|Slow-Roasted Strawberry Cupcakes|
The Noodle transition from Minnesota hotdish to Philippine palayok is nearly complete! Our stuff has (mostly) arrived, the dog has grudgingly accepted the small balcony that is now our only outdoor space and I'm getting the hang of my half-sized stove and oven. In the few weeks since moving to Manila, I've been exploring the local foodscape and have already found so much to inspire both my cooking and my blogging. So, with the boxes unpacked and the contents tucked into their proper places, I turn my full attention to reviving Tangled Noodle and eagerly look forward to sharing these inspirations with you.
But first, let's pick up where we left off with Fork in the Road, a series of posts in which I recount the places we've been, recreate the most memorable meals we've enjoyed, and rehabilitate the ones we'd otherwise rather forget. Before our big move to the Far East, Mr. Noodle and I embarked on a tour of the Great American West, where we indulged in local fare, such as Navajo frybread in Flagstaff, Arizona. When twinges of homesickness struck, we found the cure by heading into the sunset, toward the Pacific Ocean and the comforts of a family home...
savory posole at a hidden gem of a restaurant in New Mexico, there is a bowl of microwaveable udon noodles from the Walmart just off a Nebraska interstate highway. For every bed & breakfast suite with a tranquil view of a moonlit Colorado mesa and a serenade of muted calls from wildlife in the distance, there is a ground-floor motel room with curtains tightly drawn against prying eyes and walls too thin to muffle the ecstasy of an amorous couple next door.
I shouldn't complain: after hours spent behind the wheel, staring down an endless ribbon of asphalt while surrounded by the crumpled remains of Goldfish cracker bags and other travel detritus, any hot meal eaten at a standstill and a chance to rest in a horizontal position seem like luxuries. That is, until dawn's early light exposes their inadequacies and magnifies a sudden longing for the comforts of a home that's nearly 2000 miles away. Thank goodness, then, for a home away from home!
|Sunset at Redondo Beach Pier|
I'm Going Back to Cali, Cali, Cali . . .
Better known as my sister's place in Redondo Beach, just south of Los Angeles, it's where my husband and I found rest and relaxation from our roadtrip R&R, immersing ourselves in everyday life in the midst of vacation life. As with past visits, there are no formalities when Mr. Noodle and I knock on L's door - we know where to stow the luggage, where to find the towels and where she keeps the breakfast cereal. Soon enough, we slip comfortably into their regular routine which, for a few days at least, become our own. We join them in cheering on Nephew at his flag football games and share their pride in Niece's graceful form during ice-skating practice. While my husband accompanies his brother-in-law for a workout at the local gym, I tag along with L to the neighborhood grocery, then help put our purchases away in the freezer, fridge and pantry (to be raided later by me in full make-yourself-at-home mode).
Best of all are the boisterous get-togethers at the house when my other sisters join us - baby sister P and her husband (and occasionally, her stepkids), and eldest sib M, who can be counted on to bring abundant good eats, from pizza to sushi, for whatever the occasion. One such recent illustrious event (ahem) was my birthday, which Mr. Noodle and I had already celebrated a few days before in New Mexico. But how could I possibly disappoint my lovely siblings by turning down a small fête in my honor, especially when it involves cupcakes?
The cupcake craze may be on the decline, but true to form, I'm chasing after the bandwagon as it rolls downhill. It's not that I was oblivious to the trend; after all, my meet-up spot of choice in Minneapolis was a bakery/café called Cupcake. Quite frankly, I find paying close to $3 apiece a tough crumb to swallow. But if someone else is treating . . . well, that's a whole 'nother bowl of batter.
|(Photo credit: Rachel Kramer Bussel)|
After months of emails and tweets from M dangling the temptations of LA's famous Sprinkles Cupcakes, she made good on her promise to provide said goodies when Mr. Noodle and I returned to Redondo. True to her word, big sister brought an assorted dozen of the cupcakery's most scrumptious flavors: milk chocolate, strawberry and red velvet. And they certainly lived up to their hyped reputation - the cake was satisfyingly moist and substantial while the thick frosting was sweet without being sugary and so velvety smooth. I could even be persuaded to pry open my purse for more of these treats, if I hadn't found an economic and equally satisfying alternative on hand.
Roadtrip Dinner Redux: Better-Than-Sprinkles Strawberry Cupcakes
My favorite among the aforementioned flavor trio was strawberry, of which I would've ordered a dozen for the road if only Mr. Noodle, spooked by the thought of me, twelve cupcakes and the resultant sugar highs (and lows) in an enclosed vehicle, hadn't nixed the idea. Back in Minnesota, I went into an extended pout upon learning that the closest Sprinkles location was in Chicago, until I came across a recipe for these very same strawberry cupcakes from none other than the company's founder, Candace Nelson.
To tangle a venerable proverb: If Noodle can't go to the cupcake, let the cupcake come to Noodle.
|Decorated by Niece and Nephew|
The icing on this cupcake story is that I had the priceless opportunity to make them at my sister's house with my darling Niece and Nephew at a particularly bittersweet time. Mr. Noodle and I had just packed up all of our worldly goods, sold our dream home and left behind dear family in Minnesota to begin anew in the Philippines. At a time when we were in limbo, without a home to call our own for the time being, I baked these in our home away from home. It was a joy to make them with the most terrific kids in the world and to share them with the people I love best. These are small pleasures, now forever treasured.
Slow Roasted Strawberry Cupcakes
I don't consider it a redux if it isn't just a bit different from the original experience. So, while these cupcakes adhere closely to the recipe shared by Sprinkles' Candace Nelson, they are given an extra intensity of flavor courtesy of Adrienne at Gastroanthropology and her recipe for Slow Roasted Strawberries. The additional time required in Adrienne's process is worth every minute as these simply sweet cupcakes achieve a depth of strawberry-ness that may be lacking from plain fresh or frozen berries. The purée made from the slow-roasted fruit is used in both the cake batter and the icing, but the flavor really shines in the latter. Happily, the frosting recipe yields more than enough for a dozen cupcakes, so lay it on thick or eat it by the spoonful - either way, it's pink-hued bliss!
Slow Roasted Strawberry Purée
For complete ingredients and instructions, please see Adrienne's recipe at Gastroanthropology.
Melted butter and vanilla extract are mixed together, then spread evenly on the bottom of a glass baking dish. Whole hulled strawberries are then tossed with brown sugar and placed cut side down in the dish, to be roasted in a 'low' oven (about 200°F) for several hours until the strawberries, as Adrienne notes, shrivel and 'slump into what looks like a Hershey kiss'. After cooling completely, the roasted strawberries can then be processed in a blender or food processor until achieving a smooth purée.
Strawberry Cupcake and Frosting
For complete ingredients and instructions, please see Candace Nelson's recipe for the cake and the frosting online at Martha Stewart Living.
For the cupcake:
For the frosting:
Unsalted butter and coarse salt are beaten together until light and fluffy. At a lowered mixer speed, confectioner's sugar is gradually added, followed by vanilla extract and roasted strawberry purée (see above); the ingredients are well-blended but not overmixed. According to the original recipe, the frosting should be result in a texture that is 'dense and creamy, like ice cream'.