Face-First Chocolate Stout Cupcakes

Here’s how my thought process works when developing recipes. Valentine’s Day is coming up. So: Chocolate. Chocolate. Chocolate. Hmmmm. How’s about a new chocolate cupcake? Yeah.

What goes with chocolate? Something crunchy. Not nuts again. Pretzels? Yeah. Chocolate Cupcakes with pretzels on top. Not good enough. So what goes with pretzels? Beer. Yeah. Pretzels and beer, right?

In fact, I know just the beer: Chocolate Stout.

And that’s how this recipe was born. I like to insert a pretzel in a jaunty fashion off-center into the frosting…or sprinkle crushed pretzels on top just before serving. The photos, however, show the un-pretzeled versions. Obviously.

Photos: Richard Swearinger

Double Chocolate Stout Cupcakes

Makes 12 cupcakes

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chocolate stout (Pour about 1/3 cup chocolate stout plus foam, let settle for 1 to 2 minutes, scoop off the foam, and you should have about ½ cup)

1/2 cup butter (unsalted, please. If you’re using salted butter, ditch the salt, above)

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3 ounces dark unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped, or semisweet dark chocolate chips

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 slightly beaten eggs

Dark Chocolate Frosting (next page)

Coarse sea salt

12 bite-size pretzels

1. Preheat the oven to 350* F. Line muffin pan with 12 paper liners. Set aside. Stir together flour, soda, and salt. Set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring stout, butter, and cocoa just to simmer; stirring frequently. Add dark chocolate, stirring until melted. Remove from heat. Add brown sugar, stirring until smooth. Whisk in eggs until combined. Add flour mixture, beating until smooth.

3. Fill cupcake liners about ¾ full. Bake for about 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. (Or just tap the top of the cupcake with your finger.  It should bounce back.) Cool in pan on rack for 5 minutes, then carefully remove cupcakes from muffin pan and cool completely on rack.

4. Pipe or frost with Dark Chocolate Frosting (below). Sprinkle coarse salt over each cupcake. Top with a pretzel. (Or skip the salt and crush the pretzels and sprinkle on top.

Dark Chocolate Frosting

Makes enough to cover 12 cupcakes

¼ cup unsalted butter

¼ cup milk (or cream as long as we’re being decadent)

1 cup dark chocolate chips (or 8 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped)

2 ½ cups sifted powdered sugar

1. In a small saucepan, heat the butter and milk over medium heat until butter is melted and mixture is bubbly, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and stir in dark chocolate until melted.

2. Remove pan from heat and add powdered sugar. Beat by hand until smooth. Cool to room temperature. Stir well before frosting cupcakes. Add additional milk if frosting is too thick.

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