Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes for Valentine

Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes 1If left to my own devices, I’d put chocolate at the top of the food pyramid, and not just any chocolate, a good dark one with 70 % or more cocoa. Chocoholics would probably agree with this reordering of the celebrated food chart, especially as February 14th approaches.

Each year I create a new chocolate treat to savor for Valentine’s Day, so for the past few days I’ve been working on a recipe for dark chocolate hazelnut cupcakes. Although baked in standard muffin tins, these rich cakes are petit, doming only slightly above their paper liners, but they are densely packed with intense chocolate flavor.

I used 72 % dark chocolate and replaced some of the flour with finely ground, toasted hazelnuts. After baking and while still warm, the cupcakes were sprinkled with chopped hazelnuts and bits of white chocolate for a confetti-like garnish. These delectable cupcakes hold up well for several days when stored in an airtight container. Several batches have been resting on our kitchen counter all week long, and everyone who’s sampled one has asked for seconds (except for my husband who raids without asking!).

Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes
4 oz dark chocolate (72 %), coarsely chopped (See note.)
8 tbsp (one stick) unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted (See note.)
1/3 cup flour
2 tbsp plus 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
4 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp chopped white chocolate (about 1 oz)

1. Arrange a rack at center position, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 12 standard muffin tins with paper liners.

2. Place the dark chocolate and butter in a heat proof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, and stir until both are melted. Remove and cool 10 minutes.

3. Place 1/3 cup of the hazelnuts in a food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely ground. In a mixing bowl, stir together the ground hazelnuts, flour, cocoa powder, and espresso powder.

4. With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs until blended for 30 seconds, then gradually beat in the sugar. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the speed to low and, in a thin stream, pour in the melted chocolate mixture. Gradually, a couple of tablespoons at a time, beat in the dry ingredients.

5. Divide the mixture evenly among the muffin tins. Bake the cupcakes until a tester comes out clean, about 18 minutes. While the cupcakes are baking, coarsely chop the remaining 2 tbsp hazelnuts and combine them with the chopped white chocolate.

6. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and sprinkle the tops with the white chocolate and hazelnut mixture. The chocolate will start to melt slightly. Remove the cupcakes from the muffin tins. (Cupcakes can be prepared 2 days ahead; cool and store at room temperature in an airtight container.) Makes 12 cupcakes.

Note: Trader Joe’s sells 72 % dark chocolate bars that are 3.5 oz. I buy two to get 4 oz, and break off a half ounce from the second bar. I save the rest for snacking.

To toast hazelnuts, spread on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree F oven until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Remove and, place a few at a time in kitchen towel to rub off the skins.
copyright Betty Rosbottom 2014


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