Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Behind the Blog: Smore Cupcakes

Welcome to the first of what I'm thinking may become a regularish feature here on TbF. If you're like me, you've probably wondered how all those food bloggers you follow come up with a recipe and why it seems so easy and delicious that you never though of it yourself. Well, not to ruin things for myself, but I'm going to give you all a glimpse at how this latest recipe came about.

Back in the beginning of December, Rachel Rappaport at Coconut & Lime did a post about a toasted marshmallow frosting. Since it was right after Thanksgiving, she used it on top of sweet potato cupcakes. Good pairing, but I figured people had enough sweet potatoes with marshmallow and had grander ideas... smores (also known as s'mores). Smore cupcakes to be exact. Now, my first inclination was to check out Vanilla Garlic to see if Garrett had already posted a recipe. Well, he has a graham cracker type cupcake, but in my opinion he cheated by using graham cracker crumbs (sorry Garrett, nothing against you). I wanted to go fully from scratch (I know, a bit masochistic baking wise, but its my nature). Next try was google, and again, nothing going, people either used a chocolate cake topped with marshmallow and graham cracker crumbs or used pre-made graham crackers in the cake. Seems like a recipe for smore cupcakes from scratch is up to me to create...

The problem is, coming up with something that no one else has before is a bit of a challenge. The first, and most obvious question is where to start? Should I modify a cupcake recipe with graham cracker ingredients (what exactly are graham cracker ingredients?) or do I modify a graham cracker recipe into a cupcake (do people even make their own graham crackers?) I decided I needed to look into what goes into actual graham crackers before anything else. Quick search on google and I was on Alton Brown's page on Foodnetwork.com looking at his recipe for home made graham crackers (apparently I missed that episode even though it only aired last fall).

Anywho, his first ingredient was graham flour. Never having heard of the stuff, I wondered how expensive that might be (I figured it would be one of those specialty flours I'd have to buy at Whole Foods). Turns out Hodgson Mill, a rather widely available (i.e. at your local supermarket) brand makes graham flour. Turns out its just wheat flour with the bran and germ left in from the milling process, neat! So, having the graham flour part down, and then seeing that the spices were rather pedestrian, I decided to go with the modify a cupcake recipe route.

So, I opened up my recipe database (yeah, real nerds have recipe databases on their computers... ok... normal people do too) and pulled up my vanilla cupcake recipe.

Try 1: For the first trial I replaced all the flour with the graham flour, and kept everything else the same with the exception of adding in cinnamon and nutmeg. To make it smore-like, I thought I'd break some Hershey bars into the squares and place a square in each cupcake prior to baking. Well, the chocolate turned out ok, although it was weird having a big hunk in the middle of the cake. The big problem was that the cake didn't taste very graham crackery (sounds like weird British slang... crackery) and one person even compared it to sand, which is always the sort of review you're looking for. Back to the drawing board I guess.

Try 2: For the second go I dropped back on the graham flour (it is a whole grain wheat, which is probably what made it so dry the first time) and went with a cup of white and a cup and a half graham. I also dropped the oil content of the original recipe to 2 ounces, boosted the milk to 4.5 ounces, and replaced the remaining 1.5 ounces with molasses. The result this time was close, but the flavor still wasn't there, even if the texture was much improved.

Try 3: This time I played around with the spices more than the previous attempts, keeping the rest of the mix the same. I bumped the cinnamon up to a tablespoon from a teaspoon and doubled the nutmeg to a teaspoon. The results were closer, but I used a different brand of molasses and the burnt taste that comes from a strong, dark molasses was a bit overpowering to the rest of the flavors.

Try 4: This ended up being the version that I posted, although I'm still not quite satisfied with it (is anyone ever truly satisfied with one of their own creations?) I skipped the molasses in total due to the variability between brands and went completely with dark brown sugar over my normal light brown to make up for it. I also added some ginger paste on a whim to try and give the cake a little bite and warmth that I hoped would make the smore experience more realistic. Some people said the ginger was too noticeable, others didn't notice it at all. Guess it depends on who you are.

So, there you all have it. 4 batches of cupcakes made. One (not yet?) final recipe. I think I may try these again next month, because I have some other ideas to improve them, but for now, its on to more savory eats. Here a sneak peak of what's on tap for my next post (to hopefully be up, on time, this weekend).

TbF Images - 107

No comments: