Have you watched this season of Top Chef ? I hope I'm not spoiling it for you by saying how happy I am that Richard Blais won. I think he is so creative and whimsical and such a perfectionist. Some day I will have dinner at one of his restaurants. It was interesting to watch him all season, but especially when it came down to the wire. He constantly questioned himself, or hated his food, or thought he could have done something better. I can commiserate. Are you like that?
You make something absolutely gorgeous and everyone ohs and ahs over it but as you look at it you are picking it apart with your "should have could have would have" ideas. With some things in life I don't think that is a good way to be, but in the food industry when what you are creating is someones meal or dessert I personally think it's a good way to be. Striving for perfection, striving to improve something you've done. Striving to present the absolute best you can create is a good thing. I hope I never loose that desire to strive for excellence. There are times though that no matter how hard we try nothing is going to improve what we produced other than just starting over.
That's what I should have done the other night. I made the Black Beauty Cupcakes from the cookbook Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours. First of all , let me say this an outlandishly excellent cookbook-one that makes you want to eat the pages as you read through. One that makes you want to run home and start baking. If it's not in your library it should be. It's been nominated in 2011 by the James Beard Foundation in the cookbook category. Okay,so returning to the cupcakes. The photo in the cookbook shows them with this lovely indention into which Sarabeth has piped ganache. Nothing in the instructions indicated how she got that indentation so I tweeted her and she graciously tweeted back that to form that little ridge -don't flour the sides-so I didn't. Well my little babies puffed up like hot air balloons in Albuquerque. They were stunningly beautiful when I removed them from the oven but the didn't have the little crater in the center.
Now I should have been happy with their gorgeousness but I was going for a certain look. So I took my 2 1/2 inch ice cream scoop and made my own indentations, by , pressing down on the beautiful pouf that had formed(quelle horreur).. It worked so I was happy , still wondering why it didn't happen naturally though.
I made the ganache and by now it was 715pm. Currently I have a job that requires I rise in the morning at 445am and I was just setting my ganache out to thicken. You know ganache doesn't thicken in 15 minutes so I thought I would hasten the process by popping it in the freezer for a few minutes. Well, I got sidetracked and those few minutes turned into 20 so that by the time I removed the ganache it was like fudge. My choice, let it soften to room temperature or whip it. By this time I was exhausted and wanted to crawl into bed so I opted for the whipping. I should have known-history has taught me not make decisions when I am tired,but I ignored that little baker voice and whipped it anyway. I got my pastry bags and piping tips set up and ready to go . I didn't like the consistency of the whipped ganache-I never have cared for it. But I scooped it into my pastry bag and started to pipe. My piping sucked-and I mean it sucked. I need practice at piping anyway but when tired and working with a product I don't like , well you know , it's all bad vibes going into it. I hate to sound cliche but garbage in garbage out. This is no reflection on Sarabeth's beautiful ganache recipe-it's a huge reflection on my laziness and unwillingness to recognize I should have stopped. When I finish something and my immediate reaction is to lop off the top I should listen to my inner baker voice. I felt like the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland-that voice screaming off with their heads, off with their heads. Did I scrape off the poorly piped whipped ganache,nope, I was too tired. I simply placed some little white pearl sprinkles over it to cover up my transgressions. The good news is everyone at work loved them.
The cupcakes are delicious, moist from the mayonnaise addition and a beautiful dark dark chocolate color-definitely a keeper. The ganache wasn't so bad either-I got more compliments on it than on the cupcakes ! Sometimes we are just way too hard on ourselves-like Richard was-but look what it got him-Top Chef ! And look what it got Sarabeth with her beautiful cookbook. Ahh well, back to the drawing board. These cupcakes with the perfectly piped ganache will definitely be an addition to Taya Parker Pastry, where I will be the pastry chef, but only after much more piping practice ! Don't have Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours yet ? Head over to her blog she has a couple of recipes and wonderful tips and pointers on it. And you can find the recipe for the Black Beauty Cupcakes here-but again buy the book it is absolutely stunning. I'm off to have a tall glass of cold milk with the last cupcake standing ! Bon Appetit.