Thursday, October 1, 2009
It may seem strange that I live in the heart of Starbucksland but I don't drink coffee. I'm a tea gal. I never got into coffee. As a child, it was a grown-up's beverage, harsh and bitter. I associated it with cigarette smoke and bad breath.
I know a lot of people start drinking coffee in high school when the late hours of studying combined with the early hours of school make for very groggy students. That was when I discovered tea and began my lifelong romance with Mr. Lipton.
The few hold-outs to the lure of coffee usually succumb in college. The frenetic pace of college life combined with the intensity of finals can make the stoutest of coffee-shunners turn to the urn for the promise of a few extra hours of study time. College was when I caved.
My first quarter of college I took Chem 101. I'd never taken a chemistry class before and I was totally out at sea. The basic, cursory review material given in the first week was all new to me, and since they assumed that everyone had a firm foundation of elementary terms like "mole," they quickly moved on. I was left in the dust wondering, "A mole? What's a mole? Burrowing earth creature? What does that have to do with chemistry?"
Come finals time I decided I needed to buckle down and learn chemistry (Yes, you read that correctly. I decided to learn the subject in the last week of the quarter. Ah, delusional freshman!). The night before the final I was up late, randomly highlighting things in the textbook, thinking somehow this was an aid to memory. Frantic for more cramming time, I got a big cup coffee and put enough sugar in it so that I could choke it down. After swallowing the magic elixir I awaited the increased focus and concentration that I knew would come. What came instead was a feeling like I'd swallowed a swarm of mosquitos - BZZZZZZZZZZZ. Concentration? Learning? Comprehension? Forget it. So I decided to throw in the towel and get some sleep. Ah, again, forget it.
You can imagine how well I did on my final. It was a disaster. And I blame coffee for failing to magically come through for me.
So why on earth would I tell the nice people at POM Wonderful that I'd like to try their line of Iced Coffees? Well, I like getting stuff in the mail. Plus, I know a lot of people who love coffee and I thought it would be fun to let them do some taste testing. Also, in the years since college I've discovered that while I don't like coffee plain, if you mix it into something like coffee ice cream, it becomes amazing.
Thinking about putting coffee into things gave me a brilliant idea. This was a seriously brilliant idea, not brilliant as in "learn chemistry in a week", but brilliant as in put the POM Iced Coffee into mocha cupcakes. I adapted a recipe from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes using the Iced Coffee in place of brewed espresso, which worked out well, since I have no capability to make espresso (or even coffee) in my kitchen. And how did it work? Beautifully! The cupcakes were moist, delicate, and wonderfully mocha-flavored. I iced with a mocha icing, added a chocolate-covered espresso bean on top, and they were heavenly. I may be a genius. Just don't ask me any chemistry questions.
Healthy Buzz Mocha Cupcakes
- adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes
2-1/2 cups cake flour, sifted
2 Tbsp unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1-1/2 cups packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sour cream at room temperature
3/4 cup POMx Chocolate Iced Coffee, at room temperature
1 Tbsp instant espresso powder
Mocha Cream Cheese Icing (below)
Chocolate-covered espresso beans for garnish
1- Preheat the oven to 325 deg. F. with racks dividing the oven into thirds. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners (a total of 24).
2- In a small bowl sift together the cake flour and the cocoa. Set aside.
3- Place the butter in the bowl of a mixer. On medium-high speed, cream the butter until smooth and light. Add the brown sugar and eggs; beat well, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla, baking soda, and salt; beat to combine thoroughly.
4- Reduce mixer speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of sour cream, and beating until just combined after each addition. Mix together the POMx Iced Coffee and the espresso powder; add to batter, and beat until smooth.
5- Divide the batter evenly between the 24 lined cups, filling each three-quardters full. Bake about 22 minutes, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored unfrosted up to 3 days at room temperature or frozen up to 2 months in airtight containers.
Mocha Cream Cheese Icing
1 tsp espresso powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 oz cream cheese, softened
3 cups sifted powdered sugar (more or less, to consistency)
1 Tbsp baking cocoa
1- Combine espresso powder and vanilla in small bowl.
2- Beat cream cheese with a mixer until fluffy. Beat in the cocoa, and espresso- vanilla mixture until well blended. Add the powdered sugar a cup at a time until the desired consistency is achieved. As you beat it it will hold beater tracks, but then relax as soon as you stop beating.
* Visit the POM Iced Coffee site to learn all the healthy reasons for making these cupcakes and why they don't taste like pomegranate. Also, the sheep buzzed up on caffeine are very entertaining.