Sunday, October 28, 2007

Baking Tragedy (with a happy ending)

Ever since September 1st hit I have been craving pumpkin treats. I originally wanted to make pumpkin chocolate chip cookies but then, due to my recent cupcake obsession, I decided I wanted to try out pumpkin cupcakes, perhaps with chocolate chips. . . or better yet, my new favorite friend ganache.

So yesterday was finally the day. I had the time, I had the ingredients and I had somewhere to take all the cupcakes so I didn't end up eating the whole batch. There was just one problem. I have a habit of tasting my food as I go along to make sure things are moving along as planned. This is hard with a new recipe since I'm never quite sure what it should taste like at each stage. Things were going well until the very end. The last ingredient I added was the pumpkin and after that, just as I was about to pour them into the mini cupcake tray, a horrible aftertaste surfaced on the roof of my mouth - something distinctly metallic. I had been skeptical of this can I found at Whole Foods:
It looked old, antiquated even. It reminded me of something that was long forgotten in the back of my grandma's pantry. But the problem with shopping in New York City is you never have a lot of choice, unless you want to trek to another store. I searched the shelf for the familiar Libby's label of my long-trusted pumpkin filling to no avail. I then inspected the can for an expiration date and found none. After convincing myself that this was some sort of retro-labeling since this particular Whole Foods was only about three years old and generally only sells the freshest ingredients, I purchased two cans. I mean, if this had been one of the corner bodegas where canned goods very well could have been sitting on the shelves since the 60s, I would have passed. But again, this was Whole Foods!

Unable to get rid of the metallic taste I became convinced the pumpkin was rotten, or perhaps a piece of tin had somehow fallen into the batch when I was removing the particularly pesky lid. I tried baking the cupcakes to see if the taste would go away - to no avail. So I threw it all away. The whole batch.

I nearly cried. I hate ruining food. It hurt my pride and I was getting a headache and still thinking I might go to a singles Halloween party at the church later, I didn't need this particular speed bump.

I opened the second can of pumpkin and tasted it to see if I could try again. For your future reference, raw pumpkin sans sugar and butter and spices does not taste good, but I didn't taste anything metallic or tin-like. So I started over. Once again, I tasted the pumpkin before adding it to the rest of the ingredients and no metal taste. But when I tasted the batter just before pouring it into the cupcake holders - the metal was back on the roof of my mouth!

Needless to say I was upset. In defeat, I called my mom to complain.

Not ready to go through the messy process of cleaning out the Cuisinart a second time and dumping everything in the garbage again, I ignored it and pulled my cookie dough out of the fridge and concentrated on rolling out the dough and cutting out bats and pumpkins and ghosts knowing this hiccup decided the question of whether or not I would be going to a Halloween party that night. My headache intensified as I frosted cookies.

As I was cleaning up the sugar cookies and frosting and sprinkles, I decided to try the neglected batch of pumpkin batter again. This time it tasted fine - even good! I tasted a couple more times and was pleasantly surprised. Had I thrown the first batch out for no reason? I'll never know. I cautiously baked the cupcakes and proceeded with the elaborate first layer of ganache frosting.Then added some sprinkles - because where else will I use these tiny little orange and black cat sprinkles?
And topped them with ginger whipped cream (I actually used real ginger root!).
And some candy corn and pumpkins to be festive.
Then I tasted the final product to discover . . . they were everything I had hoped they would be without a trace of metallic after-taste. I snapped a photo of the finished product on my phone and text messaged them to my mom in celebration. I told her that if they were bad they didn't taste it and since I had eaten one I would be sick in the morning and wouldn't serve them - but they looked beautiful. So at 1 am I went to bed happy with my cupcakes that were greedily snatched up by children who could not appreciate the complexity of all the flavors less than 12 hours later.

In case you want to try them, the recipe is below. The cupcake recipe came from Martha Stewart and I found the ginger whipped cream and ganache on other websites or blogs I can't remember because I didn't write them down. Sorry, if I stole them from anyone reading.

Pumpkin Cupcakes
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together, brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, and eggs. Add dry ingredients, and whisk until smooth. Whisk in pumpkin puree.
  3. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about halfway. Bake until tops spring back when touched, and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pans once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.
Ginger Whipped Cream
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (optional but I used it)
  • 2 cups chilled whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup flavored simple syrup (directions below)
  1. First make the simple syrup. Heat 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water and a 2" chunk of ginger that has been peeled and julienned until boiling an simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside to cool and strain before using.
  2. In a small metal bowl, soak plain gelatin in cold water for 5 minutes (I didn't use a metal bowl, no big loss).
  3. Place the bowl over a small pot of simmering water and stir until dissolved. Set aside to cool. (I put it in the microwave for 15 seconds)
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat cream until soft and billowy.
  5. Slowly drizzle in the simply syrup and vanilla, continuing to whip as you do.
  6. Add the gelatin all at once and continue whipping until soft peaks form.
  7. Finish beating with whisk to adjust consistency.
Chocolate Ganache Frosting
(I cut this recipe in half and I still had a lot left over and have discovered that everything tastes good dipped in chocolate ganache!)
  • 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1-1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Chop choclates and transfer into a heat proof bowl (I just used my melamine bowl and it worked)
  2. Heat cream until bubbles form around the edge of the pan, pour cream over the chocolate.
  3. Let sit for 1 minute then stir until combined.
  4. Add butter to the chocolate (make sure it is soft) and stir until combined.
  5. Whisk together sugar, salt, milk and vanilla in another bowl until combined.
  6. Pour the sugar mixture onto the chocolate mixture, then stir until combined and smooth.
  7. Let sit at room temperature until thickened. (mine didn't get very thick, I may have just been impatient and tired)
  8. Beat with an electric mixer until fluffy (again, too impatient so it wasn't really fluffy but I wasn't going for fluffy, I wanted a thick chocolate layer and got it).


Beck said...

OOOOOOH, those look SO good.
Stupid diet.

autumn said...

Thanks for the recipes. I've been wanting to make a good sugar cookie and I love a new frosting idea.

lizzie said...


katie said...

I think I'd be scared of a can that looked that old. i swear I once saw one like that in my Grammie Phelps' basement. There were all kinds of treasures down there.

tiff said...

I agree, that can looked a little aged. However, the cupcakes look phenomenal, fantastical, amazing, and super-duper. I am going to work up the courage to possibly try these. Ginger whipped cream? Ginger whipped cream!

You inspire me.

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