High Country Baking: Make mom a special treat for Mother’s Day
May 9, 2018
Editor's note: High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
Want to surprise mom with a homemade dessert on Mother's Day? If so, make these soft, moist, two-bite chocolate cakes with a rich chocolate topping. I've written the directions with a novice baker in mind so you don't need a lot of experience in the kitchen to prepare them successfully. Give it a try; I'm sure you and your mom will be happy with the results.
The cakes are made in a mini-muffin pan. If yours has only 12 cups, plan on using it twice. If your pan has cups larger than the ones used in this recipe (many are 2 inches across and 1 inch deep), go ahead and use it, you'll get about a dozen cakes instead of 20.
The flowers and leaves that decorate some of the cakes are commercially made by Wilton and are available at Walmart or online if you want to use them.
Mother's Day Chocolate Minis
Make in a shiny metal mini-muffin pan with cups 1¾-inches in diameter and ¾ of an inch deep
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4 tablespoons unsalted butter (half a stick)
¼ cup dark corn syrup
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker's
1 ½ large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup bleached all-purpose flour, spoon and level
¼ cup heavy whipping cream
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line the cups of your muffin pan with paper liners and spray the liners lightly with a flour-vegetable oil baking spray, spraying both the bottom and the sides of the liners (I know that sounds like over-kill, but the cakes will stick to the liners if you don't).
2. Read the recipe all the way through and get out all the ingredients and equipment called for, so you're fully prepared. Don't have superfine sugar? It's OK to use granulated sugar in its place. Unsure about room temperature eggs? Get two eggs out of the fridge, place them in a bowl of very warm tap water, this will bring them to room temperature in a couple minutes. To halve one of the eggs, follow the directions in No. 3. And, if you're asking how to "spoon and level" flour, start by stirring the flour in your container until it's light and fluffy, and then, using a large spoon, gently sprinkle small spoonfuls of it into a half-cup measure, keeping it light (don't press it down). When the flour comes above the sides of the measuring cup use a knife blade or spoon handle to sweep across the top of the cup, leveling the flour.
3. Make the cakes: Cut the butter into eight pieces, and put them, with the corn syrup, chopped chocolate and sugar in a one-quart saucepan. Place it over low heat and stir with a silicone spatula or large spoon only until the butter and chocolate are completely melted. Remove the pan from the heat; if the mixture is hot, cool it until it's just slightly warm. Add one egg and whisk until it's fully blended. Break the other egg into a 1-cup measure or a small bowl, use a fork to beat it until the yolk and white are combined, and add about 2 tablespoons (this is half a large egg) to the chocolate mixture. Add the vanilla and whisk to blend. Add the flour in three equal additions, gently stirring it into the chocolate mixture only until it's absorbed after each addition. After the last addition, stir only until the batter is smooth and shiny.
4. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, filling each cup to 1/8 of an inch from the top. Cover any unused batter. Place the filled pan in the oven and bake until the cakes puff — then deflate a little — are set on top (the batter doesn't stick to your finger if you gently touch the cake's top), and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. They'll still be quite soft but will firm up as they cool. If you wait until they're firm to remove them from the oven they'll be overbaked. Remove the pan to a rack, wait about 10 minutes, carefully take the cakes from the pan and place them on the rack to cool completely. If you're using the pan again, for a second batch, let it cool to room temperature before you do so.
5. Make the glaze: Place the cream in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high heat until the cream simmers (has small bubbles around the edges and is very hot, almost boiling). You can also do this in a small saucepan on the stovetop. Remove the cream from the heat and add the chopped chocolate, submerging it in the liquid. Let the mixture stand for three to four minutes, so the chocolate starts to melt. Add the vanilla and gently stir (not fast; you don't want to make air bubbles in the mixture) until all the chocolate has melted and the glaze is smooth and shiny. Let it sit at room temperature until it firms up so it's spreadable and won't run down the sides of the cakes. Spread over the tops of the cooled cakes. If you're using the flowers and leaves, place them on the glaze while it's still soft. The glaze will firm up in about an hour, then refrigerate the cakes in a covered container for at least three hours or up to three days before serving. We like them cold but they're also good at room temperature.
Vera Dawson, author of the high-altitude cookbooks Baking Above It All and Cookies in the Clouds, (available at The Bookworm in Edwards and Next Page Bookstore in Frisco), is a high-altitude baking teacher. Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at email@example.com.