Tuesday January 11, 2011
Cupcake Adventure beer, beets & beans!
Back in October, Rosco told me about Scharffen Berger’s Chocolate Adventure Contest. He thought I should whip up an entry and get in the game. But given that I completely lack even a gram of competitive spirit, I hemmed and hawed, not really wanting to go out on that limb.
He razzed me about it, saying that what with a blog called “BraveTart” that chocolate + adventure should kinda make for a no brainer.
Brave? Maybe. Competitive? Not at all.
Then I whined about the fact that I would have to make cupcakes. I mean, I love cupcakes. But in the mere thirty posts we’ve done, I’ve featured them twice (Halloween Spooktacular and Sweet Cuppin Cakes). Not that you could call 6% statistically significant…
Rosco, eye ever on the prize, didn’t relent. The e-mails kept coming.
Finally, under duress, I followed the link he sent me so I could check out the particulars (which I hadn’t done before that point). Aaaaand, I changed my tune pretty quick when I saw adzuki beans and beets on the list. Swoon.
Naturally, with Scharffen Berger as a sponsor, chocolate needed to feature prominently, but in addition, the rules challenged participants to use at least one of the following “adventure ingredients” to create a unique cupcake.
Sweetened condensed milk
Coconut milk, cream or butter
Sumatra coffee beans
While I may have some quibbles over the “adventurousness” of pantry staples like buttermilk and molasses (I live in Kentucky!), I found the list inspirational. My brain began computing all the various favorable combination found on the list. So. Many. Options!
Suddenly, cupcakes seemed mighty exciting.
The rules allowed participants to submit up to 10 entries and I had grand hopes of pushing the limit with a variety of awesome cupcake creations. But then came the Foodbuzz 24 × 24 event for Thanksgiving which brought a lot of recipe-testing mayhem to get every detail just right, as well as a Farm Visit to meet our turkey premortem (is that a term?).
Simultaneously in my non-blog life, I began working crazy hours helping to open a new restaurant which only compounded the natural chaos of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Throw in out of town guests, my mom spending time in the ICU the week of Christmas, and flying out of state on December 28th to make my best friend’s wedding cake for her New Year’s Eve wedding…Clearly, I did not have as much time for experimental baking before the January 2nd deadline as I once thought.
I had wanted so badly to do one with adzuki beans, as a Kentuckian who once lived in Tokyo and works as a Pastry Girl, the idea of marrying buttermilk to adzuki beans via chocolate held enormous appeal. I made several rounds of chocolate- koshian, which tasted phenomenal, but never made it through the final stages of recipe development and into any sort of cupcake.
In the end, only one of my experimental recipes made it out of development hell (to borrow an expression from my brother’s industry) before the deadline:
While only a single adventure ingredient needed to go into an entry to qualify, without even trying, I ended up literally using half of them. Gung-ho much?
Bakers almost universally over-buttercream cupcakes. But I believe you shouldn’t have to unhinge your jaw to take a bite and so tried to keep my cake to buttercream ratio around 2:1. To give the cupcakes the visual appeal a mountain of frosting does have in its favor, I added height with a shard of crunchy coffee bean brittle.
The seven ingredients I used (Stout beer, fresh beet, buttermilk, Meyer lemon, molasses, almond flour, and Sumatra coffee beans) all complement chocolate in different ways; each plays a key role in the dessert as a whole.
Stout beer lends a malty quality to the overall chocolate flavor while almond flour rounds it out with a rich toasty-ness. Buttermilk’s acidity tenderizes the cake without muting the chocolate flavor (as cream and milk often can). Fresh beets contribute a subtle, earthy sweetness that pairs perfectly with the malty, nutty chocolate flavor of the cake, while a little Meyer lemon brightens it and brings the entire flavor profile into balance.
Of course, coffee and chocolate go hand in hand, so I needn’t explain that choice. But by using whole beans, the coffee doesn’t simply contribute its signature flavor and bitterness, it also provides a much needed element of crunch. Molasses gives more depth and acidity than a brittle recipe’s traditional corn syrup, resulting in a complex sweetness that never seems cloying.
