Here is yet another experiment, but one that required a little more thought than my last. Research on hibiscus cupcakes has turned up one unhelpful recipe (I feel like adding a cup of tea and cutting the milk does a disservice to the chemistry of the cupcake), and numerous instructions on how to make buttercream hibiscus flowers, which I don’t really care about; I don’t really want to have my cupcakes look like a plastic lei at the neighborhood barbecue.
So, I adapted existing recipes to my needs. I decided going the green tea/matcha route of grinding up the hibiscus flowers wouldn’t be particularly effective, nor would allow the cupcakes to get the rich and ridiculous color that hibiscus can impart. Instead of using granulated sugar, we used a syrup to sweeten the cupcakes. Making syrup sounds, I think, far more involved and fancy than it is.
Fanciness is to be had, after the jump:
Okay, so, syrup is extremely simple to make. No two ways about it, unless, I suppose, you’re looking to make it complicated, in which case: I can’t help you. More particularly: I am far too lazy.
Syrup has a fairly simple formula: 2 parts sugar to 1 part water, or some approximation thereof. For flavored syrups, I like to steep the flavoring thing in the boiling water before adding the sugar.
I’m using proportions borrowed from a recipe that uses agave nectar for sweetening, so I’m basically planning on making about a cup and a half of syrup.
(Also, now is a good time to set out the eggs and butter for the cupcakes)
I have about about 2/3 of a cup of loosely packed dried hibiscus flowers, and I hope that’s enough to make hibiscus-y cupcakes. I bought them at Whole Foods, but you can get them from a local tea shop I am particularly fond of.
Anyhow, we (we being me, and two of my fellow alums, one of whom refers to me as “Cupcake.” I admit that I enjoy being referred to as “Cupcake.”) tossed them in a small saucepan with a cup of water, put it on medium low heat, and stirred occasionally for 10 minutes or so (or until I figured there couldn’t be much more steeping). I strained out the flowers, and poured into the pan (over medium heat, still) in 1 3/4 cups of sugar. This stays on low heat until all the sugar is dissolved, and then it gets to cool.
Hibiscus looks like this, depending on how concentrated the tea is. I’m really fixated on the color of hibiscus tea (yes, Mels, I know hibiscus isn’t really tea, it is a tisane, but I think we’ll both survive me referring to it as tea). I think it’s gorgeous, and I’m certain that at least part of my attraction to these cupcakes is the potential for gorgeous colors.
Onto the actual cupcakes!
3/4 cup butter (I think oil would be better suited, in retrospect. 2/3 cup canola oil)
2 1/2 cup All-Purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups hibiscus syrup
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cup milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
Zest from 3-4 limes for the cupcakes, and the limes juiced and set aside for the glaze. I usually forget to do this until the last minute so I usually try to do it at the beginning of the entire process. In this case, The One Who Calls Me “Cupcake” (I promise that after coffee I’ll come up with better Cupcake Codenames) did the vast majority of the zesting.
Anyhow, first off, preheat the oven to about 375 degrees F, and line the cupcake tins. Also, now is a good time to curdle the milk, so put the milk in a bowl with the apple cider vinegar and stir up a bit so it can curdle properly.
(I forgot my camera’s memory card, which is just tragic, all things considered. Most of these photos are poached from The One Who Does Not Refer To Me As “Cupcake”)
So, now that the butter is soft, it should be cream-able. Which is to say, you should push it around with a wooden spoon in the bowl until it’s creamed and soft. This next part is a little challenging, but you should pour in the hibiscus syrup (as long as it’s cool enough to not melt the butter) and try to mix it evenly.
Once that’s done, mix in the vanilla and eggs, and then the lime zest.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix in the flour/baking powder/salt combination in alternating batches with the curdled milk. In retrospect, I’d say you should also add about a quarter cup of lime juice, because that apparently changes these cupcakes from dull purple to a bright and spectacular pink.
Anyhow, now it’s time to fill the lined cupcake tins about 3/4 of the way full, and pop in the oven for 15-20 minutes, depending on the oddness of your oven. The normal poke-with-toothpick method of checking if the cake is done applies.
The glaze is about 1 and 1/2 cups of powdered sugar with a few tablespoons of lime juice added to make a very thick liquid, and dropped by the spoonful on the top of the cupcakes. The glaze is wonderfully tart and delicious, but could probably do with some butter or margarine to help stabilize it. I think a whipped topping with a little hibiscus syrup on top could be really good as well, but I’m pretty pleased with the results of this experiment.
Hopefully I can poach some pictures from my partners-in-cupcake-crime for these cupcakes (I have, and said partners-in-crime provided the majority of the photos here. Thank you!), and update the post with some more pictures.
(Seriously, though, I think I’m really into the idea of more experimentation with this combination of flavors–I think they’d make for really good summer cupcakes because they’re so light and tart)