Monday, April 5, 2010

Case Study 58: "The Pure and Simple Chocolate"

"We are stardust
We are golden
And we've got to get ourselves
Back to the garden."
-Joni Mitchell 

Have you ever had the feeling that you were supposed to be somewhere in an other place or decade?  There are people who identify with the 40s, and others who are stuck in the 80s, but as for me, I'm pretty sure I was supposed to be at Woodstock.

Though I first experienced this quasi déjà vu in college, the roots were there from the start.  I took in my first Crosby, Stills and Nash concert from a great lawn at age 11 and any Judy Collins sightings at the grocery store were followed up with dusting off her old 45s.  As summers faded into fall, the Neil Young Harvest tape came into heavy rotation, along with my father's story about sleeping on the steps of the Fillmore East after the Santana concert in 69'.  Some Soul Sacrifice it was.  I suffered through heartache to Joni Mitchell's Blue, and roared the sheer poetry of "Baba O'Riley" into the Connecticut woods, eyes closed and windows down as I sped through the windy backstreets of my own teenage wasteland.   

"The Pure and Simple Chocolate" is just that: pure chocolate and comprised of one hell of a simple two cupcake recipe.  Lacking excess and complexity, yet flavorful and rich, it's topped with an basic creamy chocolate buttercream. 

At 20 I studied at the University of Bologna and experienced a whole new type of political and impassioned youth - one that didn't even come close to existing during the Bush/Kerry elections on my Ivy League campus the year before.  The Italian students had gone on strike, drunk with what they truly believed were their rights, and classes were canceled for over a week. Back home, my generation was caught burning in a social media wildfire, overconnected but underconnecting, and seemingly more interested in frat parties and summer internships than protests and walkouts.  That radical distrust and revolutionary thought that pushed our parents to fight for their so-called American dreams seemed to be fading away. But in Bologna, dreadlocked, and with guitars and hash spliffs in hand, the students raided Dante's old classrooms, bathing the afrescoed walls in candlelight, music and graffiti for days. All I could think about was Woodstock.

I came home changed, but it wasn't about the politics, the riots, or facing the threat of a new era at war.  It was a feeling of both loss and gain in one. Loss of the idea that times were once simpler, where a glorious lack of answers and information led to the confrontation and trial of what defined a nation.  And gain of my own sort of personal Woodstock, soul aflame with the notion that in the end we all break down to the same thing - and it's in this leveling organic humanity that we own the right to define ourselves, to be passionate, and make our lives extraordinary.  And of course, to fight to discover that good old American dream. 

"The Pure and Simple Chocolate"
(Makes approximately 2-3 cupcakes)

3 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp cocoa
1 Egg
3 tbsp milk
3 tbsp vegetable oil

1.  Set oven to 375 degrees and line muffin pan with two cupcake liners.  Sift together flour, baking powder, and cocoa.
2.  Lightly beat together egg and vegetable oil.
3.  Mix in sugar.
4.  Fold in flour mixture, alternating with milk until just combined.  Do not overbeat!
5.  Fill muffin pan, and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until cupcakes are springy to the touch.  Let cool completely before frosting.

Easy Chocolate Frosting
(Frosts 2 cupcakes)

1/2 stick butter
1 tbsp cocoa
1-2 cups confectioner sugar
1/8 cup milk

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, or by hand, beat the butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the cocoa.
2. Add 1 cup confectioner’s sugar and mix until combined, mix in half of the milk.
3. Mix in remaining confectioner’s sugar, adding more milk depending on consistency and preference.
4. Frost cupcakes and garnish as desired.

1 comment:

haphazardktmachine said...

I think the impassioned way of being many Italian people have is shaped by the history of conflict and creative energy they always seem to generate.

As for the American Dream, I feel like maybe the growing diversity of people and information has become more difficult to unwrap. We're less polarized or decided even though I think people still have strong beliefs that motivate them to support different movements. I think leadership shapes so much of a movement. The 60s had so many great figures filled with empathy and the ability to communicate their love and beliefs.

Flowers are such beautiful symbols. I'm so happy to see peonies are doing well in Philly. I haven't seen them gush yet down here in VA. Peonies are my absolute fave. I have been working with pansies as garnishes but I'd love to learn more about cooking with other flowers. I've been playing with hibiscus, honeysuckle, and roses in different recipes.

Thank you for another beautiful post!