Tag: lab

Burnt butter and pecan cupcakes with pretzel icing

Gold? yellow, glittering, precious gold ?
No, Gods, I am no idle votarist.
Roots, you clear heav’ns! thus much of this will make;
Black, white; fair, soul; wrong, right;
Base, noble; old, young; coward, valiant.
You Gods ! why this? what this? you Gods! why,
this
Will lug your priests and servants from your sides :
Pluck stout men’s pillows from below their heads.
This yellow slave
Will knit and break religions; bless th’ accurs’d ;
Make the hoar leprosy ador’d; place thieves,
And give them title, knee, and approbation,
With senators on the bench [...]

-Shakespeare, Timon of Athens

Yeah I’m pretty sure equal prose and actions described therein could be inspired by these golden velvet cakes of mine. It’s true, it’s incredibly unsurprisingly true: these are indeed yet another of my permutations of red velvet cake. Will it never end?

They were going to be brown velvet cakes, but… they aren’t that brown. With the burnt butter, I was kind of thinking there might be a tinge of brown, but that just means that the brown velvet title is reserved for some future cake that very likely features the Valrhona cocoa powder that came into my possession recently. But for now, everything is golden.

I’ve never burned butter before, so I kind of winged it but it worked out brilliantly. The smell of it was enough to convince me to skip out any of the other flavourings I might have considered adding. Burnt butter in everything from now on.

And the pretzel icing… it’s rather wondrous. I surprised myself when I came up with that one. The idea seemed like it could work, I acted on the idea, and the result of the action was spectacular. So spectacular that I’m making the leftover icing into truffles because to let it go to waste would be an act of villainy.

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Chilli cinnamon chocolate buttermilk cupcakes with salted caramel sauce and chilli vanilla sugar

Well, I passed the assessment round for my PhD yesterday (hurrah!) so now there’s no excuse for me not updating this blog like, seven, no, eight times a day. At least. When I’m not too busy celebrating by hemming curtains. Which I spent all morning doing because ain’t no point in having curtains if they’re the wrong length, right?

Anyway, while I figure out some sort of stupidly elaborate thing to bake to celebrate entering the next stage of my PhD candidacy, here is what I baked for the lab meeting last week. (In case you were wondering how I create so many sugar-packed, buttery sweet things, yet don’t seem to be blogging from hospital, it’s because I cater for my lab’s meetings, which enables me to give the sugar-packed, buttery sweet things mostly to other people. Mostly. If you see a lab tag on a post, you’ll know why.)

I was lazy for last week’s lab meeting and didn’t come up with my own recipes, so here are the two recipes I used:

Buttermilk chocolate cupcakes from Chocolate Fool
- I made these into the cinnamon chilli cupcakes by adding 1 tsp chilli powder and 2 tsp cinnamon to the dry ingredients.
- May I also recommend beating the butter and the sugar together then adding the eggs, rather than beating the eggs and the sugar together then adding the butter. Butter + sugar, then eggs = easier and quicker and will give you the right consistency faster.
- A useless note, but in these cakes I used fleur de sel chocolate by Mast Brothers Chocolate which I bought when I was in NYC but couldn’t eat because it was a bit too salty for my tastes. I think the chocolate was put to good use in this recipe.

Salted butter caramel sauce from Almost Bourdain
- I ended up adding about 3/4 tsp of salt, but this recipe is amazing. A+, would sauce again.

And over the top I sprinkled some chilli vanilla sugar from Lanacoora Chillis, but you could make your own by mixing 1 tsp chilli powder (or 1 tsp dried, very finely chopped/processed chillis) with a cup or two of sugar and keeping it in an airtight container with a vanilla pod buried in the sugar. Sweet.

Tamarind red velvet cakes

As some of you astutely and presciently guessed, a while back I partook of Iron Chef-style shenanigans. The fly lab at my institute (as in, the lab that does their research on Drosophila melanogaster flies, not the lab comprised of things that look like this — I WISH!) challenges other labs in the institute every couple of months to an Iron Chef battle with a secret theme ingredient. We find out the theme ingredient a couple of weeks before the battle, and we do our best to channel Rokusaburo Michiba (rather than, say, Masahiko Kobe, that loser) and come up with bizarre and wonderful dishes featuring the theme ingredient.

So the fly lab challenged my lab (the human lab) to a battle, and the theme ingredient was… tamarind.

There was probably something like 40 or 50 dishes between the two labs. Tamarind ice cream, tamarind bundt cake, ox tongue with tamarind jelly, tamarind gnocchi, pork in tamarind-chocolate sauce with stewed plums, and of course a wide array of curries containing tamarind in varying amounts on the continuum from I-can’t-really-taste-it all the way to my-face-is-contorting-with-pain-at-the-sourness.

