Birthday cupcakes

February 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

It’s official; the last one of us is finally 21. A day (or rather a midnight moment) well worthy of chocolate cupcakes filled with dark chocolate ganache, a (surprise!) blackberry and topped with a swirl of brown butter frosting and white pereilles. I revamped an old cake recipe (i.e. I finally followed a recipe that I once attempted to follow, but diverged greatly and ended up with a spectacular, towering, foot-tall, dark chocolate layer cake) and otherwise improvised on the flavor profile. Call it one of those ideas I dreamed up while bored in lecture.

Sorry for the short post — I just wanted to assure you that I am alive, just having a few very hectic weeks and enjoying all the (miniscule) downtime getting back into shape in this amazing spring-like weather.

To make these cupcakes:

Make this cake batter and try not to stress out as your cupcakes balloon up and look ready to explode.

Make ganache: Measure out whipping cream and chopped semisweet chocolate in a 1:1 ratio (ounces). Heat whipping cream in the microwave until just boiling. Stir in chopped chocolate until completely melted.

Spoon out the center of each cupcake and fill the hole with a spoonful of ganache.

Top ganache filling with a blackberry.

Brown butter on the stovetop (I used two sticks). Place in the fridge until decently solidified. Then mix in enough powdered sugar for the icing to be pipable.

Pipe icing on cupcakes and top with sprinkles of your choice.

Ask for clarification for this absurd attempt at a recipe.

The family secret

November 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

I didn’t realize how much I had settled into a routine in this strange foreign country until I left it for an even stranger foreign country and returned, very early one Sunday morning to a light rain, misty skies and wet streets. Quite soon after I returned, I was forced to bundle myself up and run a couple blocks to the closest convenience store because my shelves were empty and it being Sunday, every grocery store in the area was closed. As I walked out of the door, in a sleep-deprived educed haze, I stumbled into stands and stands of furniture vendors, French women selling vintage hats and men trying on classic suit jackets in the middle of the street. I thought for a moment I had turned down the wrong street, and wondered if I had forgotten my neighborhood that easily, until I spotted the couples dancing at the fountain at the base of rue Mouffetard, clustered together tighter than normal under a white awning, and I knew I was home.

Since my return, I have been trying to force myself outdoors but find it increasingly harder to leave the warmth of my bed and my apartment’s heater, which may or may not work consistently. Walks home from work are enjoyed only with the first gingerbread cookies of the season, but even then with the longing for the gingerbread men I used to make in my kitchen in San Francisco — the French boulangeries it seems, are not champions of the baked goods not requiring pounds of quality butter. But the spice, even if the cookie is a bit too hard, is much appreciated, as is the simple sugar glaze that never ceases to make me quite content.

And then I’ve been baking some things as necessity arises. For instance, I made my mother’s famous chocolate torte for a class party, which resulted from no one knowing what they were supposed to bring to accompany wine tasting and thus bringing whatever they could think of. My mother makes this quite a few times a year, for family birthdays, for dinner parties with close friends. This is the cake I would invariably wake up to sitting on the kitchen counter a couple times every year whenever the family had somewhere important to be or someone important to celebrate. It has never been perfectly smooth on top (and I confess my ganache-making that morning left much to be desired), but it never ceases to impress. As a child, I found it much too strong and chased it properly with an exorbitant amount of whipped cream and vanilla ice cream. But now I can enjoy it as is, with its simple chocolate ganache on top. I am convinced that French alcohol is much stronger than its American counterparts as this cake tasted decidedly of rum this time I made it. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as my (French) professor declared it the best chocolate dessert she had ever tasted.

Chocolate Torte

6 tablespoons or 75 grams butter
6 oz. or 150 grams semi-sweet or dark chocolate
4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup or 120 ml sugar
1/4 cup or 60 ml flour
6 T or 90 ml ground almonds
1/4 cup or 60 ml rum

Preheat the oven to 190/375 degrees (C/F). Butter and flour (I use cocoa powder for the “flouring”) a 8-inch pan. Melt the chocolate over the stovetop. Cream together butter and sugar. Add the melted chocolate and run. Beat in egg yolks. Fold in flour.
Beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
Fold the egg whites into the batter, minimizing stirring. Some egg whites can remain unmixed.
Bake for 30 minutes.

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