Barberry Hazelnut Cupcakes
Sometimes I think writing a food blog is pointless. It is like trying to heat your room while your window is open wide. In case of the blog it is not the energy that is lost, but taste, smell, and so much more.
You cannot hand over a cupcake and let people smell and taste it. Instead, you have to describe the smell, the taste, the feeling of the food in your mouth.
And in my case, you have to do all of these things in a foreign language, where you have to deal with your own limited vocabulary.
Considering all of this, I’d rather hand you a cupcake through the screen than having to deal with the difficult task of describing a new flavour combination.
Yes, how to describe a new flavour combination? How to describe food that is familiar to you but not to anyone else? These are some of the questions I ask myself every time I write a blog entry.
I think I am not always successful at characterizing the food I make. Sometimes I am too lazy to think about a good text, after all the time I already spent in the kitchen. Sometimes I think my words are not very accurate. Sometimes it just seems all too difficult wo write down what I tasted and smelled.
When I made these cupcakes yesterday evening, again one of the first questions which came to my mind wasn’t “which recipe to use?” but “how to describe these?”.
Because when it comes to taste, smell, and texture, these cupcakes have quite a story to tell. When they were in the oven, there was this typical, very pleasant and complex smell of the plum brandy, I used for soaking the dried barberries. That smell was mixed with a bit of cinnamon and hazelnuts. After 23 minutes I took the cakes out of the oven and could feel their crispy top. It felt exactly like a cookie made with many egg whites, crunchy and airy. One bite and I realized how soft, delicate, and moist they where on the inside. The barberries had become plump and had soaked up every bit of the slivovice flavour but their own character was very present as well. The sour berries contrasted with the sweet cake. But in a good way, like a perfect balance. And then there was the hazelnut and cinnamon combination which brought the cupcakes back to the ground.
This was the best I could do to describe these cupcakes. If you don’t know what I am talking about, come over and I’ll share one with you. Then the only word that is necessary will probably be “yum!”.
Barberry Hazelnut Cupcakes (makes 12-14)
50 g (1/2 cup) dried barberries
1/4 cup slivovice (other fruit brandy is a great substitute, rum or juices will be fine too)
180 ml (3/4 cup) soy milk
2 tablespoons ground flax seed
110 g (1/2 cup) vegan margarine
150 g (3/4 cup) sugar
1 envelope bourbon vanilla sugar (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
120 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
40 g (1/2 cup) toasted ground hazelnuts
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
In a small bowl, combine barberries and slivovice and soak for an hour.
Preheat oven to 350°C. Line muffin tins with paper liners.
In a bowl, combine soy milk and flax. Set aside. In a second bowl, beat together margarine and sugar with a hand-held mixer, until light and fluffy. Add soy milk mixture and combine. Beat until no lumps are left. Add vanilla sugar (or extract), flour, cornstarch, hazelnuts, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder. Mix until combined. Add barberry mixture and mix again. Be careful not to overmix.
Pour batter into prepared muffin tins. For larger cupcakes, use 12 tins, for smaller ones, use 14. Bake for 20-23 minutes. Remove from heat and let coll in the pans for five minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.
If you cannot find barberries, dried cranberries will probably make a great substitute.
I didn’t feel like making a frosting for these. Instead I melted 70 g (2.6 oz) dark chocolate and drizzled it over the cupcakes. Then I sprinkled some barberries on top.