Friday, December 25, 2009

Case Study 41: "The Marron di Natale"

"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire..."


 
...And so begins my most beloved Christmas carol.  The dishes have been cleared, the fire softly burns to embers, and full bellies turn in, seeking golden slumber salvation after infinite courses of holiday celebration. But lit by the soft glow of the Christmas Eve light, and snuggled somewhere between grandma's struffoli and anisette biscotti, lies the true scent of an Italian Christmas, waiting for Christmas Day.

"The Marron di Natale" is a chocolate cupcake filled with fresh chestnut cream, and topped with a Frangelico buttercream.  It is then drizzled in a chocolate glaze and crowned by hazelnuts and gold dust.  It is rich and earthy, nutty and creamy, and most definitely fit for a king.



It's not about the gift-tag rush, the bows and paper, or what fills the the stockings that really makes this the season to be merry.  These flavors, the abundance, the familial celebration...well that is what Christmas will always mean to me.    

Wherever you find yourself this Christmas and holiday season, wishing the best to you and yours from the kitchen of the Cupcaketologist.

Recipe
"The Marron di Natale" Cupcake (makes approximately 16 cupcakes)
(adapted from Maida Hetter's Chocolate Cupcake

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch process)
5 1/3 ounces (10 2/3 tablespoons) sweet butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 cup milk


1. Heat the over to 350 degrees and line 4 6-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners. Sift together the flour, soda, salt, and cocoa powder and set aside. 
2. Use a standing mixer or hand-mixer to cream the butter. Add the sugar and vanilla and mix to combine. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each one until smooth.
3. On the lowest speed, alternately add the dry ingredients in three additions and the milk in two. Beat only until smooth and fully combined, you don’t want to overwork the batter.
4. Scoop the batter into the prepared pans. Bake the cupcakes for about 25 minutes, or until the tops are puffed and spring back when lightly pressed. 

5. Cool the cakes in the muffin tins for about 5 minutes and then remove them to a rack and let cool completely.

Chestnut Cream

1-1/2 pounds chestnuts
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
1 cup heavy cream whipped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
milk


1. Remove the outer and the inner skins of the chestnuts and boil until soft with just enough milk to cover. Run through a sieve. Combine the sugar and water and cook for about 10 minutes.
2. Mix the chestnut purée and the sugar syrup and, when cool, add the vanilla and the whipped cream.  
3. Fill the cupcakes using the cone method.

Frangelico Buttercream 

2 sticks butter, softened
2 teaspoon Frangelico liquor
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup milk 

4-6 cups confectioner's sugar 

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, or by hand, beat the butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and Frangelico.
2. Add 1 cup confectioner’s sugar and mix until combined. Mix in ¼ cup milk.
3. Mix in remaining cups of confectioner’s sugar, and additional milk depending on consistency and preference.
4. Frost cupcakes. 

Chocolate Glaze
  
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

1. Bring cream, sugar, and 1/4 cup water to boil in heavy medium saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. 
2. Add chocolate and whisk until melted and glaze is smooth. Let cool until thick but still pourable, about 4 hours. 
3. Pour glaze atop cupcakes, spreading evenly over sides.