I live by the school year calendar. I lived by the school year calendar since preschool, almost continuously except for one semester after finishing college while working in the tech consulting world (*shudder*) and not taking any classes. Aside from that brief period, I have always been in school in some capacity, whether full-time or taking art classes for an ill-fated attempt at fashion merchandising school. And after doing a lot (I mean, a lot) of school, I now work as a high school counselor– and if you’d told me what I’d be doing 20 years later while I was in high school, I would’ve definitely thought you were crazy. Surprising as this would have been to my 17-year-old self, I love working with high school students. And when I started 10 years ago, it felt sort of full-circle, partly because I was still on the academic calendar even though I’d graduated for good; it just felt right and comforting that my life would continue to be broken up into Fall/Spring and Summer. Ah, glorious, magnificent summer. And really, who in the school system doesn’t love summer vacation? Students and staff alike are chomping at the bit at least by Spring Break, maybe February. But as much as I relish summer, even now I get butterflies in early August for new back-to-school clothes, fun stuff for my office, and markers. Yes, that’s right– I said markers. My favorite part of going back to school as a kid (along with picking out a glossy, new Trapper Keeper binder– obviously) was getting fresh Crayola markers. I realize I’m dating myself here, but remember when they came out with the “Bold” set and the “Stamper” collection? I was in heaven. Even now, I love buying new multi-colored highlighters (those count as grown-up markers, right?), and I keep a set of colored pencils in my desk. You know, in case someday I get to color at school again. And yes, the platter in the photo above looks like a sheet of lined paper.
Anyway, markers aside, I now have a new reason for looking forward to the beginning of the school year. When I started baking like a crazy person about 8 years ago, I realized that it would not be in my best interest to have so many baked goods constantly within arm’s reach. Because let’s be honest– I cannot be trusted home alone with a tray of brownies. One of the things I love about the summer is that it allows me long stretches of time to bake, particularly more complex things that must be made over a few days; however, it leaves me staring at those naughty baked goods all day, and that does not always pan out well for my fitness goals. But when I go back to school, I not only get to see my teacher friends again, I also get to foist my baked goods on them! Then I feel slightly less bad about constantly drowning myself in butter and chocolate. 😉 Unfortunately, I don’t have as much time to bake once the school year gets underway, but I certainly try to fit in as much as possible.
Although my school has been in session for 6 weeks already, I was delighted to make these Mini Chocolate Brownie Cupcakes from Baked Occasions for this week’s Baked Sunday Mornings recipe in honor of returning to school. These are the cutest things to come out of my kitchen in a while– mini-size chocolate cupcakes topped with chopped chocolate and toasty walnuts! In fact, I can’t even remember the last time I filled cupcake liners– it’s been a while since I made any kind of cupcakes at all. Even though I don’t make them much any more, I will always have a special place in my heart for cupcakes because they were basically my “gateway” baked goods to the past decade of baking and food obsession. 🙂
To make the cupcakes, you’ll start with the topping. Toast the walnuts, then put them in a bowl with a bit of butter and toss it all together to coat the walnuts. Once they cool, chop the walnut finely (I used a mini food processor) and add the chocolate– I chose dark chocolate chunks that I chopped down further.
The first step in making the batter is to make a chocolate mixture of cocoa powder, espresso, and hot water. I then beat together brown and granulated sugars, canola oil, and vanilla extract, which resulted in an oily/crumbly mixture. The addition of an egg and two egg yolks brought the mixture together into an emulsion, but I may have overbeaten it (while attempting to take a decent photo in quickly disappearing daylight)…
I then made alternating additions of flour and the chocolate mixture, which yielded a very thick brownie-like batter. The final step is dissolving baking soda in hot water, and adding this to the batter thinned it out considerably.
I filled each cupcake liner with 1 tablespoon of batter (about halfway up the liner), then topped each one with the chopped walnut/chocolate mixture. I filled 48 wells in my mini cupcake pans and had enough batter left for probably another 8 or so, but I didn’t make them due to time. Unfortunately I ran out of the topping at #44, so I designated the last 4 cupcakes as “nut-free”. I could decrease the amount of topping per cupcake, but I liked how they looked, so instead next time I would make more of the topping. The recommended baking time is 19-22 minutes, and we are cautioned not to overbake, so I pulled my cupcakes out at 18½ minutes with perfectly domed tops because they were already testing with a clean toothpick.
The cupcakes were perfectly tasty, but I was a little disappointed that the “brownie” part didn’t seem much different than a regular chocolate cupcake– there was no fudgy texture to speak of. I mentioned possibly overbeating the mixture after adding the eggs, and I wonder if that imparted a cakey texture; perhaps hand-stirring the ingredients would yield a denser texture. Still, they were very enjoyable, and I’d probably make them again.
These would be a lovely back-to-school treat for kids of all ages; in other words… YES, PLEASE MAKE THESE FOR YOUR KIDS’ TEACHERS! (And, ahem, counselors. 😉 ) You can find the recipe for Mini Chocolate Brownie Cupcakes at Baked Sunday Mornings, and please take a peek at the other bakers’ sweet little cupcakes too.
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2016.