Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Strange Case

"He is not easy to describe. There is something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing, something downright detestable."

Happy Halloween! You've got to love a night when it's allowed to come as you aren't, when heavy drinking and bad behavior are highly encouraged. What? You didn't think it was about the candy, did you?

I went back and forth between spooky reads like "It" by Stephen King and Shirley Jackson's "House on Haunted Hill," and finally landed on "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" by Robert Stevenson. This classic about poor virtuous Jekyll who, looking to escape the crushing weight of his moral ways, creates a potion that separates good from evil. His evil side, Mr. Hyde, is free to do treacherous things, such as trample over people in the street, commit fraud and eventually murder, but by taking another swig of this potion, Mr. Hyde disappears and Dr. Jekyll returns, with the continuous respect of his peers and free to walk around with his head held high.

The problem is, these two sides are both contained inside of one body. Jekyll didn't create a whole new person, these desires lived inside of him already, fighting against what my mom would call his "know better" aka his common sense, his moral compass, etc. Dr. Jekyll often wakes and feels disgusted by the actions of Hyde from the night before, whereas Hyde only tolerates changing back into Jekyll for protection from the police. Pure evil and pure good are basically warring for playtime in this body. After a while, he's able to transform to Hyde without the need of a potion. His evil tendencies, given too much play time out in the open, are now stronger than his morals. Soon Jekyll must double up, then triple up on the potion to get rid of Hyde and eventually, he can't find Jekyll at all. Hyde, knowing his face will be recognized on the street and he'll have to suffer the consequences, commits suicide.

It's not your typical scary story with ghosts and such. Instead it questions human nature, the good and evil in us all and what each person is actually capable of doing. In this story, we're what goes bump in the night. [bumbumBUM]

I went all out for these cupcakes. I wanted them to give Dr. Jekyll's potion a run for its money. For the batter, I subbed milk for cake vodka. You can use any cake flavored vodka you like, but I went with Pinnacle. I'm sure vanilla flavored vodka would work too.

I dyed half of the batter green, and baked the two mixtures side by side, using this handy-dandy cupcake separator that I found on Amazon. It was harder to pour batter into such a small space, but I managed to do it with only a little bit of a mess. Next time I'll pour more slowly.

Once they were finished baking, I brush the tops of the cupcakes with more vodka. The frosting is made with powdered sugar, butter and whipped cream vodka, which I dyed black with a hint of a green strip to keep with the spookiness of the evening. And finally, in the middle of each cupcake sits a shot of Dr. Jekyll's secret potion. (Hint: It's just more vodka.)

Basically, these are the booziest cupcakes I've ever made. I plan on testing these two toned vodka cupcakes and shots of "potion" on my group of friends tonight. I hope to see a little of Mr. Hyde in all of us tonight.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: 5 stars
Cake vodka cupcakes: 5 stars

“I learned to recognise the thorough and primitive duality of man; I saw that, of the two natures that contended in the field of my consciousness, even if I could rightly be said to be either, it was only because I was radically both."

“All human beings, as we meet them, are commingled out of good and evil: and Edward Hyde, alone, in the ranks of mankind, was pure evil.”

“And next moment, with ape like fury, he was trampling his victim under foot, and hailing down a storm of blows, under which the bones were audibly shattered and the body jumped upon the roadway.”

Cake Vodka Cupcakes

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
4 eggs
1/2 cup cake vodka
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
3-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with baking cups.
2. In a large bowl, combine butter and eggs. (It will look clumpy and runny.) Stir in vodka and vanilla extract.
3. In a separate bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, mixing until just combined.(If you like, this is where you separate the batter in order to dye half of it green!)
4. Fill baking cups 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Whipped Cream Vodka Buttercream

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp whipped cream vodka

1. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add vodka, one tablespoon at a time. (Add more or less depending on your desired consistency.)

Happy baking! -Ariel

Sunday, October 4, 2015

An Untamed State, Or that Time I Made a Mess with Mangoes

“Once upon a time, in a far-off land, I was kidnapped by a gang of fearless yet terrified young men with so much impossible hope beating inside their bodies it burned their very skin and strengthened their will right through their bones.”

Remember last post when everything was happy and light and soaked in whiskey? Wasn’t that nice? Now, allow me and Roxane Gay to bring it way down.

That quote up there? That’s how the book STARTS. On the surface “An Untamed State,” tells the story of a woman with a near perfect life—husband and baby make three—who visits her parents in Haiti and is promptly kidnapped and tortured for a group of men until her ransom is paid thirteen days later. The second part of the book tells the story of that same woman trying to put her life back together. But this book is really about so much more. It’s about fear and hope and the end of fairytales. It’s about marriage and the relationship between a daughter and father. It’s about Haiti and race and sexism and class-ism.

It’s heavy, but once I started I couldn’t put it down. I went through it quickly, but it stayed with me for a long time. In addition to earthquakes that make the entire world stop and pay attention, Haiti was also once known as the kidnapping capital of the world. So while this book is fiction, it speaks about real issues, which comes as no surprise to anyone who has read Roxane Gay before.

This is a complicated book. These are complicated cupcakes, but hopefully a lot more cheerful. Because I know next to nothing about Haiti, I reached out to the internet from some inspiration. Big on fruit. Not big on desserts, Haiti. A lot of the dessert recipes just sounded like a sweeter version of banana bread. But then I came across a recipe for mango/coconut/ginger cupcakes with lemon glaze/icing. The ingredient list is lengthy, but honestly these were the easiest cupcakes in the world to make.

Well, until it was time to mash mangoes. I should've bought PULP, not diced mangoes. Note to self: Buy what the recipe says, not what's conveniently in front of your face at Kroger.

Ya’ll. I LOVE mangoes. Who knew? I had to turn these into pulp myself, which resulted in a lot of angry mashing with a fork, yelling and mango bits and pieces everywhere. Thank God for aprons. Thank God for cats who lick the floor clean.

An Untamed State: 5 stars
Mango Cupcakes: 5 stars

The finished product was delicious and actually quite pretty. Not your normal cupcake--the sweetness comes mostly from the mangoes. You'll notice the recipe doesn't call for a lot of sugar. The sweetness of the mango goes well with lemon and the lemon zest adds a bit of color.

“We loved Haiti. We hated Haiti. We did not understand Haiti or know Haiti. Years later, I still did not understand Haiti, but I longed for the Haiti of my childhood. When I was kidnapped, I knew I would never find that Haiti again.”

“I am not easy to love but I am well loved. I try to love well in return.”
“It is often women who pay the price for what men want.”

Cupcake Ingredients
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups mango pulp (I used one can of diced mangoes and one bag of frozen chopped mangoes--then beat them to a pulp myself.)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sweetened coconut flakes

Glaze Ingredients
2 cups powdered sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
zest from 1 lemon

If you'd like to see the recipe followed correctly, visit Peaceful Cooking. If you'd like to see what I did, scroll down.

1) Blend butter and sugar until creamy.
2) Blend all dry ingredients in a separate bowl.
3) Alternate adding milk and dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture.
4) Try your best to pulp your diced mangoes.
5) Yell at the cat out of frustration.
6) Add the mangoes, vanilla, and coconut to the mixture.
7) Smile because your apartment smells like mangoes.
8) Apologize to the cat for yelling, tell her you were just stressed.
9) Pour into greased cupcake liners and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.

1) Mix ingredients until the glaze is thick, yet pour-able.
2) Lemon zest seems purely for looks. Do it anyway. It makes them pretty.

Happy baking!