Year of the Snake Chinese red bean, sesame and miso cupcakes
To challenge myself further in 2013, I’ve decided that–most likely every month, unless my taste testers riot–I will create cupcake recipes around a secret ingredient.
- Taste testers suggest secret ingredient ideas the second week of the month. The ingredient needs to be seasonal, edible and not too rare or expensive.
- Suggestions and the name of the suggester get written on a slip of paper, folded and tossed into my mixing bowl. I draw one slip.
- I have the weekend to research the ingredient (if necessary) and come up with my cupcake recipe.
- On Monday I contact the taste testers and inform them of the cupcake and announce the winner (who gets a free cupcake that week).
For the first Cupcake Gauntlet challenge I had ingredient suggestions ranging from honey to chili peppers, sour Skittles to … canned tuna fish (yuck). But there can only be one winning ingredient, and that was Chinese red beans (also known as azuki in Japan) from taste tester Dain.
This ingredient is also timely, since Chinese New Year began on Sunday and 2013 is the Year of the Snake.
I did some research and found out these smallish red beans are commonly used in Asian desserts, especially in a sweetened paste form. There are even some cupcake recipes available online that marry the flavors of azuki and matcha together.
Confession: I’ve never knowingly had sweetened red bean paste before, so I spent some time asking Dain questions. Then I went to my local Asian grocery store in search of it. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the paste, but I did find the dried red beans and a recipe on Epicurious, so I was set to make my own!
Since the Benne Wafer cupcakes were such a hit in 2012, I decided to take their base cake recipe and add some citrus. Then I whipped some of the red bean paste into a mousse to fill the cupcakes, the rest into a buttercream, and then finished with a miso caramel drizzle (because salted caramel sauce with some umami makes everything amazing).
This is an unusual cupcake, for sure, and I’m curious to see what everyone thinks of it. Though it might not be a crowd pleaser like my salted caramel cupcakes, I like that this exercise really pushed me to think creatively.
Start with the miso caramel drizzle first so it has time to cool to room temperature. Stir together granulated sugar and water in a saucepan.
Bring to a boil over medium high heat and cook without stirring until mixture turns a deep amber color.
Remove from heat and slowly add in cream until very smooth.
Add the miso paste and stir until fully combined.
Let caramel cool for about 20 minutes, until it is just barely warm and still pourable.
Next, work on the mousse. Whip the heavy cream to firm peaks using the whisk attachment. Add the vanilla and almond extract.
In a separate mixing bowl, add the Chinese red bean paste and half of the whipped cream. Gently mix to lighten.
Fold in the remaining whipped cream and chill until ready to use.
For the cupcakes, heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and position the racks toward the center. Line pans with cupcake papers.
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. Set aside.
Whisk the egg for 20 seconds, then add the sugar and whisk an additional 30 seconds until thick and frothy.
Add the oil, orange extract and tahini and beat until combined. Alternate the flour mixture and milk and beat until combined.
Add the sesame seeds and mix until just combined.
Divide the batter between wrappers in cupcake tins and bake for 18-20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack completely before frosting.
For the frosting, beat the butter until light and fluffy.
Add 1 cup of sugar, beating until combined. Add the Chinese red bean paste and almond extract.
Finally, add the remaining sugar gradually and heavy cream and whip until light and fluffy.
To assemble the cupcakes, core out the center and fill with some of the Chinese red bean mousse. Top with the frosting, and finish with a drizzle of the miso caramel.