Monday, August 17, 2009

Mocha Hazelnut Cupcakes

I have been waiting for this day for months. And it finally came. I baked mocha cupcakes. Or at least I started out with the idea of baking mocha cupcakes. Along the way, after a bit of intensive research, my arm was "twisted" into adding Nutella to this creation. The end result was a Mocha Hazelnut cupcake.

In my esteemed opinion, there's nothing better than the smell of coffee. I've noticed that even those who detest the taste of coffee still like to get a sniff or two when they can. Personally, I can drink a few cups a day. And the only thing better than coffee is chocolate. So of course, nothing's better than coffee in chocolate cupcakes!

I first thought about making mocha cupcakes earlier this summer, when I purchased my first Mocha cupcake from the Sweet cupcake bakery in Hoboken. The cupcake was really delicious, but there was no actual coffee flavor in the cupcake. The coffee was in the buttercream icing. I was curious how a cupcake would taste if coffee was actually incorporated in the cake as well as the icing.

After countless hours of dreaming about mocha cupcakes, it was time to "put up or shut up". How To Eat A Cupcake's blog provided me with the me the most interesting version of a mocha cupcake.

Mocha Cupcakes (slightly adapted)
Makes ~12 cupcakes
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup 2% milk
  • 1/2 cup strong brewed coffee, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
1) Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper or foil liners.

2) Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl.

3) In a measuring cup, combine the milk and brewed coffee.

4) In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.

5) Add the egg and beat until combined.

6) Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk mixture in 2 additions, beating on low speed until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

7) Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full.

8) Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, ~16 minutes.

9) Let the cupcakes cool completely, about 1 hour.

Important! Remember to add the brown sugar when you add the granulated sugar. All I'm saying is that this step can be confusing and you wouldn't want to throw your cupcakes in the oven before asking yourself why you have brown sugar on the counter but didn't use it. I'm just saying...

And what better way to top these beautiful cupcakes, than to add some Nutella-Coffee Icing. The Cupcake Review blog provided me with a delicious recipe for this. Yum!

Nutella-Coffee Frosting (slightly adapted)
Frosts ~12 cupcakes
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons Nutella
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 heaping teaspoon instant coffee
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1) In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons milk with 1 heaping teaspoon instant coffee and stir until coffee is dissolved.

2) In a separate bowl, combine butter, Nutella, sugar, salt, vanilla, and the 3 tablespoons coffee-milk mixture. Mix well with electric mixer, adding more milk as needed to make a fluffy spreadable frosting.

This recipe makes enough icing to frost 12 cupcakes if just spreading it on with a knife. If you want to pipe it onto the cupcakes, I would suggest doubling the recipe.

The best part of this endeavor was the tasting afterward. The cupcake itself was moist inside and a little crumbly. The mocha flavor was there, but it was pretty mild. My roommate, Kimmy, and I thought the cupcake could have remained in the oven for another minute or two, but it depends on your preference. If you like a more fudgy consistency, then 16 minutes it is! When eating the cupcake with the icing, the pairing went very well. The icing had a lot more coffee flavor than the cupcake, which I loved, but Kimmy wasn't too keen on as she doesn't drink coffee. The Nutella wasn't as pronounced as I would have liked, so the hazelnut flavor in the cupcake was a wee bit lacking. Overall, the icing paired well with the cupcake to provide just the right amount of mocha flavor in my opinion.

Kimmy wa
s a trooper and carried a cupcake sample to her co-worker/"TBK Cupcake Taster" Rene. His thoughts: He really liked the icing and the flavoring proportions were perfect, no too sweet, not too overpowering. As for the cake, it was a little too dry and crumbly for his taste. He would have preferred to see a richer consistency throughout the cake.

In my defense, though, Rene didn't taste the cupcake until 2-3 days after I make it, so I think the cake issues should be rendered moot. But I'm glad the flavoring proportions were still "perfect" after a few days time!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Brooklyn Brewery: Tour & Tastings

This week, TBK decided to take a little field trip. Let's face it, all this cooking has left my freezer a little overstuffed, so I took a break and headed on over to Brooklyn. The main attraction? The Brooklyn Brewery.

I've been meaning to go to this brewery for a while. I almost made it earlier this year, but the key word there is "almost". In actuality, the Williamsburg, Brooklyn neighborhood in which the Brooklyn Brewery resides is not that far from Hoboken. I hopped on the PATH to 14th St in NYC, then transferred to the L and got off at the first stop in Brooklyn. It took me about an hour and a half to make it to my destination. And that includes the pit stop I made to the Cupcake Stop, which happened to be conveniently located in Union Square that afternoon. (Yummm...I need to blog about that place someday!) But seriously, an hour and a half is little to ask for when you consider the prize waiting at the end of your journey.

