05 November 2008

Late Night Cupcakes

I woke up this morning to the NPR reporting Barack Obama's landslide victory, winning 349 electoral votes (North Carolina and Missouri were still too close to call). This concrete information provided me with the final bit of proof I desperately needed, confirming that Obama had indeed won. I felt relieved and I dragged myself out of bed, telling myself that I could take a leisurely shower, read the news online and allow myself to be a bit late to the office, because what student would attend 9am office hours the day after such an historic event? Well, when I got to campus at 9:30am, two students were awaiting my German expertise.
It was surreal returning to the daily grind after days of speculation and fear of the election's out turn. But life goes on, my work piles up and November is marching along. So after this post I will attempt to return to musing about the environment, food and how my food relates to my environment.
I wrote last night that I had baked a pumpkin chocolate chip cake and that Alexis had used a paint brush (eyeshadow brush, actually) to apply the chocolate ganache I had made to create Obama's now famous features. Well, a sketch of our president-elect's face does not require much ganache, and I had poured a quart of steaming cream over two bars of organic, free trade extra dark chocolate (roughly chopped). In other words, I have a lot of ganache in the fridge. What to do with this ganache? Eat it; you say? I wouldn't put that beyond me, but despite the organic nature of the chocolate, I'd like to avoid sitting down with a big bowl of heavy cream and chocolate (which I would inevitably eat in one sitting and then feel ill -- surprise surprise).
Nope. I decided to make cupcakes. A colleague has a birthday today and tomorrow we have 9am seminar. What better opportunity to bake, when I can actually give away my baked goods and not eat them all by myself. Also, baking and cooking are for me totally relaxing. Next to yoga and baths, the kitchen provides me with my own (free) therapy and stress relief.
I have yet to master cooking/baking and photo-documenting my work. I always forget to pull out the camera. This means that I will only offer photos of one finished cupcake. But this is probably for the best, as I did about everything wrong (and I don't know if this is because it is now approaching midnight after a long day or if it is because I am not always 100% on top of things). For those who believe that baking must be precise and feel therefore intimidated when tackling a cake recipe, I stand as proof that this is nonsense. My baking is anything but precise, and I have had surprising success.

So here is the recipe for my surprisingly good, despite my best attempts to sabotage them, last-minute, late night cupcakes:
(adopted from Alice Water's The Art of Simple Food "1-2-3-4 Cake")

Whisk together in a bowl

1 1/2 cups Pastry Flour (mine is local PA flour, freshly milled by Michael Dollich of Four Worlds Bakery)
2tsp Baking Powder
1/4tsp Sea Salt.

In another bowl beat with an electric mixer

1 stick (1/2 cup) softened butter (or melted, as I accidentally melted my frozen stick of organic butter when I wanted to soften it in the often. You can also imagine the fun of cleaning up the melted butter on the bottom of the oven).

Mix in to this 1 cup organic evaporated cane juice,
continue mixing and add 1/2tsp Vanilla.

The recipe asks to separate eggs, beating in yolks first and then at the end folding in beaten whites, but I screwed this up too and broke the yolk into the white...)

Add to sugar, butter mixture two eggs (organic, cage free, free range, please!), one at a time.

In my version of this recipe, you forget that milk is involved.

Add flour mixture to egg/sugar/butter mixture in two parts. Mix until smooth.

Then you remember the milk and realize you are out of milk. Luckily, I had a jar with sour raw milk from previous bottles of raw milk that I couldn't use before going sour. So I opened it up, discovered a fascinating thick layer of sour cream on the top, mixed it up, watched it bubble and then....

add 1/2 cup of (sour, raw) milk to the batter and mix.

Luckily, raw milk never goes bad like pasteurized milk does, it just gets sour and oddly bubbly.

Divide batter into 12 large cupcake liners in a muffin/cupcake tin and bake for 20 minutes in an oven preheated to 350˚F (smoking slightly due to spilled, melted butter). They are finished when a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool and frost with ganache!

One frosted cupcake:
One half-eaten cupcake (note how light and fluffy it is...amazing!):

Addendum: I decided to whip the too thin ganache to make more of a frostingy-frosting.

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