All-American ribs and cupcakes
Last week I taught the summer's first Teen Culinary Camp, and my ten intrepid teen cooks and I had many adventures. We went to a couple of new locations for field trips, and let's just say that my bus route planning skills left something to be desired. There was a lot of walking, and it was about 98 degrees out every day last week. But the kids were troupers and we had a lot of fun.
One of the things we made was ribs--we brined them and smoked them on the grill--and they turned out great. I don't even like ribs (I firmly believe that the only true form of barbecue is pulled pork), and I liked these. So did the kids:
I have learned that it is important to have a lot of contests during the camps (with prizes, of course), so one activity we're doing this year is a cupcake creation contest. The kids have to come up with a new cupcake/frosting flavor combination (there are rules, including that they can't use a store-bought candy or cookie, so no Snickers buttercream), and the judging (performed heroically by Jill) is based on presentation, flavor, and creativity. Here are two of the creations from the first camp, a mocha cupcake with cherry buttercream and a chocolate cupcake with caramel buttercream and strawberries:
They turned out great, which is a small miracle considering that I had to make up recipes for these flavors on the fly (we did this collaboratively, of course, but given the difference in the amounts of baking experience that the kids and I bring to the project, it's mostly the Socratic method plus some dictatorial commands when they demur). I mean, how do you make cherry buttercream? That's never occurred to me before, and my first instinct would be to use cherry liqueur, but since these are 13-year-olds, we try to lay off the booze. Turns out it works pretty well to puree fresh cherries and cook them down into a jam and then whip that into the buttercream.
The third group decided to do a Rocky Road cupcake, which involved mixing mini-marshmallows into their batter. When they proposed this I was trying to think whether I'd ever seen a cake with marshmallows in it, and I couldn't remember any, but it seemed like a reasonable idea. Um, no. When you put marshmallows in cake batter, they melt in the oven and puff up dramatically, so the cupcakes sort of exploded. They ran out of the cups, glued themselves onto the top of the muffin tin, and never turned solid on the inside. Kind of hard to get out of the tin. But as I told the dismayed kids, buttercream hides a multitude of flaws, and they actually tasted pretty good, so we had three strong contenders for the contest, and ensuring that only took a few months off my life.
Speaking of contests, today I was a celebrity judge for a Fourth of July pie baking contest, which was pretty exciting. We're having a Fifth of July party for the Generous Servings crew tomorrow, since we're open our regular hours today (until 10 pm). If you're around tonight after the fireworks, come on in for a dessert or at least an ice cream sandwich! You can't get more American than an ice cream sandwich. Only in this country would anyone have the idea to take two desserts, cookies and ice cream, mash them together, and then eat them with your hands.