life as an aspiring amateur
These ballerina beauties took a good two weeks to procure. They are the longest cooking patience experiment of my life. Observe them well. It is well worth it.
Questions I had at the outset of this project: Why does this Angostura brand look like it is from the seventies? Something about that font. But I love the way it plays off the…Helvetica? There are like 16 fonts on this label. And why does the paper come halfway off the bottle?
I may never know, but what I do know is that I can make rock candy of my very own flavored with bitters and used for all sorts of nefarious and delightful purpose such as, I don’t know, a twist on the classic champagne cocktail?? Imagine rock candy in a champagne coupe!
Imma skip the technical instructions on this one, the link above was the best method I found in my research. I added in a tablespoon of bitters at the end and really did use a whole three cups of sugar instead of two.
The growth process was somewhat MacGyver-ed. I used these tiny plastic cups as the greenhouse growth place for the sticks because I wanted to not have to make gallons of the sugar solution, but I left the sticks a little too close to the bottom of the glasses, and they sort of grew crystals into the bottom of the glass. So when you go for it, I recommend using larger glasses and keeping your sticks about an inch from the bottom.
You can also dangle strings into the glasses. My major MAJOR happy idea was to grow rock candy on the ends of sparklers and stick THAT in a champagne glass. IMAGINE.
I let these grow for two weeks? I think? Maybe a little less.
You can save the extra sugar that crystallizes on the glasses for decor, and save the extra simple syrup for drinks/recipes. It’s interchangeable like maple syrup or honey and will last at least a few weeks in the fridge.
To use up the bitters syrup, I decided to try a floral chocolate cupcake, replacing the sugar in the normal recipe with the syrup. The end flavor result was real subtle, kind of like bitters in drinks, but the idea is worth fleshing out in future. And the rock candy leftovers made decorating a no-brainer.
Once someone asked me how I meal plan, assuming that I blog everything I eat and eat nothing but what I blog.
Wrong assumption, here is what I made recently:
Braised pork shoulder with whole tomato, oregano and red wine.
Chicken pumpkin pasta bake with the cutest little noods from Trader Joe’s.
I also ate lots of other types of foods that I didn’t photograph because they were less pretty or just as pretty but I was enjoying the moment.
I made this for a ladies’ wine night, and I considered posting it around Valentine’s Day, as its girly romanticism is obvious. However, after asking a work colleague if he would even like a red wine chocolate cake, I began to doubt my gender prejudices. This was our approximate conversation:
“Sorry, I only brought this one piece for Samantha. There’s more at home, I just thought…wait, would you even like red wine chocolate cake?”
After a small moment of consideration, he looked at me and said, “Well yeah.”
“Wait, even though it is like red wine and chocolate together?”
And he looked at me questioningly then I realized the stupidity of that question and wondered that it had taken this alcohol gender prejudice so long to come the the surface. Just because this is stereotypical American PMS/ladies’ wine night food does not mean boys can’t like a good bottle of red and a bar of dark chocolate. Together. Or as a cake.
Because let’s be real, you guys. This is red wine and chocolate. Together. In a cake. Did you even ever conceptualize of this? Had the thought even passed at a distance through the periferal of your consciousness? It hadn’t mine. I mean, whiskey cake, champagne cake, fine fine fine. It seems like those might mesh. But something in my mind says that cake is light/airy/sweet and that wine is dark/bitter/deep and that the two would clash like Beauty and the Beast. I thought the wine might overpower the cake experience.
And it might have done, were this an average yellow cake or some frou frou angel food cake. But when paired with some serious quality cocoa powder and a crumb as rich as a truffle, the red wine took this cake experience to heretofore unimaginable depths. It was riiiiich. Not exactly like a flourless cake, still spongy, but with an incredible amount of flavor and warmth.
And the best part: it’s dead simple. One layer, minimal technique and decorating skills required. I made it ahead of time, wrapped it, froze it, and took it out of the fridge morning-of.
I could actually taste the red wine and cinnamon more strongly three days later, possibly because I had been drinking actual red wine when I first tried it. The flavor and sharpness of the alcohol is subtle but noticeable. Next time, I might reduce the cinnamon by half. The cinnamon warmed up the wine flavor, but I thought it tasted a little too much like itself. You do you, cinnamon, just not in my red wine cake.
Red Wine Chocolate Cake
Adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (145 grams) firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 grams) white granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream (sub 1 large egg yolk), at room temperature
3/4 cup (177 ml) red wine
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 cup + 1 tablespoon (133 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (41 grams) dark cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment, and spray the interior with a nonstick spray. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and heavy whipping cream and beat well, then add the red wine and vanilla. mixing until just blended. Dump in the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together. Mix until 3/4 combined, then fold the rest together with a spoon. Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a rack for about 10 minutes, then flip out of pan and cool the rest of the way on a cooling rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and garnish with berries before serving. This cake froze well, and after I defrosted it, it kept covered for two days.