We’ve not spoken since December, and I sincerely apologize for that. Emails flooded my inbox daily for the past couple months, asking if I was well, and if another post would be seen on this site. My answer the entire time was always, “Yes, I promise! Soon.”
The time has come that I pull up the venetian blinds, and let life, no matter how grey and rainy at times (figuratively and literally), back in. For the past couple months, I’ve been working behind the scenes, but I’ll get to that in a minute. And the work, I assure you has not been grey. It’s made life a little clearer for me. It’s made me learn more about who I am, where I want life to take me, and it’s taught me that at times, something’s got to give.
I’ve learned that in order for me to get anything done, I need a large legal pad filled with thin yellow pages and thick lines, which are suitable for only fitting ten or so tasks to list under “To-Do!” I guess I’m old-fashioned in the sense that I need to have my tasks at hand,literally in front of me. On paper. If it’s on the computer, things don’t end up working out very smoothly. Now, I know, this is coming from a 19-year-old– one who you’d suspect is constantly texting, watching television, and socializing on the telephone until two o’ clock in the morning. I am the worst when it comes to texting, as a matter of fact, my mother can send a text message faster than I. If you’ve ever gotten a text message from me, you’ll know that I am not educated when it comes to texting lingo. “FTW?! What is that supposed to mean?” I’ll admit, I still feel uncomfortable writing “FTW”, as I’m sure, knowing my luck, I’d type it into my phone incorrectly. As for watching television and socializing on the telephone until two-in-the-morning? Well, I’d much rather get in a couple hours more sleep, to be completely honest.
I’ve also learned that the longer I put something off, the tougher it is to begin. Like this post, for instance. After over two months of not posting, and realizing that enough was enough, the other night, I felt like I had to make up for that lost time. And I’m not sure if I will with a single post (if I have managed to do so, I thank you for thinking so). With each post on the site, I found that I was slowly pulling myself back, and it’s scary to say such a thing, but that was the case until I sat down to write this post. I pulled myself back, for the fear that I’ll have nothing left to write about, or that my photos or my prose will be nothing as great as my last one. But a friend reminded me that I started this blog for myself, and that I must continue to write for myself- whenever I have time to write. It seems sort of selfish to think that way, but I think putting myself in that mindset is the only way that I’ll be able to share more with you. She also reminded me that “Good writing comes from living.” So, I will do just that– live.
A regular schedule of posting would be nice for all of us, and I assure, you, with all my might and will-power, I will try to do just that. So, without biting-off more than I can chew, let’s start off with once a week, shall we? And if I have more time and more to share, there might be a couple posts a week. I feel that putting it in writing makes it more solid, and sharing it with friends almost forces me to stick with it (“Force” isn’t quite the word… I’m leaning more toward “encourage”, but I’m sure you get my drift).
I’m sure you’ve been wondering about the work I’ve been doing behind the scenes. So, as you may have noticed, the site did go “under the knife”. There weren’t many physical changes, other than- larger photos, a larger sidebar, and a new color theme. There were some additions which include: a Visual Recipe Index (of which, I’m still creating more pages of, so do click around in the meantime), Ask Kamran! Which will be a regular feature as of next week. It’ll be a feature where I, Kamran, address any of your cooking, baking, and food-related questions that are sent from this page. Now, because it’s be nearly impossible for me to post the answer to every question on the site, I’ll be featuring one or two at a time, but things might change. I’ve yet to figure out how I want Ask Kamran! to operate, but between now and next week, things will be working whether or not I have a decent operating plan. In addition to on-site things, I’ve created a Flickr Group dedicated to housing your photos of the recipes you’ve tried from the site, so please be sure to join the group and upload your photos– I’d absolutely love to see your beautiful photos and wonderful takes on the recipes from my little home on the web! :)
In addition to coding and re-working the site layout, I’ve been baking more than ever. Now, the site clearly doesn’t show that, but I assure you, I have. If you remember the news in this post, I have more exciting news to share with you. I hate dancing around the topic at hand, and I’ve a very bad tendency to do so, as being the center of attention just isn’t my thing. I’d much rather be giving others attention, than receiving all of it.
The publishing company I was developing a proposal with a while back? It was Chronicle Books in California. You might have quite a few of their books on your bookshelves or in your kitchen, in fact (Among a few: Plenty, Tartine, Tartine Bread, Ruhlman’s Twenty, Sky High, and Flour).
We’re calling the book Hand Made. As time draws closer to publication, of course there will be so much more information about the book to share with you, but for now, I know this much: there will be chocolate, and with each post, there’ll definitely be talk of Hand Made.
Speaking of chocolate, as you’ve probably noticed, I made us chocolate cupcakes in honor of all of this news, and because I wanted to make it up to you, my dear readers.
The recipe is as difficult as putting a boxed cake mix together. It all starts off with a scant cupful of all-purpose flour, a cup of sugar, a kiss of cocoa, a touch of baking soda and baking powder, and some sea salt in a large mixing bowl. The dry mixture is whisked together, just until the cocoa turns the pale ingredients into a milk chocolate tan. After that, vanilla extract, an egg, some sour cream, vegetable oil, and a bit of boiling water are stirred in until just combined. The watery chocolate mixture is spooned into a paper-lined muffin tin, and is then baked for about 17 minutes. In that time, the liquid chocolate concoction transforms into tender, moist-crumbed mini cakes.
