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I was going to give these a name alluding to (American) football, because they involve beer and pretzels and, uh, the Superbowl happened… recently… and, um… So I didn’t. Basically.

Oh. Also these aren’t exactly a veggie and tofu stir fry. I know I promised you that last time… or teased you about it, anyway. I just kind of needed to make these before swapping muffin tin for wok. You understand – or if you don’t, reserve judgement, make a batch of these then get back to me on any residual tofu-related issues. You’ll want to wipe the chocolate off your face before you attempt to say anything stern, of course.

So, these things. I’ve called them punks for a few reasons, one of which is the (to me) anarchic way in which the ingredients come together. Usually one would add wet ingredients to dry, or vice versa, but here we bung all the…  powdery stuff… into the bowl (it feels like I’m breaking a major law by mixing flour and sugar in the same step – might just throw a brick through the neighbour’s window while I’m at it) and whisk it all together. Then we add… the runny stuff.

Yeah, I continue to melt my butter in a quasi bain marie. My contribution to Damning The Man: not having the money or space for a microwave. Take that, The Man.

So, right, dump in the runny stuff, then throw a bottle of thick, black beer in there.

I mean,  don’t throw the actual bottle in – broken glass is hell on the soft palate. Pour the stout into a measuring cup, then chuck that fizzy badness into the mix, doing your best Vicious snarl while you’re at it, if so moved.

Don’t be alarmed when the beery, liquidy mix barely manages to fill the cupcake cases halfway. Remember that you put a healthy scoop of bicarbonate of soda in with the other powdery stuff, and that bicarb might seem unassuming, but is in fact, really quite a badass ingredient.

Check out the rise on these babies! And, no, they won’t deflate as they cool. The exterior is strong (as you’ll find in the next step) and the inside is light and moist and springy. Ingredients anarchy FTW.

Here’s where my adaptation of this recipe first comes out to play: stuff these cupcakes! When you give me a big jar of salted caramel, there is no way the most I’m going to do with it is drizzle a bit over the top of some chocolate things. No fancy, overpriced cupcake plungers required here, just break out a bog-standard apple corer and press it into the top of each cake, twisting a bit as you go to break through the crust. The excavated cake should stay in the corer’s ring as you pull it up again, leaving a neat little well behind.

You also end up with a dozen little ‘cake holes’ to munch on as you enter into the gloriously messy phases of this slightly insane project. Roll up yer sleeves, kiddos…

Now you go to town with the buttery, sweet-salty goodness of the caramel. I’d recommend a piping bag for this – or channel your inner DIY punk and fill one corner of a plastic sandwich bag, snip off the tip and squeeze away. Any caramel remaining in the bag once all the cakes are stuffed can (and, frankly, should) be squished straight into your mouth.

Once the cupcakes are filled, they are ready to be topped with a layer of chocolate ganache. BUT FIRST. I came up with a mini baking tip while goofing off – uh, prepping the chocolate:

Good, right? It’s not a life changer, but you’ll be getting plenty of chocolate on your hands later, so why not skip the bother for now, and avoid getting crumbs of snapped chocolate all over the kitchen while you’re at it? Just keep the wrapped chocolate sealed, crack it where ever you feel a seam, unwrap et voila! Ready to rock.

No particular method behind the madness of adding chocolate chunks to the broken up pieces of bar: the bars were 150g each, making 300g, and I only needed 100g more – exactly the weight of a bag of chocolate chunks. There was also the advantage of the smaller bits of chocolate melting faster when the hot cream was poured over.

Sooo… the ganache. Now, I absolutely love making – and eating – ganache, and am generally aware of its components: chocolate, warm cream and sometimes butter. I did raise an eyebrow when I noticed the tiny splash of vegetable oil this recipe called for – how much grease does this thing need? It’s already packed with cocoa butter and butter butter! But, thought I, this recipe has been tried and tested, approved and posted, so why not go with it…

I’ll tell you why not. I mean, I did go with it, and I ended up with what I can only describe as oily ganache. It almost looked separated, and when I “spread” it, it slid off the knife without leaving a trace, and didn’t really stick to the tops of the cupcakes, meaning I had to kind of… nudge it into place and wait for it to set. Ganache should be rich and creamy. It should be sticky in a chocolatey kind of way. It is already packed with fats – it does not need 1/4 tsp of extra grease. It really, really doesn’t. I shoulda known. I’m telling you. Now you know.

The only reasons I didn’t make a second batch of ganache were 1. my desire to not waste the 400g of dark chocolate that went into this batch, 2. it tasted good despite its odd consistency and 3. the fact that I was going to cover this batch with a hell of a lot of really quite distracting crap. Some of it vaguely dangerous…

Pointy things! Yup. I’m asking you to grab some sharp things (pretzels) and make them even sharper. I also want you to melt some chocolate and some of that caramel – then basically fling them both all over the place, you’re welcome – but first do the tiny dangerous things.

Pretzels done, and now: DESTROY. Boring people call it ‘drizzling’. Pollock called it ‘art’. I call it a brilliant excuse to spend half an otherwise-productive hour licking the surface of a muffin tin.

We usually keep it classy here, I know. Well, sort of classy? A bit?

At the very least, we usually don’t splatter melted confection everywhere (on purpose) or stab cakes with shards of smashed bread product (yeah, no, we really don’t do that). Which is why I’m having so much fun right now…

Whoever told you not to play with your food clearly never considered recreating a Rancid gig using cakes.

And so to the slightly violent bit: the inspecting of the stuffed cupcake’s sweet, sweet innards. This one fell victim to early chocolate-drizzling attempts (note the unsightly blob on top) and it now falls further victim to a bit of Gwar-like treatment.

No kidding, when I saw Gwar back in the very late 90s they did something very much like this to the Marilyn Manson character they brought onstage. That situation involved less salted caramel and more (surprisingly laundry-friendly) torrents of fake blood, but you get the idea.

The flavour report for these is very good indeed: you definitely get a hint of the stout in there, and the cake balances with the sweet, dark ganache and slightly bitey, buttery caramel like a dream. There’s an excellent play of textures between the soft sponge, gooey toppings and crunchy pretzels as well. Would and will make again, for sure – and they were quite the hit with a group of people who really know their stuff, food-wise, so… there.

Here’s my Recipe For These Things, and I’m pleased to confirm that there is nary a drop of dratted vegetable oil in sight. Full credit to the original recipe for the aesthetic of these cakes – mine were a lot messier, particularly because I panicked about giving a bunch of food journalists cupcakes with about 24 pretzels sticking out of them (the more spikes you put on these, the better they look). Now go forth and wreak cakey havoc!

A few addenda:

Full disclosure, this may have been what happened to those excavated cake holes…

Basically, I tried mixing some caramel with the greasy ganache to see if that would do anything helpful (not really, hella tasty though) then decided what would definitely sort it would be smashing a bunch of cake bits into it and topping with more warm caramel – then calling that lunch and eating it with a long-handled sundae spoon because I’m dainty and stuff.

Other dainty thing I did: cleaned this tin using my face.

Did I say something about being classy earlier? Let’s say I have a working definition of ‘classy’ and it’s PhD-level complicated. Have a cupcake and stop asking so many questions, please.

NEXT TIME: tofu. Seriously. (Oh, look, a doughnut recipe…) Seriously. Shut up. x

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