Exams are over!! I can now go places without my ziploc bag full of pencils, highlighters, earplugs, and anti-nausea medication! The time for mulling over cases and statutes is past; now is the time for mulling wine.
(It’s OK to be jealous of my festive holiday cardigan.)
After a few weeks of no-nonsense studying, we gathered at my lovely friend Ingrid’s house for baking, festive sweater-wearing, caroling, and general nonsense. It was wonderful.
If you’re curious about this wine-mulling thing, here’s what I did: pour two bottles of something red (and cheap) into a big pot. Add 1/2 c. brandy (or more…who wants to measure anyway?) and about 8 cinnamon sticks. Then, get yourself several long strips of orange peel, like so….
…and stick whole cloves through the peel. This prevents people finding whole cloves floating in their wine later.
Then bring everything to just a simmer and let it steep for awhile. This same process is also good with cider–I’ve done that in my crockpot before. What you do with the remaining orange and whole cloves is up to you:
In keeping with the happy holiday theme, today’s featured recipe is for gingerbread cupcakes. Full disclosure: I have made this recipe 3 times in 4 days. They were supposed to be for a lady who purchased the golden opportunity to have me deliver monthly baked goods to her throughout the year at a charity auction, and the first time I made them they were OK, but a tiny bit dry. I felt it would be just plain wrong to give sub-par cupcakes to a paying customer. (Actually, I don’t know who I WOULD serve sub-par cupcakes to. Maybe the Taliban.) I made some adjustments, and on the second try they were so good I was kind of sad to give them away. So, this morning I made them again for the family, and I think I have finally made up for my baking deficit over the last few weeks.
Gingerbread Cupcakes (makes approximately 15)
- 1 1/2 c. flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp. cloves
- 1/8 tsp. allspice
- 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/4 c. water
- 1/2 c. packed brown sugar (OR you could do what I did this morning: 1/4 c. brown sugar and 1/4 c. Stevia–it’s all-natural no-calorie sweetener. If you use Stevia, the cupcakes will be flatter, so increase your baking soda a bit to give them a little more lift.)
- 1/2 c. unsulphured molasses (not blackstrap, and not the “mild flavor” kind either–that’s for pansies)
- 3 eggs
- 1/3 c. pumpkin puree
- 1/3 c. fresh ginger root, minced fine
Preheat your oven to 350, and get your pans with cupcake liners ready to go. (I like the foil ones, for purely aesthetic reasons.) Mix the flour, baking soda, and dry spices in a small bowl. Melt the butter with the water in a small sauce pan or in the microwave, and allow to cool slightly. With an electric mixer, mix the molasses and brown sugar (or brown sugar and Stevia) until smooth. Then add the eggs one at a time, beating for about 30 seconds after each one. Add the dry ingredients and the melted butter + water, and mix until just combined. Fold in the minced fresh ginger. Spoon the batter into the liners (about 2/3 full) and bake for 17 minutes exactly. (OK, 15-20. Mine took 17. Just keep an eye on them and when a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean, they’re done.)
I’m going to leave this morning’s batch unfrosted, so I guess technically they’ll be gingerbread muffins. But I frosted the batch I gave away with cream cheese frosting. Set out 8 ounces of cream cheese and one stick of butter until they come to room temperature, and then cream them together with an electric mixer. Then use the mixer to incorporate a teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1 cup of confectioner’s sugar. I like my frosting to be less sweet than in most recipes, so taste and add more sugar if you want.
And for God’s sake, don’t forget the sprinkles. No cupcake is complete without them!