Once baked, the mini cakes are left to sit in the tin, until the tin is cool to the touch, then they’re transferred to cooling racks while the frosting is made.
The frosting is as scarcely difficult as the cake- it requires a mound of cocoa and a small puddle of melted butter to be combined in a bowl with a couple heaping cupfuls of powdered sugar, some milk, and a scant teaspoon of vanilla extract. The mixture is mixed until smooth and spreadable.
Once the cupcakes have been completely cooled, the dulcet dark earth-colored frosting is generously spread onto each cupcake. Once finished, each cupcake is adorned with fairy dust, in the form of dark chocolate shavings.
And there you have it! Hand Made by Kamran Siddiqi. Chocolate Cupcakes. Yes.
Chocolate Cupcakes Recipe
Makes About 16
Adapted from this recipe
These cupcakes are as difficult as putting a boxed cake mix together. Because I find every excuse possible to not dirty another bowl or spoon when baking, I’m happy to say that this recipe doesn’t require much to be dirtied. It’s a one-bowl recipe that can be made, simply, with a bowl and a spoon / silicone spatula. It can also be made using a stand mixer (which in this case, I find to be a bit more work), or a food processor.
If you do plan to make this recipe at the last minute, and you don’t have time to bring an egg and the sour cream to room temperature simply do this for the egg. As for the sour cream, running it in the microwave for 15 seconds or so should do the trick.
The recipe calls for sunflower oil, but you can easily use any neutral tasting oil (Such as: Safflower, Corn, Canola, Vegetable…)
When filling the cupcake liners, be sure to fill them up with no more than 3 level tablespoons of batter, as this batter is quite runny, and doesn’t dome over when it rises like a muffin would, instead it spreads out, and if there’s too much batter in one of the cups, the batter will spill-over the liner and onto the pan. I have gotten away with making 12 cupcakes instead of 16 cupcakes with this recipe, but a few cupcakes did manage to spill-over, and I couldn’t have that happen to you! I prefer to use a 1.5 ounce ice cream scoop for this task, as I know that each cup will be filled with the same amount of batter, and that all of the cakes will cook at the same time.
Do note that the frosting recipe provided can easily frost all 16 cupcakes, however, if you’d prefer to have tall “hats” of chocolate frosting on each of your cupcakes, as pictured in this post, 1 ½-ing the recipe will be necessary.
For the cake:
1 cup / 200 grams granulated white sugar
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons / 105 grams all-purpose flour
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons / 30 grams unsweetened cocoa powder (natural, non-dutched), sifted
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg, room temperature (read this)
½ cup (4.25 oz) /120 grams sour cream, room temperature
¼ cup / 45 grams sunflower oil (refer to headnotes for alternatives)
1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
½ cup/ 120mL boiling water.
For the frosting:
6 tablespoons / 85 grams unsalted butter, melted
½ cup / 40 grams unsweetened cocoa powder (natural, non-dutched)
¼ cup / 60mL milk
2 ¼ cups / 225 grams powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
¾ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon golden syrup / light corn syrup
Make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350ºF/ 180ºC / Gas Mark 4. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.
Now, in a large heatproof mixing bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, all-purpose flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Crack in the egg, spoon in the sour cream, and pour in the oil and the vanilla. Mix with a wooden spoon or silicon spatula (which I prefer) just until smooth and combined. Pour in the boiling water, and slowly mix starting from the center working your way out (this makes it easier to mix without the splattering.). The batter will be liquidy, but fear not, this is normal.
Divide the batter evenly among the lined cups, using a spatula to help you scrape the bowl, filling each lined cup with 3 tablespoons of batter, about halfway full. (Kamran Note: I use a 1 ½ ounce ice cream scoop for this, which makes things a little easier when it comes to filling).
Bake for 15-19 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through, until a cake tester or a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of each cupcake comes out clean.
Transfer cupcakes in pans to wire racks for about 10-minutes until the tins are cool to the touch. Once the tins are cool, remove the cupcakes from the pans, and transfer to the wire racks. Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting.
Make the frosting and frost the cupcakes:
In a large bowl (or in a stand mixer), combine the melted butter and cocoa powder powder until smooth. Now, alternately mix in the milk and powdered sugar, beating (on medium speed) to spreading consistency. Add another tablespoon or so of milk, if necessary. Mix in vanilla and golden syrup / light corn syrup.
Frost the cupcakes using a small offset spatula or non-serrated butter knife, making sure to frost to the very edges (doing this is not only an excuse to have more frosting on your cupcakes–yum!, but it also helps keep the cupcakes moist), and adorn with chocolate shavings or other edible decorations of your liking.
Note on frosting the cupcakes: To frost the cupcakes, I used a small off-set spatula (can use a butter knife without a serrated edge, as pictured above) at an angle to spread the frosting smoothly around the cake. Then, I used a cake spatula to create the indent in the center. Turn 360º one way, and turn 180º in the opposite direction; lift the spatula, and that’s it. Shave some dark chocolate on top using a vegetable peeler (or you can use a microplane or one of those manual cheese graters that they use at Italian restaurants to grate parmesan), and you’re done.