Sunday, March 13, 2011

The cupcake that nearly killed me.

I've been on a popcorn kick lately.  I tend to forget about Grandma's old air popper and every now and then, I rediscover it and eat popcorn like it's going to be extinct (or whatever appropriate word would apply to the End of Popcorn).  This time I rediscovered my air popper when I moved, which was about two months ago.  It took a little while to use it...had to find a spot in the kitchen, buy popcorn, and have the right popcorn moment.  Mmm, buttery, salty popcorn.  Mounds of it.

So when I stumbled upon a recipe that combined two things I love so much, popcorn and cupcakes, I had to make it!  Seriously?  Butter Popcorn Cupcakes?!  Unheard of, right?

When I reviewed the recipe, I noticed some interesting things.  Like, popcorn flour.  Uh...what is that?  I tried to see if it was something I could buy but no luck.  Turns out you can make it....pop some popcorn, put it in your newly acquired spice grinder, and grind away until you've made a huge mess of powdery popcorn in your kitchen.  And yes.  I bought a spice grinder just for this recipe but I've been meaning to buy one anyway.  By spice grinder, I mean coffee bean grinder (same thing).  I should have actually gotten two, one for coffee AND one for spices, but we'll see how much I use the one I's more about not mixing weird flavors.  Here's everything that went into making the popcorn flour:

Anyway, I digress. The recipe also called for pureed creamed corn.  Hurl!  Gross!  That stuff is DISGUSTING!  VOMIT IN A CAN!  UGH.  But I used it.  And the fun part of the recipe - making buttery popcorn and soaking it in warm milk.  It called for a 1/4 cup of the popcorn in the milk but I doubted that would give me enough popcorn flavor so I loaded that cup of milk up with as much popcorn as it would hold.  It soaked it up like a sponge...duh.

Then came failure.  I handle failure in the kitchen about as well as I handle being kicked in the teeth.  The caramel.  I suck at caramel.  I nearly ruined it when I made the chocolate salted caramel cookies about a month ago and it did not exactly made me want to start producing caramel on a regular basis.  Rebecca has it perfected (I found the caramel she left for me, per her previous post, and it was delicious).  This recipe was a bit different than the last caramel I made, so there was hope.  What could possibly go wrong with a pan full of sugar??

Turns out a lot can go wrong.  I did the first batch and when I added the cream, suddenly I had a rock hard blob of molten sugar, which when stirred, caused a searing splash of milky sugar on my arm.  FAIL.  This is not cool.  I want a freaking cupcake and even though I have no intention of making the buttercream portion of the frosting until the morning, I WANT A CUPCAKE WITH CARAMEL.  NOW!  And I deserve it after that failure! So I eat one with one of Rebecca's caramels.  Holy crap! This is good!  Now I DO want to finish the entire process.   Even the buttercream!  I want that entire cupcake in my mouth by the end of the night!   They're mini cupcakes so eating one more would still really only be like eating half of a full cupcake, by the way.

Caramel Take 2.  Slow, low, melting sugar...all looks good.  The cream is ready and waiting.  I've stretched out my right arm so that I can stir and pour simultaneously without causing seizing, splashing, or any other horrible side effect.  Then I notice what looks like pepper in the nearly ready sugar.  What the crap!? Is my bargain Teflon pan from 5.5 years ago leaving little bits of carcinogens in my caramel?! I might be tired but I sure as sh*t didn't put pepper in the sugar.  Yet another FAIL.  At least this time I haven't sacrificed more cream...but my motivation and confidence have gone down the garbage disposal, along with both failed batches of caramel.  Will have to try again in the morn.

So after a refreshing 10 hours of much needed sleep, I go for Take 3.  Third time's a charm, right? <Insert Wrong Answer Buzz here>.  Oh no.  I got out my fancy cookware, compliment of my brother, the pot salesman who also has a love of cooking.  Third cup of sugar goes into the nice pan.  Low heat, I walk away for a few minutes, thinking I've got some time.  Within about 47 seconds (ok, maybe longer), I have smoke rolling off my stove.  WTH?!  Down the drain it goes....FAIL....AGAIN.

Fourth try?  This is getting to be worse than dating.  I would never go for a 4th date if 1, 2 and 3 were this bad.  But here we go again, I kinda wanna be more than friends...with the caramel.  Yea, a little Neon Trees plug there.  That's for you, Cara.  Neon Trees still sings it.  Anyway...4th cup of sugar.  Low heat.  This time I notice the sugar is melting on one side of the pan before the other, so I rotate the pan, but don't stir yet.   Keep rotating.  This is killing me, I am NOT this patient and am really bitter about the 3 failures.  Sugar looks goooooood.  I am feeling like this is my time and there will be caramel success.  Cream is added.  Hard blobs of sugar form again....OMG.  Back on the stove, which was NOT in the recipe, but it seemed to help a little bit.  Meanwhile, in the background, I hear someone on Food Network talking about caramel and how they start it with sugar AND water.  Is THIS the problem??  Bad recipe?  Whatever, I'm DONE with this.  The buttercream frosting only needs 2-3 TBSP of the caramel so I at least have enough without lumps that I can use for the frosting.  But I think the final tally was Christine: 1, Caramel: 3....I gave myself a point for the useable, but not amazing, caramel.  Actually, it tastes amazing but it just wasn't all that smooth. I can't believe I went thru all that for 3 TBPS of caramel (it made more than that) time I will use Smucker's and add some sea salt.

Ok, time for the buttercream.  Those of you that know me well know that I love, love, LOVE my buttercream frosting.  I can eat it by the bowlful and regularly eat the frosting off of other people's plates when they scrape off what they think is "too much".  I used about twice as much sugar as the recipe called for.  I like butter but it was a little too buttery.  I won't even talk about the frosting process.  Let's just say I wished Rebecca was here to do it for me.  She has a way with the piping bag.  But, I managed to get the stupid frosting on the stupid cupcake and end up with something really pretty AND tasty.

A lot of work...but here's the final product!  I hope my coworkers appreciate my efforts...

During the cupcake making process, I also made myself a frittata (basically a baked omelet) using up some of the ingredients I came home with after the Wednesday night class with Cooking Matters.  I had onion, zucchini, tomatoes, spinach and eggs, so frittata was an obvious option.  Chop veggies, saute, add eggs (I used 2 whites + 1 whole egg), pop in oven for a bit to firm up the eggs, add cheese, eat.  For the cheese, I had some Parmesan that I intended to grate on top, but it my laziness, I decided big shards of cheese would be better, and prettier.  Overall, it tasted decent, but it needed garlic and more salt.  I added a tiny bit of salt thinking the cheese would be salty enough, but it needed more.  It also would have been better had I grated the cheese on top instead.  But all in all, it was a tasty light dinner (where light = not all that filling but I made it intending to eat the whole thing and then I only ate half out of shear exhaustion).   But the real purpose of me posting this dinner was not about the culinary magic I created, since it was good but not amazing, but to say, LOOK MOM, I EAT THESE THINGS NOW!!!  Zucchini.  Tomato.  Onion.  All together.  On purpose.  And I liked it. :)   All those years at home I turned up my nose at the fresh veggies at my disposal and now I wish I could have it at my finger tips again...

I think I might be done in the kitchen for the weekend.  Phew.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I commend you for that many tries at caramel! When I want a caramel sauce I add brown sugar to melted butter and rum. Gives you the liquid you need to not scorch the sugar and is quite tasty.~DC Becca