Sunday, February 15, 2009

Salvaging and Valentine's Cupcakes

So I have concluded that the divinity disaster could probably be attributed to a combination of things. The first thing is that rule number one of making divinity is to never make it on a humid day. Although I am pretty darn sure it couldn't be called a humid day I am not so sure it isn't humid in my apartment. Between all the cooking and beer making that occurs here it wouldn't surprise me to find out we generally have a relatively high humidity level. I also think I may have not achieved stiff enough peaks in my eggs. I was worried about over whipping and busting down the protein structure so may not have whipped quite as long as I should have either before OR after adding the sugar syrup. Rest assured this recipe will be tried again. I will not accept candy defeat! Anyhow, the nougat was still tasty even if it lacked the fluff so I figured out a way to salvage it. I did what any smart person would do when trying to fix a sweet-gone-wrong: I doused it in chocolate. Here is my pile of candies:

As you can see I've tried (in vain some of the times) to put fancy designs on the top. They don't exactly look professional, and there are definitely no two of the same size and shape, but they impressed my coworkers at least. I DID have a little trouble with my chocolate however. I am not awesome at tempering chocolate so throughout the "enrobing" process the amount of temper changed. Here I have an example of bad, ok, and good tempering:The chocolate at the far left has a hefty amount of "blooming" caused by chocolate that has been completely melted and cooled at an undesirable rate while not being properly seeded with well crystallized chocolate. So the chocolate becomes a little chalky, melts too quickly when handled, and generally looks less delicious. The middle chocolates don't have any blooming but do have less than awesome texture and also melt very quickly. The far right chocolates have been seeded well with chocolate of good texture that was not overheated to break down the seeds' crystallization. The result is a dark, smooth coat, able to stay at room temperature without any degradation in texture or appearance. Win! I ended up keeping most of the candies in the fridge until just before eating (to soften the nougat) so I could avoid the possible blooming since I wasn't sure how many (or which ones) were tempered correctly.
Here is a (bad) shot of the nougaty insides:

OK! Next up! I wanted to make Favorite something sweet and tasty for Valentine's day. I knew we wouldn't be going crazy this year because we are trying to save for a house, so instead of a romantic weekend away he would have to settle for some Sticky Toffee Squares. This recipe was very interesting as the batter for the cake-like base had NO sugar. The sweetness instead comes from reconstituted dates. The dates are roughly chopped and then boiled until they are soft and a little goopy and then baking soda is added which makes it all foamy and crazy!
The date mixture is then added to a bowl in which butter, flour, eggs, vanilla, baking powder, have been mixed just until combined. The recipe cautions often against overmixing and since I had used cold butter, due to my impatience, I ended up with a VERY lumpy mixture. I was suppose to bake these "bars" in an 8 X 12 pan, but I decided to go for cupcakes. The recipe made a dozen pretty perfectly. Then it was time for the topping. This is where the Sticky Toffee part comes into play. The frosting on these babies is brown sugar, butter, milk, and powdered sugar. VERY sweet. The instructions for the bars are to pour the frosting on, spread it out, and sprinkle some walnuts on top. Since I made cupcakes, and didn't want walnuts, I ended up frosting the cupcakes individually (which meant a thinner layer of frosting) and then rolled the tops in ground pecans. Here they are in various stages of dressing:
Favorite LOVED these babies! He was unsure of the topping at first because he is not a frosting kinda guy, and he wanted me to leave half naked, but once he tried one with frosting and nuts he wanted them all like that. The cupcake itself was just lightly sweet due to the flavor of the dates, and the sweetness and nuts of the topping combines to make this an utterly tasty treat. He especially liked the cupcake split, warmed and topped with vanilla ice cream. Sounds good to me. They really do look pretty yummy.

The last baking of the weekend was not such a success unfortunately. From the same book the Sticky Toffee guys came from I tried a recipe for baked rice pudding. It looked so tasty in the book! It appeared to be a cross between a creme brulee and a silky rice delight. Not so. This dessert tasty more like flan then either creme brulee or rice pudding. I know some people might think "Ooo, flan!" but I do not appreciate this version of custard. It is far too eggy, and especially with this dish, that had no sweet caramel to cover the flavor, the egg was just overwhelming. Trying not to hurt my feelings Favorite offered that maybe it would be good to eat for breakfast, where and egg flavor is more expected, but I think it should just be scrapped and never made again. Sometimes there's just nothing you can do to make a recipe taste good.


  1. The muffins are simply delicious, especially when they are hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream -- it is pretty much the perfect dessert.

    And despite what she says, the rice pudding is actually pretty good. Not what I expected, but it is yummy nonetheless.

    Finally, I think the chocolate candies look really good with their little chocolate spines.

  2. Your toffee cupcakes sound absolutely delicious. Being a frosting girl, I love the idea of a brown sugar and butter top! What a dream come true. You make me want to make more delicious cupcakes!

    PS - your chocolate looks awesome!