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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Chocolate Cupcakes (High altitude recipe included)

Baking at high altitude makes me sad. A born and bred sea-level baker, living at 5,000 feet for the past two years has been a struggle. So much that I had given up on baking cakes, cookies and other delicious treats until I returned to a more friendly altitude. However, with only three weeks left living in the mountains, I decided to finally conquer this problem. Chocolate cupcakes looked like the best choice to help use up my remaining baking supplies. Besides, chocolate cupcakes are delicious.

Attempt 1…
Having success in the past with Elinor Klivanis’s cookbook “Cupcakes!” I decided to make her Chocolate sour cream cupcakes. This particular recipe has previously produced moist, light cupcakes. Following the recipe line-for-line, I came up with a fluffy batter that tasted pretty good!

1/3 of a cup of batter went into each muffin cup and into the oven it went for 20 minutes. Well, more like 11 minutes. Around this point I had the following thought pop into my head, “is something burning?”

To properly set up what I was confronted with, try to think of me in one of your favorite old TGIF sitcoms. Perhaps Steve Urkel and I had decided to make some cupcakes for a class project. Now knowing our friend Steve, he added some super yeast to the batter and inevitably, hilarity ensues.
Opening up the oven, I find an ever-growing mass of chocolate cupcake batter. Bubbling up, spilling over the edges of the pan and landing on the bottom of the stove (right on the heating element, hence the burning smell). Staring at this mass of brown ooze I stop to wonder, “how can it keep growing like that?” It's like a cupcake volcano.
With a bottle of Clorox Clean-up and a spatula, I end attempt number one.

Attempt 2…
This cupcake recipe will not beat me! I will succeed and make delicious, tasty chocolate cupcakes! Being a girl of the modern age, I know just where to find the solution to my cupcake problem, the internet. The problem with living in the mountains is two-fold. 1. At higher elevations, there is less air pressure, and thus your baked goods tend to rise much quicker than desired. 2. The climate is also a lot drier, which often leads to drier cakes and crumbly cookies.

Upon reading many high-altitude recipes, you realize there is a trend. Decrease the leavening to allow for a slower rise and increase the flour to give more structure. Most recipes also call for a slight decrease in sugar. This is just a general trend, every recipe seems to have different tweaks to make the 5,000 foot climb.

Armed with this knowledge I ventured back into the kitchen. Increasing the flour by 1 tbsp, decreasing the leavening by half and decreasing the sugar by 2 tbsp… I came up with a similar looking batter. Confident with my alterations I added 1/3 cup batter to the cupcake liners and into the oven they went. They started off with a nice rise, until about 10 minutes in. At this point they overflowed their cups and flattened out. Thankfully there was no repeat of my sitcom attempt 1, the batter remained contained to the top of the muffin pan.

While delicious, they look like Franken-cupcakes. Not suitable for frosting, but totally suitable for eating with some ice cream!

Attempt 3…

One final go at these cupcakes.

From the last batch, I could tell that the flavor was on, they were just too big! I also decided to use full fat sour cream, to give them a bit more structure. With one final adjustment, the cupcakes went into the oven, this time with just ¼ cup batter in each cup. Fingers crossed!

So far, so good!

Sweet success at last!

Stayed tuned for frosting!!!

From Elinor Klivanis’s “Cupcakes!”
Adaptations for High Elevation in red

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup (plus 1 tbsp) flour
½ tsp (¼ tsp) baking soda
½ tsp (¼ tsp) baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ cup butter
1 ¼ cup (minus 2 tsbp) sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ sour cream (full fat)
½ cup water

Melt the chocolate (either in a double boiler, or in the microwave at half power). Set aside to cool slightly.

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.

Mix together sugar and butter until creamy. On low speed, mix in melted chocolate. On medium speed, add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla and mix until combined and batter is slightly lighter in color. Add sour cream and mix until combined.

Add half the flour, mixing on low speed (I chose to do this by hand), followed by the water and finishing with the remaining flour.

Fill the paper muffin liners with ¼ cup of batter and bake for 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. Remove and allow to cool completely before frosting.
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