Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Black Bottom Cupcakes

One dessert I couldn't bring myself to make in Paris was a cheesecake.

I wanted to be able to try out a true cheesecake, not tweak repeatedly until my combination or ricotta/mascarpone/kiri/St Moret was "almost like a cheesecake". I wanted real cream cheese, but I didn't want to pay it an exorbitant price.

So I waited until I got to New York, thinking I would really get the cheesecake ball rolling out here.

Believe it or not, I haven't had a single slice of cheesecake since I got here almost three months ago. I haven't even baked a real cheesecake. Or even tried. Cheesecake recipes are piling up in my apartment, waiting for me and the day I decide to give it a go. I don't even have a valid excuse anymore--cream cheese isn't really the most expensive commodity around here.

While I put off making a real cheesecake, I've decided to try cheesecake-like associations. I recently got a really great baking book, The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book (whew), and their recipe for black-bottom cupcakes appealed to me right away.

Hey, I thought, this is sort of like a cheesecake! A half-cheesecake without risking a "this is not what a cheesecake should taste like" look from anyone.

It turns out the cupcakes were delicious--the sugar doesn't overpower the cream cheese, leaving the cupcake filling with a tangy taste that balances the strong chocolate flavor really well. Plus, the book's directions are so precise that when correctly followed, everything really turns out perfect. For once, I was actually happy with my oven!

Maybe I'll try to make a cheesecake next.

Black-Bottom Cupcakes - makes 12


8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 large egg white
1 tbsp sour cream
1/4 c. semisweet mini chocolate chips (I chopped up normal chocolate chips--it's best not to use normal ones without chopping them up, because they sink to the bottom)


3/4 c. all-purpose flour
2/3 c. sugar
1/4 c. Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 c. water, room temperature
6 tbsp sour cream, room temperature
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Filling: Beat cream cheese, sugar, and salt together in a medium bowl until smooth. Beat in egg white and sour cream until combined, about 30 seconds. Stir in chocolate chips.

Cupcakes: Whisk the four, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt together. Whisk in water, sour cream, melted butter, and vanilla until just incorporated.

Portion the cupcake batter into each muffin using a greased 1/3 cup measure (I just used a spoon...). Add a rounded tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture onto the center of each cupcake (I found there was a lot more filling than a tablespoon per cupcake--more like 2, which was just fine).

Bake until tops begin to crack, 18 to 22 minutes. Cool in tin for 10 minutes. 

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