Two Sundays ago, I returned to The Gamesters group with Chocolate Cupcakes With Mint Frosting. The Sunday before that, I'd taken Mocha Shortbread, which didn't go over terribly well. As I mentioned in the linked post above, it's tasty but very dry and goes best with a mug of coffee or a tall glass of milk. (That's the double batch of dough pressed into my baking pans at right. After you bake the pans of cookies, you let them cool for 5 minutes and cut them into wedges. After they've cooled completely, you sprinkle them with powdered sugar.) Genial Gamesters host Mark said he liked the shortbread and found its texture to be "special" or "interesting" or something like that. But he coughed after taking the first bite of his second piece. You've really got to hydrate constantly while you're eating it. :-)
The following week, I was determined to floor everyone with my dessert. I'd just made Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream, but I thought that'd be too much of a pain in the ass to transport and, most of all, to serve at Mark's place. It would have had to be refrozen immediately after the subway ride to the Upper West Side, and I'd have had to dirty a lot of bowls and spoons. So I decided instead to give The Gamesters the experience of eating that ice cream in cupcake form.
I didn't mention in my previous all-food-and-drinks post, in which I first mentioned The Gamesters, that they'd given me the nickname Cupcake. Two other Bills are among the rotating gang of guys who come, so Mark started calling me Cupcake, after the chocolate-chippy treat I took the first week I joined the group. Jack asked me whether I minded the nickname. I said I didn't. Now, if they'd started referring to me as Douche Nozzle, that'd be bad. :-) The only problem I have with the name Cupcake is that it maybe puts a little pressure on me to keep producing cupcakes. :-)
Anyhow, I looked around for a good chocolate cupcake recipe, and I found it in Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook in the form of One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes. As its name tells you, you have to dirty only one bowl to make the batter. You sift your dry ingredients into your mixing bowl and then pour the liguid stuff on top before blending it all together. It looks like hell, but it turns out stupendous.
I noticed a recipe by the same exact name on marthastewart.com that called for buttermilk. I decided to go with the one in the book because it used regular milk instead and I didn't want to have to buy a carton of buttermilk, use only 3/4 of a cup of it, and dump the rest. Later, I realized that the recipes are almost identical except for the online one's insistence on buttermilk. That one also specifies safflower oil instead of the book's generic vegetable oil, and the amounts of all of the ingredients differ because the yields are different. So I'll feel free to use either recipe, depending on how many I want to make, and use milk instead of buttermilk. I can't imagine that using buttermilk could make these cupcakes noticeably better; their chocolate flavor and mouthfeel are outstanding.
Now for the frosting: I wanted to find a recipe that called for a good deal of cream because I wanted to be able to infuse it with mint flavor using fresh mint from the farmers market. So I googled "frosting and heavy cream" and found an orange frosting recipe at a gluten-free baking site that I figured I could adapt to my purposes. I doubled the amounts, left out the orange zest, and folded in the cream after I'd steeped a big bunch of mint in it, rechilled it, and whipped as much volume into it as I could.
I wish I'd made the frosting a day ahead of time so it would have had time to thicken in the fridge. It was a bit runny, though it still looked purty and tasted very good. It also would have been better without the tang of the cream cheese that worked in opposition to the cool, refreshing mint.
The Gamesters enjoyed the cupcakes that Sunday, and I took a dozen more into work that Tuesday. Frank said it was the best cupcake he'd ever had. Woo hoo!
Last week, Jen gave me the hot-off-the-presses copy of Martha Stewart's Cupcakes she'd gotten at work. There's a Mint Buttercream recipe that's exactly what I'd been looking for the previous weekend, only it has you steeping mint in milk rather than cream. And you end up making an egg-yolky custard along the lines of what you make ice cream with, only lower in fat because the dairy part is all milk instead of half and half. To that, you add creamed butter and then meringue and finally a little peppermint extract, which seems like bet hedging. When I try it, and I'm certain I will eventually, I'll leave the extract out and use more fresh mint at the beginning of the process.
I'm eager to try the Peanut Butter–Filled Chocolate Cupcakes and the Chocolate Spice Cupcakes and Martha's Meyer Lemon Cupcakes. But the most tempting of all are the Tiramisu Cupcakes With Mascarpone Frosting. Mercy.
