Sunday, June 26, 2011

Red Velvet

My my, it's been a while.

For the record, I didn't lose steam, or interest, or my camera -- indeed, I got a job. Now I spend 7 hours a day editing and writing at a children's book publisher. My life has changed quite drastically since my last post some three months ago. Instead of reading about Julia Child, I'm reading about Clydesdales. Instead of learning French, I'm learning about box jellyfish. And instead of writing this blog, I'm writing books about weasels, salamanders, and cheetahs. It's a joy, really - but my time in the kitchen has taken a hit.

But today I re-entered the baking realm with purpose and zeal. I would make red velvet cupcakes for the first time, by request of my co-worker who is moving down south for grad school. I'm glad she asked, because I've never given much thought to red velvet cupcakes - I didn't understand the fuss. So I set aside the afternoon to discover the red velvet cupcake for myself. My roommates were opportunely out of the house, and the space was my own. I began.

Red velvet cupcakes are simply mild chocolate cupcakes with red dye. Here I sift cake flour with cocoa and salt.

The food coloring is whisked into the buttermilk before it's added to the mixture. The recipe I used calls for 1 tbsp of dye, but you don't need nearly that much.

I saw a few red velvet recipes that call for vegetable oil, and lots of it. Good for denser cupcakes, but I opted for none at all. A baking soda/vinegar solution is added at the last minute so the cupcakes rise, light and airy.

The minute I was done making the cream cheese frosting, I grabbed a still-warm cupcake and topped it slowly, carefully. I may have been alone in the kitchen with no spectators to judge my artisan craft, but that's no excuse to half-ass a frosting job. We all deserve to eat something beautiful, with or without company.

And it was beautiful. And it tasted beautiful. And now I see the lure of a homemade red velvet cake. There's glamour, lust, and opulence in that halting combination of deep red and creamy white. Red dress with white pearls? White dress with red lipstick? Satin sheets with white pillows?

Or perhaps what you see is a moist red house with cream cheesy shutters.

Will miss you, Ellen.

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