Friday, February 13, 2009

Valentine's Eve

I think I've said before that I'm ambivalent about Valentine's Day. I dislike the obligatory gift- and/or card-giving in elementary school, but I love chocolate. I dislike the heterosexism, but romance is ok by me. I dislike the pressure to do something special, but I actually like doing something special.

So, OK. We have dinner plans with friends tomorrow, and various stuff planned during the day, and there's no need to get all worked up over the holiday. Nick made a Valentine's card for his "Secret Cupid" and took it to school yesterday (no school today: teacher conferences) and that took care of his obligations. But then this morning I heard Nigella on NPR talking about cupcakes*, and I knew something had to be done. I was on the website before she'd finished talking, and I decided to make the chocolate-cherry cupcakes before she even said anything about them. How could I not? Easy, delicious, and combining two favorite flavors--a sure winner.

So I stopped at the store after dropping Nick at a friend's house for a playdate and picked up cherry preserves and some nice chocolate, and went to work. As I started to prepare the muffin cups with the cupcake papers I realized that I was short about six papers, but no worries--I could improvise something with parchment paper. I was short about 1/3 cup preserves, too, but some raspberry jam seemed a reasonable substitute. Oh, and I didn't have self-rising cake flour, but a quick google told me that if I added 1/2 tsp each of baking soda and baking powder, and a 1/4 tsp of salt, to my cup of cake flour, I should be fine.

I should maybe have cut up a little extra parchment paper when I realized the muffin tins were overfull, but I soldiered on, just topping them off with an extra teaspoon or so of filling each. Then I glanced over at the recipe to make sure it really did say it made twelve (it does) and realized that--oops!--I'd unintentionally doubled the sugar. I considered melting some more chocolate and butter to double the recipe, but the batter was already in the muffin tins. I figured the cupcakes might come out too sweet, but it was worth a try.

I hate to throw away food.

Just as the timer beeped to tell me my 25 minutes was up I started to smell a faint smell of something a little, um, burnt. And indeed, when I opened the oven, I found a good bit of cupcake batter burned to the bottom of the oven. And lots more overfilling the muffin cups, making of the 12 separate cupcakes one rather large--thing. With indentations in the twelve former middles. As it were.

I got them out of the muffin tin (with Mark's help--he just ate most of the overflow)** and decided that, really, these were not a Valentine's dessert. I wasn't quite ready to throw them out, but I was going to start over.

Back to the store: more cake flour (still, no self-rising cake flour at my grocery store), more cherry jam, more cupcake papers. More butter.

Twenty minutes later, another batch was in the oven. This time there were fifteen--so it wasn't just all the extra sugar that overfilled them the first time. And they started to overflow before the time was up, so I lowered the temp a little bit (I've noticed before that my oven runs hotter than Nigella's) and carried on.

They came out less molten than the first batch, and definitely not as sweet (no raspberry jam in this batch, either). But Nick liked both kinds just fine, while Mark--full of the remnants of the first ones--has yet to taste one of the "official" version. [Edited to add: yes, you're right, even the "official" ones don't actually have the cherries on top. I don't like glace cherries.]

And I have most of two batches of cupcakes in my house, and only three eaters. Two of them, however, fail to see that this is a problem, so perhaps it isn't.

To round out the dinner I made Nigella's really easy salmon (from Forever Summer: marinate some salmon steaks in 1/3 cup each of pomegranate molasses and honey, and 1 tlb. soy sauce; broil until done); green beans, and couscous/rice pilaf. Nothing was perfect; everyone was happy.

The End.
Happy Valentine's Day

*Becca, this is why I listen to NPR. But then again...
**Mark says the last words he will hear on this earth are "Mark'll eat that."


Terry said...

Your kind of sticktoitiveness is just what makes this country double chocolatey great. Hope you have a Happy Presidents Day to go along with Valentines : )

Caroline said...

You know, I do love Nigella and her cookbooks, but somehow reading this post, despite all the things you were missing/had to adapt, etc, I couldn't help but think there must be something off in her recipe.

But then again, perhaps I am still sore about the melting plastic wrap incident from that recipe in the Chocolate Cake Hall of Fame ...

Happy Valentine's Day!

Lilian said...

(catching up, once more)
Hmmm, these, baking errors and all, are making me just SO HUNGRY! Well, ok, just hungry for chocolate, but still ;-)