I didn't buy it, but when I saw this vegan cupcake book, I let out a little cry of joy over the authors' passion for their subject.
A few Saturdays ago, in mid-May, I went to the Brooklyn Flea with Jeff. I mainly wanted to check out the food offerings, including Kumquat Cupcakery, which had presumably already left by the time Mitchell, Jon, and I got there when we visited the Flea the first weekend in May. KC was there, selling mini cupcakes for a buck apiece. I ordered three to try, one of each available flavor.* They were quite good.
So was the mango-flavored, honey-sweetened Greek-style yogurt from Likitsakos. When I next hit the Flea, I'll have to try some more flavors. At $2.99, they're not exactly cheap, but you get a full 8 ounces, the size all mainstream yogurt brands used to be before most of them cheesed out and dropped to 6 ounces.
I kept going back and forth on whether I liked Fine & Raw's lucuma and vanilla chocolate bar enough to buy it again or try another flavor the next time I have a chance, either at the Flea or in a store. In the final analysis, the texture was too dry for me to really enjoy it. And I liked the idea of its being flavored with agave nectar more than I liked the actual taste; it wasn't quite sweet enough for my huge-ass sweet tooth.
I didn't buy anything at the Flea besides those things to eat, but I saw a favorite toy from my childhood that I could have snapped up for 20 bucks: a Noah's ark with a bag of little plastic animals.
A couple of Saturday mornings ago, I woke up with the idea in my head** that it'd be foolish to try to sell my ice cream at the Flea, like I said I wanted to do in the "Mitchell, Jon, and I"-linked post above. I'm committed to buying whatever equipment I'd need to keep my product frozen, but how would I schlep it to Fort Greene? I'd most likely have to rent a truck, and I'm not doing that every week. And I don't think flea market–goers are the best customers for my premium product, which I'm going to have to sell at a premium price if I want to continue making it with organic and/or free-trade ingredients sourced mostly from small and local producers. And I do.
I decided the best thing to do would be to get a small cart, maybe one I could pull behind or push in front of a bike, and sell my stuff locally, out on the sidewalk. This past Friday, I called the licensing office for the Department of Consumer Affairs to see about getting the necessary permits. I called at 2:30 and got a recording saying that the office was closed—even though it's supposed to be open from 9 to 5 on weekdays except for holidays. I called again in about 10 minutes to see whether I'd get the same message, and I did. I called again on Monday, and the woman who answered said the city isn't issuing any mobile food vending licenses for use on public property at this time. She said there was an auction of those licenses in 2007, and there may not be another one for seven or eight years. She said if I found someone who was willing to let me sell my ice cream on his or her private property, I could get an MFV license from the city for that purpose.
I thought my ice cream dream was ending before it'd begun—a huge disappointment, like waking up from a Jon Hamm sex dream before he's even gotten his pants off. But I've got a new plan that I hope will work out. I'll keep you, my six or eight loyal readers, posted. In the meantime, I've settled on a name: Huge Pooch Homemade Ice Cream Co., after my big ol' woofer Rudy. His handsome visage would go on the signage and other marketing materials. Because nothing sells ice cream like basset slobber!
The Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream truck has indeed been appearing regularly on 7th Avenue here in the Slope. I've tried VL's coffee, chocolate, and hazelnut flavors on two subsequent visits, and I have to say, I like its coffee ice cream slightly better than mine.
And now, a couple of items unrelated to either cupcakes or ice cream:
I made some good Asparagus Soup a couple of weekends ago. It consisted of only a big bunch of asparagus; leeks, which I sautéed in some butter to begin the process; a few peeled and chopped potatoes, to add some heft; water; salt; and a little cream, which I added after pureeing the other, cooked ingredients. Simple and delicious. And better without the lemon thyme.
That Friday, for a pizza night with four charming guests at Bob and Jen's place, I'd made a Mango-Orange Dressing that I'll want to whip up again. I used the same proportions of fruit juice to oil, honey, and vinegar as in my usual Citrus Vinaigrette, but I made a double batch and, of course, used blended mango flesh and orange juice in place of the grapefruit and lemon juices. It was oh so good but maybe would be even better with a little touch of fresh ginger.
*I didn't make a note of which kinds they were, but I'm pretty sure they were banana, chocolate, and red velvet.
**I love it when I manage to work out the solution to a problem or a better way of doing something in my sleep. Productivity!