First, blue cheese cheesecake. I've posted this recipe before and so am just giving the link. (Scroll down to get to the recipe.) The funny thing is that I looked at the unrevised version and so baked it too long and at too high of a temperature. (I find that many cheesecake recipes have this error--I don't know why.) So it was kind of dry and crumbly, I thought. But the fragments I tasted had wonderful flavor, and everyone really liked it. The other mistake I made was that I didn't bake it in a springform pan and so couldn't unmold it. I don't know what I was thinking! So people had to dig it out with knives, and it didn't look very pretty. All was well, though. I left out the walnuts since so many people are allergic to nuts, but that may not have been necessary. Blue cheese and walnuts go together beautifully. If this all sounds good to you, head on over to the previous page linked above and take a look.
Secondly, I'm giving a rather weird item that's so delicious that it's worth going to the effort of getting a rather unusual ingredient. These are not cupcakes that children will like, as they're very strongly flavored. The alcohol in the beer bakes out, of course, but you can definitely taste it in the finished product. And I use bittersweet chocolate for the glaze, but you can use semisweet if you want a kinder, gentler version. I got this recipe from the King Arthur Flour catalog several years ago and thought it was appropriate for a Celtic theme. Make sure that you include a menu card telling people what these are. They are seriously, seriously chocolatey and seriously, seriously rich. I have made them much smaller than the original recipe.
Chocolate Stout Cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
- 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) dark beer, preferably chocolate stout*
- 1 1/2 cups (24 tablespoons, 12 ounces, so THREE STICKS) of BUTTER
- 1 cup Dutch-process cocoa**
- 3 cups flour
- 3 cups sugar
- 2 1/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3 large eggs
- 2/3 cup sour cream
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 pound bittersweet chocolate***
Preheat oven to 350. Line 48 muffin cups with foil cup thingies. (The original recipe says to make 30, but that's way too big. You want the cupcake to be somewhat below the level of the liners so that you have room for the glaze.) Give each one a quick spray with Pam. That makes it much easier for people to get the foil off when they're eating them.
Put the butter and stout in a large mixing bowl and heat in the microwave on 50% power for 3-4 minutes, or until the butter is melted. The power of your microwave and the softness of the butter will all affect the time. Whisk in the cocoa until smooth and cool the mixture to room temperature. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl, and the eggs and sour cream is yet another small bowl. Then use a mixer to beat the egg mixture into the cocoa mixture, then add the flour mixture and beat that in at low speed, scrape down the sides of the bowl and then beat for one minute. Scoop the batter into the muffin tins, filling the cups about 1/3 full. You can bake them in batches if your oven doesn't do a good job with multiple pans. I have a convection oven and still do the switching-around business halfway through baking. Since these are so small I've shortened the baking time to 10-12 minutes, but be sure to test them with a toothpick to make sure they're done--the toothpick needs to come out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in the pans and then turn them out onto a rack and cool completely before frosting.
Heat the cream to simmering, best done in the microwave, maybe 3 minutes on 50% power. Then mix in the chocolate until smooth. You may have to do some additional heating, again at 50%. Stir in the vanilla. If your cupcakes came out small enough, just spoon a portion of the still-liquid mixture onto the tops, and it will spread out and then harden. If your cupcakes came out bigger for some reason, you can refrigerate the glaze until it's stiff enough to spread.
*I bought Young's Double Chocolate Stout from a local liquor store. If you can find a 12-oz. can or bottle, that will give you the correct amount. Some containers are more in the 14-oz. range, so i guess you'll have to drink the rest! (I don't like beer, so I try to find the smaller can.)
**This is IMPORTANT. Dutch-process cocoa is very dark and has a different flavor from regular cocoa, plus it has a different acidity and so reacts differently to the leavening. You can usually find “Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa” in the grocery sore. I have also bought Dutch cocoa at Costco.
***I usually use Ghirardelli's bittersweet chocolate, which you can buy at the grocery store in 4-oz. bars. If you want a sweet frosting you can use semisweet, but I think the bittersweet goes best with the flavor of the cupcakes.