cupcakes, save the pastry bag – we’ll use it again.
Place the cupcakes on a wire rack set over a piece of waxed paper or some other sanitary surface that is easy to clean up. (You’re creating a drip rack to catch extra glaze.) Use a small ladle to spoon chocolate ganache over each cupcake. Push the glaze to the edges so the surfaces are smooth and evenly covered with a thin layer of ganache. Let any excess drip off the sides. You can reuse the glaze, or make more if you need more.
Refrigerate glazed cupcakes for a few minutes to set up the ganache.
Change the tip on your pastry bag to a small circular tip, such as Wilton #3. Pipe the squiggly “cursive e” design on the top of each cupcake.
Cupcakes should be refrigerated for storage, and should be eaten within the next few days.