Every holiday season when my paternal grandmother would visit for x-mas she would bring dense homemade fudge in holiday tins. She made everything from scratch 1000 miles away and toted it across the country to bring it to us. Not the boxed cakes and bagged marshmallows I was use to. The only time I’d eat fudge was when she brought it from the family farm. I remember how it melted in my mouth.
I didn’t appreciate those gifts the way I would now. My strongest political belief on food is that the food you eat should be loved. Bitter, resentful, jealous and angry meals will never nourish you, regardless of how good they are for you. When someone uses food as a vehicle to express their feelings I understand the phrase “A way to a person’s heart is through their stomach.” A good meal builds your bones and will stay with you long after the meal is over. A truly divine meal fuels your memories for years.
Candies are not my forte. That being said I’m getting much better. Tempering chocolate will always be a hassle. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. After wrapping a majority of my caramel I thought of all the candies I have had over the years. Growing up, candy was strictly reserved for holidays and special occasions. It wasn’t that we didn’t love candy it just wasn’t our thing. We’re cookie people. We also dress up like Endorians and have a Star Trek x-mas tree so I’ll leave it up to you to judge our sanity. But that’s beside the point.
The scarcity of chocolate covered goodies made candies a special treat. It might be the perfect little boxes they come in. Or maybe it’s that you need an experimental codex to figure out what is inside each one. It is common knowledge that you should always eat candy with someone you trust and don’t mind sharing proverbial cooties with. If I take a bite into that chocolate and it’s filled with something I find distasteful then I know I have a loved one that will finish it, Sweet Jubilee DNA included.
I had to get rid of this caramel. Candies seemed like an appropriate elevation. I inherited all of my mothers chocolate molds a few years ago and haven’t really used them. Maybe that is because I associate them with white chocolate candy melts. I dislike the taste and texture of white chocolate 99% of the time. It’s a character flaw I just can’t seem to right.
I made a huge mess making these candies. I need to hone my technique (I see several hours on youtube in my future). I’m not sure if I like the look of them. They’re not factory perfect, nor do they have the imbedded charm inherent in artisanal chocolates. What can I say? I’m a bonified n00b. Leet spelling necessary to express just how much of a novice chocolatier I am. In spite of this, they came out really well and taste exquisite. Homemade honey-vanilla caramels really take center stage in this dessert (or perpetual snack in my case). Unfortunately, I only had 60% Dark chocolate on hand. I think they would be even better with a darker chocolate.
I still have a lot of caramel left… Please someone tell me what to do with it!
What is it that people love so much about cupcakes? I really can’t figure it out. I love cupcakes too but, for the life of me, I don’t know why. Sure they’re small, individually sized and packaged, and it is more socially acceptable if they come in crazy flavor combos. That’s my favorite part. I’ve made some odd combos that most people would be afraid to try and/or purchase if they weren’t bite sized and low-commitment. Mini cupcakes are even better for this. You can take big risks with little cost on cupcakes. That’s a chef’s dream come true. I once made a curry carrot cupcake with a cucumber raita icing. I used this space aged mix called versawhip to get cucumber juice and yogurt to blend into a perfect fluffy icing. Not everyone’s cup of chai but I loved them. I used fresh turmeric and ground all the spices myself so that added a fresh flavor that was unparalleled. You just can’t get away with that type of shit on a whole cake.
I made some decadent and over-the-top chocolate cupcakes for this post. I went all out with a dark chocolate cake, dark chocolate ganache center and chocolate buttercream. A real crowd pleaser. Shut up and take my money.
Now I’m going to get down to the nitty gritty: cake to icing ratio. It’s important. Lately every time I see a cupcake in a shop or in a magazine it looks like it has been abusing buttercream steroids. Bigger does not mean better. I don’t know where it started. What bakery was patient zero for the “more is better” mentality? It’s like one year all the cupcakes went to a conference in Texas and came back infected with some mind-numbing sugar virus. I don’t want to OD on icing. I don’t care how good it is.
More than anything I don’t want to spend the rest of the day trying to get the cloying sweet taste out of my mouth. The texture! It’s like your mouth is coated in this film and no matter what you do you can’t swallow it down. Uber gross. Especially if the baker put my arch nemesis into the mix: shortening. My distaste for shortening is finely balanced between it’s utility and it’s mouth feel. It’s good for a lot of things but it makes the mouth feel of an icing repugnant. DON’T DO IT!
Next time you go to buy a cupcake, or even better to make one, remember that this unassuming dessert deserves some respect. What started out as a mere plebeian bake sale bystander has now colonized every dessert display. Cupcakes now have a mighty empire of wild people wielding spatulas willing to defend their honor. Maybe they learned a thing or two in Texas.