A few final thoughts for Valentine’s Day this year, and this one would be great for kids. Admittedly, these are really time consuming to make, but I made the graham cracker bears a few days in advance and just the cupcakes and frosting this morning. Obviously a play on the whole S’Mores thing (chocolate = the cupcakes, marshmallows = the frosting, graham crackers = the bears). Cute, eh?
for the Graham Cracker Bears holding hearts
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
You will also need: a small bear-shaped cookie cutter and heart shaped candies
for the Chocolate Cupcakes
4 1/2 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
for the frosting
4 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Optional for decorating: standard sized Hershey bars, broken to thirds (each three tall).
You will also need: a small kitchen torch to toast the marshmallow frosting
First, bake your teddy bear graham crackers. You can actually do this up to a week ahead of time and keep them in an airtight container.
In a bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. In the work bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, dark brown sugar, granulated sugar, and honey. Mix on medium speed until well combined, about 1 minute. In two additions, add the dry ingredients, letting the first fully incorporate before you add the second. Turn the dough out to the counter and make a cohesive ball; wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes or up to 2 days.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with silpat or parchment paper.
Unwrap the chilled dough, and on a lightly floured surface, roll it out to about 1/8 inch thick. Using the little bear cookie cutter, cut out your teddy grahams and move to the making sheet, leaving about 2 inches apart. Using a skewer or a fork, make a few pricks into the cookie. Place a heart on the bear’s chest and fold over his arms. Place baking sheets into the refrigerator for 15 minutes before baking (this will help the little guys hold their shape). Bake the graham crackers until they are golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
Next, bake your cupcakes. Preheat oven to 400F. Prepare a muffin pan with liners.
In the top part of a double boiler over very hot, but not simmering, water, or in a microwave at medium power, melt the chocolate. Remove from the heat or the oven, and let stand, stirring often, until cool.
Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle blade on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. On low speed, beat in the confectioners’ sugar. Return the speed to medium-high and beat until light in color and texture, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the chocolate and vanilla.
Beat the egg whites and granulated sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed just until they form soft, shiny peaks. Do not overbeat. Stir about one fourth of the beaten whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then fold in the remaining whites, leaving a few visible wisps of whites. Sift half of the flour over the chocolate mixture, and fold in with a rubber spatula. Repeat with the remaining flour.
Fill the lined muffin cups three-quarters full, being careful not to overfill. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean, about 20-22 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Finally, make your marshmallow frosting. Place egg whites, granulated sugar, a pinch of salt and cream of tartar in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Whisk mixture for 3 minutes, until whites are warmed and sugar granules feels mostly dissolved. Remove bowl from top of saucepan, then, with an electric mixer, beat egg white mixture on high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 4 to 7 minutes longer. Add vanilla and mix until combined.
To assemble: Using a very large round piping tip or the corner snipped off a freezer bag, pipe large dollops of frosting all the chocolate cupcakes. Using a kitchen torch, lightly brown the dollops so that they look (and smell!) like toasted marshmallows. Garnish with a graham cracker bear (or both a bear and a rib of chocolate). Keep at a cool room temperature for up to a day. After that, you might want to refrigerate them, however they marshmallow topping may not do wall in the fridge environment. I suggest just eating the cupcakes quickly.