(And, speaking of beets in dessert, if you have any interest in reading more on my thoughts regarding vegetables in general and beets in particular in dessert, check out my post on Golden Beet Panna Cotta.)
As I wrote down my recipe to send in for the contest, I started to realize just how many ingredients came from a local farm or small business here in Kentucky. Sumatra coffee beans roasted in micro batches at Caffe Marco, psychotically fresh buttermilk made by J.D. Country Milk, plenty of Scharffen Berger chocolate in Liquor Barn’s endless chocolate aisle, Bluegrass Brewing Company’s Bourbon Barrel Stout, red beets and just-laid eggs from Elmwood Stock Farm, flour from Weisenberger Mill, and let’s not forget Kentucky Gold, aka molasses.
Originally, I meant to save this post until after the judging period had ended, so as not to jinx myself. (I feel a little nervous because I think I made an ingredient typo in one of the recipes. Did I write “almond flour” or did I just write “flour”?! This stuff comes to me in the middle of the night…)
@thebravetart Absolutely post! Tell us about your Chocolate Adventure Contest inspiration, ingredients, etc. Just not the verbatim recipe!
How could I refuse? So stay tuned for the actual recipes, which I will post when the time comes. (Follow me on twitter where I’ll update everyone about the contest and recipes…) Fingers crossed!!
18 comments and counting
Jan 11, 2011 · 8:29 PM
This looks yummy! Great pictures! I love cupcakes.
· Veronica · www.mycatholickitchen.com
Jan 12, 2011 · 4:22 AM
Good luck!! Sounds like a winner to me! I loved the way you explained the different ways those ingredients complemented chocolate.
· Jessica · www.jessicasdinnerparty.com
Jan 12, 2011 · 10:05 AM
Thanks for the support everyone. Little Vicky, when it comes to cake, I know you’ve always got my back!! Ha ha. Ooooh, I long for the olden days.
Jan 13, 2011 · 5:53 AM
They look wonderful… i love your blog btw…v nice
· Jenny @ melting butter · www.meltingbutter.com
Jan 13, 2011 · 2:18 PM
Goood luck. I bet these taste as good as they look. I am sucker for stout…
Jan 13, 2011 · 4:10 PM
Awesome cupcakes! I love the brittle topping.
· briarrose · flourdusted.blogspot.com/
Jan 14, 2011 · 1:07 AM
Absolutely Fabulous. What an original blend of flavors. I wasn’t sure at first but reading your description made my mouth water. Truth be known you had me at stout….
· France · beyondthepeel.blogspot.com
Jan 14, 2011 · 9:51 PM
@France, oh, I’m glad I talked you into it! I know it does sound a little off putting, but somehow they all mingle together just right. Another month and a half of waiting and then we’ll find out if I convinced anyone else..
Jan 15, 2011 · 2:30 AM
Your cupcakes sound interestingly delicious, and I LOVE your photo of them all lined up like the synchronized swimmers in an old Esther Williams movie!
· Leslie Uhl · leslieuhl.com
Jan 18, 2011 · 10:47 AM
Now I just want to imagine the cupcakes leaping from the ledge, one by one, with a complicated aerial shot to finish off the scene!
Jan 30, 2011 · 12:50 PM
These look amazing! They’re so elegant!
Jess : )
· Jess · www.livininthekitchen.wordpress.com
Feb 19, 2011 · 12:02 PM
Your cupcakes are a work of art! I would love to try the Meyer Lemon and Beet Buttercream! We experimented with the adzuki beans as well, but it didn’t make the cut.
· Karman · http://nutritionadventures.wordpress.com/
Jun 21, 2012 · 11:57 AM
I’ve been trying to look up your recipe for Meyer lemon and beet buttercream icing and the link is broken. Is there anyway you can fix that, please? Thank you!
· Sunshine · www.scoopsofsunshine.com
Jun 21, 2012 · 8:07 PM
@Sunshine, oh! Thanks for pointing that out, it should be back now. Not sure what happened there!