Sunday, April 22, 2012

Lavender-Iced Brownie Cupcakes

I like everything about lavender. The color, the smell... that's all there is to it, right? Wrong. Apparently lavender also has a taste and can be incorporated into recipes. Learn something new everyday, and this little tidbit rocked my world. Of course, when I saw I would be making lavender-iced brownie cupcakes my first thought was, where in the world am I going to find dried lavender?

Martha was smart enough to realize that certain ingredients required in her recipes probably wouldn't be the easiest things to find, so she kindly included a Sources section in the back of her cookbook with links to sites where certain items could potentially be found. When I began my search for dried lavender I started with Martha's suggestions. I was successful in finding it, but purchasing it was another story. Most of the websites only sold dried lavender in quantities that were much larger than what I was going to need (1/2 teaspoon) and one site that did sell it in a smaller quantity required at least a $30 purchase. Sorry. That does not work for me. So I turned to my favorite resource when I'm in search of something... Google. Google never lets me down, not ever. I searched dried lavender and found several websites that had it, and I would have gone with one of those until I came upon another trusted old friend. If you aren't yet familiar with do yourself a favor and get familiarized. Other than Google and Pinterest (and this blog) it's the best website there is.

When my lavender search took me to Etsy I found multiple vendors that sold it in amounts that wouldn't last me the rest of my life. I found a particular vendor that would sell me about 3 ounces for $3.50. Sold! And they shipped it the next day so it only took a couple days to get to me. Since I only needed 1/2 teaspoon for the recipe, the Ziploc sandwich bag I received is obviously way more than I need. At some point I'm going to have to search Pinterest for some project I can do that involves lavender. But that's for another day.

With my lavender in hand I was ready to proceed. The cupcakes, make that brownies, were easy to make. The most time consuming part was melting the butter and chocolate, other than that everything went quickly. I only began questioning what to do when it came time to fill the liners with batter. That's right, I said liners. Thankfully to close out the dipped and glazed portion of the cookbook (yes, we've come to the last recipe in the second section!) I got to bring back my old friends. I've missed them so much.

The recipe said to fill the liners 2/3 full and that I should yield 24 cupcakes. From the picture Martha provided in the cookbook I knew these weren't supposed to be filled to the top and I knew they would be flat, but I didn't think they were only supposed to be filled halfway. Plus, I don't like when the top of the cupcake doesn't come to the top of the liner. My filling the liners 2/3 full resulted in 12 cupcakes, and I thought that was about right. They took about 5 minutes longer to bake (the recipe said 17 minutes) but that wasn't a big deal to me. Plus, I need 24 cupcakes like I need a hole in the head. Only having 12 was just fine with me.

Once the cupcakes were done I let them cool and began working on the lavender icing. The process was reminiscent of the tea-infused milk I made for these chai-tea mini cupcakes. Instead of using black tea with the milk, this time I used the lavender. I will say the smell was lovely. While the milk steeped I decided to prepare the sugared flowers. I debated not making them at all, but decided I wanted at least one cupcake to have flowers on it if for nothing more than just to take a pretty picture. I have no idea if the flowers I chose were edible, but it didn't matter because I wasn't eating them and neither was anyone else. This was simply for visual effect. I also wasn't going to go out and buy flowers just to pluck them, coat them in egg white wash and sprinkle them with sugar. Luckily spring has sprung and so have some of the flowering plants that make up our landscaping, in particular, Myrtle. Myrtle is a lovely little ground covering plant that grows nicely in the shade and in the spring time it has lovely little purple flowers on it. Perfect! I went out in the rain and picked a couple blossoms that would become my garnish. I brushed them in the egg white-water mixture, sprinkled them with sugar and let them set. One of them came out good enough to use.

While the flowers were setting I went back to the lavender icing. I strained it through a fine sieve, whisked in the confectioner's sugar and then added the violet food coloring. I wasn't sure how much food coloring I should use and the color came out a little darker than lavender, I would call it more of a lilac. They're both light purple when you get down to it. With the icing complete I spooned it over each of the cupcakes and let them set for an hour.

The moment of truth... the taste test. I knew I would like the actual cupcake portion because it was a brownie. I've never met a brownie I didn't like. Even one that had nuts in it and I'm not a big fan of nuts in my brownies, or my cookies for that matter, but, this isn't new information. I tasted the icing by itself and it wasn't terrible, it just tasted like confectioner's sugar with a hint of lavender. I don't really know how to explain it but lavender tastes like it smells. Sounds crazy I'm sure, but it makes sense in my brain. Paired with the cupcake I just couldn't get past the lavender and the taste of soap. I think because my mind associates lavender with soap, lotion or some sort of cleaning product that's automatically what I taste even when eating a brownie with lavender icing. I think if I could train my brain to think of it differently I would have enjoyed them more. But, no matter how many bites I took, I just kept coming back to soap. And if I decide to eat any more of these cupcakes myself I will be scraping as much of the icing off that I possibly can. No point in wasting perfectly good brownies.