Sunday, October 9, 2011

Date-Nut Mini Cupcakes

Miss me last week? If you did, my deepest apologies. We were in Florida basking in the sun and sand (and also shopping for wedding dresses with mom... we have a winner!). But now we're back, and we're baking.

I don't know much about dates, but I do know they look like giant slugs. I discovered this when opening my recently purchased container of Sunsweet pitted dates. I was going to taste one since I've never had one before to see what they were like, but once I saw what they look like I couldn't make myself do it. To me they just looked like a giant slug or some other type of creepy crawly creature that I couldn't put in my mouth. Even after I chopped them up I couldn't make myself try one. All I could think about was how they looked in their original unchopped form. Not pretty.

I set my expectations low when making these date-nut mini cupcakes (recipe not available on Martha's website) because I didn't know how I felt about dates at the time I first read the recipe, and I'm not a big fan of walnuts. Since those 2 things were the main components of these cupcakes I didn't think they stood a chance. Truthfully I wanted to skip this recipe entirely and move on to the next one for that reason. And, because ground cardamom is $14 for a 2 oz. bottle which just seems utterly ridiculous. While I did briefly contemplate skipping the recipe, I'm not a quitter so I sucked it up, spent $21 on ground cardamom and walnuts and started getting to work.

As has become my practice I "prepped" everything before I started to really get to work. I chopped the slugs... make that dates, toasted the walnuts and turned on the tea kettle to start boiling water. My timing has become quite impeccable if I do say so myself. I have always loved mini cupcakes because they're cute, as are all mini things. But, filling mini cupcakes is not cute, not cute at all. There's no good way to do it. I didn't use my glass Pyrex measuring cup like I normally would because I knew that once I started pouring the batter into the liners I would almost have to immediately stop pouring since mini cupcakes are so small. Which meant that stopping the momentum of the batter would be difficult, the batter would probably overflow and make a mess. I wasn't willing to deal with all of that. So, I used a teaspoon and carried a small measuring cup underneath it to catch any batter that might fall. This wasn't the best method and I still made a mess, but it wasn't the worst method either.

These cupcakes were supposed to be baked for 15 minutes with a turn halfway through the total baking time. I started with 7 minutes, then turned the cupcakes and baked them for 7 more minutes. With the toothpick test I thought a little more baking time was needed so I added 2 more minutes and did that for the remaining 2 batches of cupcakes. In the end each batch was baked for 16 total minutes. The nice thing about making mini cupcakes is that I have 2 mini cupcake pans, so I could have a batch ready to go into the oven as soon as the batch before it was done. Eventually I will invest in a second regular-sized cupcake pan... eventually. Maybe I'll put one of the wedding registry!

For the first time in this project I didn't have to make a frosting/topping for the cupcakes. I almost didn't know what to do with myself. The recipe said to add creme fraiche to these cupcakes. Confession... I have no idea what creme fraiche is and I didn't Google it to find out. I assume it is French and in French it means fresh cream. I could be incorrect. As we learned earlier, I studied Spanish, not French in high school so my vocabulary is limited. Lo siento (I'm sorry in Spanish). I guessed that creme fraiche didn't mean whipped cream, otherwise Martha would have told me to make it. So from the picture in the book I took it to mean something along the lines of a Cool Whip. I'm sure Martha would gasp in disgust if she knew that's what I purchased (lo siento, Martha), but I didn't know what else to do. I taste tested the cupcakes without Cool Whip because I like a "naked" taste test to see how much the frosting/topping helps or hurts a cupcake. The cupcakes sans Cool Whip were good. Turns out slugs (dates) aren't too bad, and I didn't mind the walnuts that much. With a dollop of Cool Whip the cupcakes were slightly more delicious. Though Martha might disagree with me, I find absolutely nothing wrong with Cool Whip. It's delicious, and I could, and have eaten it by the teaspoonfuls. Judge me if your must.