Over Labor Day weekend, I finally got around to making Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes for Joyce's birthday, which was back at the end of June. I'd told her I wasn't going to be able to make them until after the move because I couldn't spare the time the weekend before her birthday to bake. And like many a Martha Stewart undertaking, they're complicated.
For the cupcake itself, I used MS's One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes, which I've blogged about before. The recipe for CSCCs in the Martha Stewart Cupcakes book called for making mini cupcakes. I didn't have the pans to make minis, and I'm not exactly a young feller anymore and I didn't want to go blind trying to decorate those tiny effing things. :-) So I figured I'd keep it a bit simpler and make the One-Bowl dealies, which were very similar ingredientwise to the mini chocolate ones.
The rest of the recipe was where the complications came in. The caramel itself had minimal ingredients, but like anything you've got to cook to an exact temperature, it's not so hard to screw up. The flavor seemed right, but a good deal of the caramel soaked into the cupcakes rather than forming nice and sticky pools in the holes I'd cut into them. (In the photo, the caramel may look pooled, but it's not level with the surface of the cake. I added more caramel to the first few that sank, which meant those had a load of caramel flavor in the cake. They were caramel bombs.) I may have overcooked it—the temperature soared over the desired high point of 360 degrees very briefly before I killed the flame—though overcooking seems more likely to have made the caramel too thick rather than too fluid. The problem also might have been that I didn't let the caramel cool enough. Or maybe I should blame it on the weather: It was pretty hot and humid that day. At any rate, the cupcakes certainly weren't bad. And as instructed, I covered up the caramel nonpools with chocolate frosting anyway, after sprinkling a few grains of sea salt on top.
I'd seen recipes calling for salted sweetness and didn't think I'd necessarily dig the combination until Joyce brought some salted-caramel chocolate candies from Trader Joe's into work. Damn, were they good.
The CSC cupcakes were so incredibly rich that I decided to make something lighter, Triple-Citrus Cupcakes, for co-worker Jeff's birthday. His was on Sept. 15, but I delayed baking again, until the weekend after his birthday, which was this past weekend. The recipe made 30 cupcakes, so I had enough to be able to take some to the Gamers last Sunday and into work on Monday, with a few extra for me to test—for quality assurance purposes—and to leave for my dog walker, Matthew.
The three citruses in question were the ones you might expect: orange, lemon, and lime. The cake contained zest from those three fruits, and the Citrus Glaze on top was made from powdered sugar and juice from those fruits. The glaze recipe also called for a tiny amount of zest, but I left it out because I was concerned I might not otherwise have enough zest to decorate with. I shouldn't have worried; there was plenty of zest to go around.
Because my boy Tony can't eat dairy, I've been experimenting with sorbets this summer for the first time ever. My first was made from a mix of purple and green seedless grapes, the second was lemon verbena, and the third was watermelon. Naturally, I was partial to the LV, but Tony said they were all good, though the texture of the watermelon was off. I reckon that's because I made it on the same day as I made the glaze for and decorated the TC cupcakes, and in my haste to get it done before I went off to hang with the Gamers, I poured all of the base into one ice cream maker when I really should have used two. The canister was overfull, and the sorbet must not have gotten aerated enough.
The recipe I used for the lemon verbena said to finely grind the leaves with sugar in a food processor. That allowed for more of the flavor to escape them, but it left a lot of leaf specks in the final product. I'd grind it less fine next time so I could strain it out and end up with a smoother product.
I used this recipe from Seasaltwithfood for the watermelon, and I used this one from Chocolate & Zucchini for the LV. I based the grape recipe on sorbet recipes in Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Libary: Ice Creams & Sorbets and Claudia Fleming's The Last Course. And I made them all with lots of love. Which I feel is best expressed through a greater-than-symbol–and–numeral-three emoticon heart. <3
I didn't think my longtime Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream recipe using black peppermint and dark chocolate chips could be beat. But I love the double batch I made using the Kentucky Colonel variety of spearmint (from Keith's Farm at the Union Square Greenmarket) and milk chocolate chips. I'd say it's a photo finish in terms of awesomeness, like Grindstone and Cavonnier at the Kentucky Derby.
Tony makes a mean Aviation. And its color complements his eyes. :-)
He's also been cooking some delicious meals for me. Yesterday, I finally got to meet his friend Rich, whom I'd been calling So-Called Rich because I'd heard so much about him but had never seen him in the flesh. (He's been referring to me as Bloomberg, or Bloomy. He and Tony are fond of giving nicknames to each other's boyfriends.) The three of us had a great time over a lunch of baked white roughy and wild rice. For an appetizer, Tony served duck with ginger chutney on crackers. Rich and I both ragged on Tony for being chintzy with the chutney. For dessert, we all dipped out of a carton of the Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge flavor of Coconut Bliss.
I make a mean California Gimlet with Lemon Verbena Vodka, which I wrote about for Queer New York.