My contributions were tamarind gingerbread (which was a bit failcakes, really; it just tasted like normal gingerbread despite the quarter cup of tamarind chutney in it), tamarind toffee truffles (accursed alliteration! — but the truffles turned out amazingly), and tamarind red velvet cakes, which should not surprise any of you in the least.

On the assumption that the creative effort we put in to the dishes would determine whether we would be victorious or not, I drew neurotransmitter molecules all over my cakes using white chocolate icing, thinking that, you know, neuroscientists would find that pretty nifty.

It is somewhat disarming to turn up to a party full of scientists and realise that what you have done is so spectacularly nerdy that people almost can’t quite cope with it and don’t know what to say when you explain that the neurotransmitters they’re eating are actually the three primary neurotransmitters that you are working with in your PhD. Seriously, people who thinks fruit flies are the best and most interesting things ever will think you’re the nerd. Awkward.

Anyway, it was all a wasted effort, since victory was determined by which team could shout the loudest. Yeah, your eyes do not deceive you — a bunch of scientists who presumably know accurate ways of sampling to determine relationships between variables think that shouting is how you figure out which team created better tamarind dishes. Oh and the fly lab also invited along a whole bunch of people we had never seen before in our lives so who would have thought — the group with the most people can shout the loudest. We should publish that in Nature… or maybe The International Journal of Shouting and Other Dumb Behaviours.

So it left a sour taste in our mouths… no, that was the tamarind. Iron Chef was quite a lot of fun, as long as you don’t mind having your hours of precise and painstaking delineation of relevant chemical structures invalidated by a mob with the particular ability to be rather loud.

The recipe! Do you even want it? In the scheme of things, I don’t think many people out there would care much for tamarind red velvet cake. It’s actually pretty good, but I can’t imagine that people would want to go to the effort of making it even if I could say it was the most magical and transcendentally amazing cake you could ever hope to shove into your face by the handful. Which it isn’t, but it’s still nice, since the sourness of the tamarind does a good job of offsetting the sweetness of the cake.

In any case, I used this tried and trusted red velvet recipe, which forms the backbone of all of my red velvet adaptations. For the tamarind version, the cake is changed simply by creaming 1 1/2 cups of sugar and 1/2 cup tamarind chutney into the butter (instead of 2 cups of sugar). The icing is changed just by adding as much tamarind paste as you can, until you get an icing that isn’t too runny or sour but still has the tamarind flavour coming through (I also added a tiny bit of red dye to tint the icing pink). And that’s about it. Give it a go or don’t.

Vanilla chai white velvet cakes

(Again, sorry for the complete lack of updates recently. I’m coming up to one of the sets of assessment for my PhD so I’m just not baking much, or I’m just making not particularly photogenic things like tremendous amounts of felafel. However I do promise to get around to sharing my recipe for the dealing-with-stress-and-large-amounts-of-work culinary coping device that I pretend is brain food but is really just an ungodly number of ingredients thrown together with the wide-eyed fervour of a brilliant madman.)

The never-ending quest to transform red velvet into as many formats as possible has branched out in a new direction — not red, just velvet. Same fantastic texture, no longer limited by that oh-so-passé red colour and cocoa-vanilla flavour…

… I’m sorry, red velvet, I take that back. I didn’t mean to call you passé, what I really meant was avant garde, nouvelle vague, other appropriated French phrases, etc.

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Japanese soufflé cheesecakes with guava-strawberry-saffron fluid gel filling and white chocolate cream cheese icing

Sorry for the dearth of updates recently; been baking extra hard and extra creatively for an event that took place last night that I will update about in the near future. Allez cuisine!

So… another recipe with a title the length of a novella.

The fluid gel filling is one of those molecular gastronomy things I’ve been meaning to try for ages. Essentially it’s supposed to have some of the properties of a fluid and some of the properties of a solid, which sounds fancy until I say that the best example of this is tomato sauce/ketchup, which tends to stay in the upturned bottle like a solid until you shake it and it flows out like a liquid. Yay physics.

The cupcakes were made using this amazing recipe which entails using cream cheese to give an interesting texture to a basic sponge (watch out, the blog has an auto-playing music player). I think this Japanese soufflé cheesecake is destined to become one of my favourites just because it’s a good basic cake that can be added to and adjusted and lends itself well to showcasing other flavours (particularly summery, fruity, floral, light kind of flavours… which I have a marvellous ability to end up pursuing in the depth of winter, just to show those damned seasons that they can’t hold me back when I’m on another of my deranged culinary missions).

Just some notes about making the cake: I made them as cupcakes, so they only require about 15-20 minutes of baking. Also, the recipe recommends melting the cream cheese (along with the butter and milk) in a bain marie, but if you don’t have infinite patience or 5 hours to spare, just chuck it in a saucepan directly over low heat, stir often, and it’ll be melted in no time with no harm done.

Further adornment of the blank canvas cupcakes is as follows…

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