First, allow me to thank you for the incredible comments you left on my last blog post. I was impressed by your thoughtful responses and it's clear the subject resonated with a great many of you. Thank you also for the incredible number of emails you sent. I learned a great deal from your insights and know others did as well.
On a related note, my husband picked up a book (on CD) this week that neither of us have been unable to put down. I recall the book had a tremendous impact on own my mother and I assumed when I picked it up I'd be reading about her generation. I was stunned at how relevant the book is today in 2012 - for women and men, at home and at work.
I must say, I'm not sure I would have fully grasped the message at an earlier point in my life but currently both my husband and I are finding it quite compelling and it's raised some wonderful discussions in my house. If you are up for some self-reflection, I highly recommend the book.
Now, let's have some chocolate.
Just a few short weeks ago we headed up to Je t'aime en Chocolat, Montreal's first chocolate show at Marche Bonsecours. It was wonderful. There were demonstrations, tastings, chocolate sculptures, chocolate fashion shows - even dresses made out of meringue. Incredible, really. With the temperature at 6 degrees (-14 c) outside it was nice to be eating chocolate while warm and toasty indoors.
When we finally made it home, I decided to make something a bit lighter than the dark chocolate truffles and mousse that we ate up north. I opted instead for making vanilla cupcakes with milk chocolate frosting (if you can call that lighter). I decided to decorate them with the sugar buttons we bought at our favorite patisserie.
While we were in Montreal, I also picked picked up a delicious assortment of chocolate bars with flavors including coconut, ginger, milk caramel, orange chocolate, to name a few.
In total, I bought 10 incredible chocolate bars from all over the world. I want one of you to have this amazing collection of chocolate bars so I'm giving them away to a lucky winner.
Here's how you can enter to win:
- Leave a comment on this post before midnight on Friday March 9, 2012
- Make sure your comment links directly to a site where you can be contacted. Otherwise include a Twitter or email address in your email address. Only comments that include this information are eligible to win.
- One entry per person.
- The winner will be selected at random and contacted on Saturday March 10, 2012 before noon (EST).
- Be sure to check your inbox, messages or comments. If no response is received by March 12 at noon (EST), another winner will be selected.
- This giveaway will ship anywhere in the world.
Don't forget to Tweet about @freshnewengland too! Every tweet about this post is an additional chance to win.
While you wait to hear who wins, I recommend trying these cupcakes. I labored over the recipe and made about 10 different versions until I got it right. You will love them. Enjoy!
World's Best Vanilla Cupcake
121 g (9 1/3 tbs) unsalted butter, softened
16 g (1 1/3 tbs) vegetable shortening, softened
305 g (1 1/2 c) sugar
3 large eggs
256 g (2 1/4 c) cake flour, sifted
13 g (2 1/2 tsp) baking powder
3 g (1 tsp) salt
250 ml (1 c) whole milk
6 g (1 1/2 tsp) vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream together butter, vegetable shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Thoroughly beat in 3 eggs.
Sift together dry ingredients. Set aside. Stir together milk and vanilla. Set aside. Stir in the dry and wet ingredients alternately beginning with the milk. To finish, beat for about 35 seconds on high.
Insert cupcake liners into muffin tins. Fill liner 3/4 full. Do not open the oven before 15 minutes.
Bake 20-24 minutes until the cupcake springs back to the touch and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Baking time will vary depending on your oven and the size of the cupcake liner you choose. Keep an eye on them.
Milk Chocolate Ganache Frosting
305 g (10 1/2 oz) good quality milk chocolate such as Callebaut or Valrohna, finely chopped
320 ml (1 1/3 cups) heavy cream
78 ml (1/3) cup corn syrup (you can reduce this amount down to 2bs. if you find it too sweet)
4 g (1 tsp) vanilla
340 g (3 sticks butter) softened
178 g (1 1/2 cups) powdered sugar
Melt the chocolate carefully. I place it in a bowl and put it in the microwave for about 1 minute. You don't want the chocolate to completely melt in the microwave because milk chocolate burns easily. Instead, after 45 seconds, take it out and stir it until the residual heat from the bowl melts as much of the remaining chocolate as possible. Repeat in 15 second intervals until the chocolate is melted. Then mix the cream, corn syrup and vanilla in a small pan and bring to a boil. Stir into melted chocolate. Cool to room temperature.
Beat butter on high with paddle attachment for 1 minute until creamy. On low speed add powdered sugar and blend. Add the melted chocolate mixture and beat with whisk attachment until smooth and creamy. Refrigerate until spreadable about 45 minutes to 2 hours. Frost cupcakes.
Note: You can adjust the frosting to your taste. If you find milk chocolate too sweet as a stand alone flavor, try stirring in an additional 1/2 cup melted dark chocolate. If after chilling the frosting for a few hours, you decide you want the frosting to be more firm, you can beat in more powdered sugar.