Friday, February 15, 2008

Gracie's cupcakes

I had a little job to make 2 dozen cupcakes for a three-year old's birthday. I used one of Rose Levy Berenbaum's recipes, but I didn't follow it precisely to the letter (and Rose is the queen of preciseness in her recipes). My theory was that if I used unbleached flour instead of the cake flour called for, the batter would be stiffer and result in perfectly domed cupcakes, instead of flat-top ones ... wrong. Rose has a special method for her cakes. Rather than creaming the butter and sugar - because it's difficult for the average cook to tell when the mixture is properly creamed - you mix the dry ingredients, then beat in softened butter and a small portion of the liquids, beat this to develop structure in the cake (gluten) and then add the rest of the liquids. I think what happened is that because my batter was thicker due to the unbleached flour, I did not beat it long enough to develop the gluten, so it didn't rise as high as it could have. Tasted good, though, and I am sure the kids were happy.

It was a busy week, compressed after our skiing mini-break, and I left work on the early side to be here at 4:30 because Gracie's mom was picking up the cupcakes. We were going out for dinner, pre-symphony, at Harvest, and had a 5:30 reservation, to make the symphony at 7:30.

Meanwhile, Al was driving to a retreat at the camp where he works, and got a flat tire - when Gracie's mom showed up, I had the cell phone in one hand and the land line in the other, talking to the auto club to get the tow truck to Al.

But all's well that ends well, I guess - at the restaurant, after we ordered our food, I went to the ladies, and called Al, the tire was all repaired and he was back on the road to Milwaukee.

I started with the Harvest signature martini - pear vodka, cardamom syrup & Cointreau, followed by a beet salad, made of beet cubes, hazelnuts and blue cheese. For my main meal, I had what they called Parisian gnocchi, the little dumplings were softer than the Italian kind, with butternut squash and mushrooms, cooked in ton of butter - the flavors were nice and distinct. The wines mostly came in half bottles; there were only a few kinds by the glass, and I was thinking about getting a glass of champagne, one of the whites by the glass - and I should have stuck with that thought. But the waitress brought the wine list back, and one of the half bottles was a Merryvale Merlot, which I have always liked - so I got it, even though it was just a little bit too much for me to drink at one sitting - I feel it today.

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