I jumped off the L train at the Bedford Avenue stop, which is the first stop after crossing the East River. I was met by the obligatory hipsters and a random girl in a silver sequined skirt. Yep, Williamsburg is a little quirky, but still cute. About 5 blocks later, I ended up in front of a large yellow brick building. I wasn't too sure at first that this was the actual location. Although their website,, provides an actual address, the street they directed me to is filled with warehouses. There were numerous false alarms before I found the actual brewery. The huge "B" label above the warehouse doors clinched the deal. Unfortunately, I didn't actually get a picture of this, but trust me, it's there. Another Brooklyn Brewery label greeted me as I stepped inside a pair of huge warehouse doors. See picture above.

Fun Fact: their label was designed by Milton Glaser, who designed those "I Love New York" t-shirts.

At this point, I would like to throw out a general disclaimer: I am not a beer connoisseur. Yes, I drink and enjoy beer, but by no means am I an expert on the beer brewing process or the subtle hints/notes that go along with beer tasting. I'm more of an "I like it" or "I don't like it" kind of person. OK, now that we've established that, let's move on...

On Saturdays, the Brooklyn Brewery holds tours on the hour from 1pm - 4pm. Maggie and I got there in time to catch the 4pm tour. I have to say that I was a little disappointed with the scope of the tour, but the tour itself was pretty interesting. Let me explain. The tour group meets near the front door at the top of the hour. Then they will be led into another room where the beer is brewed and fermented and all that good stuff. Sadly, this is both the beginning and end location of the tour. Yep, that one room is it. The information that was given during the tour was pretty interesting. We learned about the history of the brewery and little quirky stories that took me back to my tour-giving days at the Office of Admissions in college.

On a funny note, our tour guide resembled Seth Green. Just a little bit. I tried to sneak the picture below without seeming too creepy. It's a little blurry.

The tour lasted about 20 minutes. To be honest, Seth Green's talk was making me thirsty, so I headed over to the tasting room to begin the real work. I admit that I was a little overwhelmed by the number of people I had to beat back just in order to get to the bar. Due to this, it became a bit of a task to take pictures in the room. I'm used to taking pictures of inanimate food objects, so this was a bit much.

The task was made even more difficult by the fact that I needed to balance a beer and tokens at the same time. The brewery requires you to purchase $4 tokens at the front desk/gift shop. These tokens can be exchanged for a beer at the bar. The Brooklyn Local 1 and Brooklyn Local 2 beers are special reserves and require 3 tokens, but you do get to drink from (and keep) a crystal glass with your beer. I have to say that carrying around a breakable crystal glass for the rest of the afternoon did not sound very appealing to me. In fact, I can imagine several disastrous situations in which I could find myself and the aforementioned glass. No thanks.

The Brooklyn Brewery had several beers available:
- Blanche De Brooklyn
- Brooklyn Sorachi Ace
- Intensified Coffee Stout
- Brooklyn Brown Ale
- Brooklyn Lager
- East India Pale Ale
- Brooklyn Pilsner
- Brooklyn Local 1
- Brooklyn Local 2

I didn't try every one of them, but I can tell you about the ones I DID try! Please keep my disclaimer in mind as you read this. I'll keep it short and sweet...

Blanche de Brooklyn (or Brooklyn White Ale)
This was a nice, light summer beer. Basically, it's a wheat-style beer with a hint of fruit. If you enjoy Blue Moon or Hefeweizen, this is definitely a keeper. I enjoyed this a lot. That is, until I discovered the...

Brooklyn Sorachi Ace
My friend Mark was drinking the Sorachi Ace as I was finishing up my Blanche. Of course this means I had to try his beer before heading back to the bar. And I liked it. I liked it a lot. This beer is hoppier than most beers I typically drink, but there was also this spicy aftertaste that intrigued me. So I kept drinking it. Every once in a while, I tried another beer, such as the...

Intensified Coffee Stout
This beer is not a sleeper. It tastes exactly as it sounds. Just picture drinking a pint of Guinness with a shot of espresso, since that's pretty much what we have here. I love caffeine, so I would have liked this a lot more if I actually liked stout, which I don't. I will say that it is excellent in shot sizes though. It's a little bit like a shot of espresso, but better because it also contains alcohol. I just can't drink an entire pint of this. Unfortunately, I also was not a huge fan of the...

Brown Ale
Sorry Brooklyn Brewery. This was also not a fave. The Brown Ale has coffee and chocolate flavor undertones. As previously mentioned, I like coffee. It's also an unspoken rule that I like chocolate. However, this beer was doomed for me because it's also hoppy and malty. I'm not a big fan of that, Brooklyn. Not one to worry, I drowned my sorrows in another glass of Sorachi Ace.

I think Maggie liked them all. Mark ducked out of this picture. He's trying to stay anonymous, apparently.

One of the great things about going to the Brooklyn Brewery is that you don't have to leave for any reason. Patrons have the option to order food from local restaurants or pizza joints for delivery directly to the brewery. And, of course, you have beer on tap (or in a bottle) at your fingertips. If you're a real champ, you can stay for the entire afternoon. So plan to catch up with old friends or meet new ones, but don't rely entirely upon my review. Take a trip to the Brooklyn Brewery yourself.