Today’s post is by C.C. the Culinarily Challenged—a San Francisco based writer and editor. C.C. has decided to use a nom-de-plume lest her foodie friends pelt her with ramps.
Let me make one thing very clear: I am “culinarily challenged,” one could say a food retard, but that would not be p.c., and this culinarily challenged woman happens to live in the p.c. food Mecca of San Francisco in an age where Food is the New Sex, 40 is the New 30, and Bacon is King, and everybody has a blog, including my most excellent and dear friend Danielle, and so in my zeitgeistian way, of course I’m food-blogging on the occasion of my bacon-loving boyfriend’s birthday, for which I’ve taken it upon myself to bake up some dark chocolate bacon cupcakes. Here’s how it went down:
Recipe from A Good Appetite.
It was so easy to be duped by the bacon package display window showing only the red bits, and so annoying to discover that they were the ONLY red bits, which I believe are called “meat.” I spent a good, gross time cutting away the fat. This is how much I ended up with less than the recipe’s called-for eight slices. More bacon would have turned out better, however the bite sizes, from teeny to thumbnail, worked well in the finished cuppies, because if there’s one thing better than bacon, it’s MORE BACON!
Burnt the last bits of bacon all because I had my back turned to the pan as I was (compulsively) doing the dishes. Isn’t cleanliness next to godliness? Obviously not: bacon is next to godliness. Lesson learned. And like the ocean, never turn your back to the stove.
While ingredient shopping earlier in the week, none of the stores near me stocked Special Dark unsweetened cocoa. Sadly, as I love dark chocolate, I bought the regular cocoa. But as I was assembling the ingredients, I looked on my shelf and discovered that I had some Special Dark! So what if it was from two Christmases ago, I had just enough left! This I took as a good omen.
The Cocoa Mixture
“Melt butter in a large heavy saucepan”
“Then whisk in cocoa,”
“Whisk in separately sugar,”
Check. But why did the texture become strange? Reading back over the recipe: “Melt butter in a large heavy saucepan over moderately low heat,”
What is “moderately low” exactly? Was the heat too high? Because that’s the sort of thing impatient me would do. Had I just ruined the last of the precious dark cocoa by cooking the eggs into it? Could it somehow result in a fluffy, quiche-like texture? Maybe the mixture was cool enough and the eggs were just gooey. Beaming good intentions at the mixture, I had no choice but to find out.
Next, “1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk”
Why do you “shake” the buttermilk? This was not, I presumed, to make butter like that one time in Girl Scouts, because I just melted the butter, so why would I shake some up to add it? And if the shaking wasn’t intended to make butter, how well-shaken should it be? And why?
I wondered, therefore I Googled: “Why do you shake buttermilk?” I found a chat thread with this very question, which made me feel like less of an idiot—or maybe more of one? Anyway, the answer is that buttermilk separates and you need to break up the fat. So that explains how we got rid of those unsightly lumps and bulges that flowed out of the milk carton. But if this works for buttermilk, then how come it doesn’t for those “Shaking” Exercise Machines?
Next, came an attempt at sifting by one who does not own a sifter, but wisely invested in a cute apron—first things first. After mixing the dry ingredients in a big bowl, I reasoned that “sifting” by filtering the ingredients through a mesh metal colander would “sift” them. All about the DIY, I proceed. Much powder went all over. But I was confident that the smaller ingredients like the baking powder and baking soda and salt, you know all those things that have some magical chemical properties that should be respected, were the first through the colander and made it into the cocoa mixture and only the flour got wasted. Let’s hope.
Of course I had to experiment bake. Have I not learned from all those E-Z Bake Oven experiments of my youth? And the resultant rubbery brown Frisbees? Of course not. Nor have I learned much else of the rules of baking since. But one thing that I heard recently, on good authority from a talented baker friend who actually attended Peter Kump’s Institute of Culinary Education, is that you can produce gooey ganache-like goodness in the middle of a cupcake by putting a frozen chocolate in the center, something about the temperature differences resulting in the delightful meltiness.
Armed with this tidbit of near-knowledge and thinking that a touch of caramel might be nice complement to bacon and chocolate, for as Mark Twain said, “Part of the secret of a success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.” I pushed a frozen Rolo into the center of three muffins, and a frozen Caramello into other three. Yep, six brave cupcakes selected for culinary sacrifice. Rolos? Caramellos? Hey, that’s all they had at the deli across the street. I just hoped they were actually frozen by the time I smushed them in as they’d only been in the freezer for about 20 minutes.
A Brilliant Idea for Future Experiment Baking!
Was it foolish of me, the culinarily challenged, and now reckless, to make an un-proven recipe for an important event? I needed a drink. I poured a stiff one and had an epiphany! Bacon, Bourbon Chocolate Cupcakes! Noted: Find a way to substitute Maker’s Mark for next time. Baking is fun.
“Bake for 20 minutes until a skewer or toothpick comes out clean.”
In my oven, it only took 15 minutes to bake. I knew to check early, because my oven seems a bit on the hot side. Hot and fast, like its owner. Kidding!
I took out the first 18 cupcakes and then filled the next batch: I got seven. And I even filled some of them fuller than 3/4 as the recipe said. So there’s your baker’s dozen, er, let’s call it a “bonus cupcake” so I can’t be called out on account of bad math, too.
The finished product.
I’d determined beforehand that I would not have time to make the frosting from the recipe, so I’d like to thank Betty Crocker for the frosting, and implore her to make Dark Chocolate frosting and for Safeway to stock it, although the milk choco tasted just fine.
You’ll notice the tops are sprinkled with Hawaiian black salt and Hawaiian red salt. The Surprise! Caramel Inside! cakes, it should come as no surprise to those who bake, resulted in no melty ganache effect, but only a strangely semi-smelted lump of Caramello at the bottom that seemed to make the entire cupcake heavier, but certainly still edible. Overall the cupcakes were “very moist” as opposed to “light” or “fluffy,” but not quite what you’d call “heavy.” The salt on top was awesome, by the way.
They were a hit! Boyfriend loved them, people ate them—they really did! In fact, a toddler in attendance ate nearly an entire cupcake unaware of the bacon inside; perhaps he was too wrapped up in watching his cartoon on the iPhone, but whatever, no one fell on the floor gagging or accusing me of pre-cooking the eggs in too hot of a cocoa mixture. Whew!
The next day, the BF took the leftover cupcakes to work. Leftover cupcakes? Mon dieu! How could that be!? But before working up a really frothy indignation, I realized that adults typically don’t eat more than one cupcake, and the cupcake-to-adult ratio at this soiree was close to 3:1. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
My thanks (and apologies) to the folks with the recipe.