Saturday, April 3, 2010

Rainy Day Baking with Kids!

butternut squash cupcakes • coconut cream icing

The sun's brightness is softened by the likes of spring, it hasn't reached the fever pitch of whiteness that you find in the summer. Instead, on days like today, you can start opening your eyes and looking around again to catch a glimpse of colour. The transition into spring and warmth is a cautious quest. With food we are just reaching the end of our root vegetables and heavy soups and delving into lighter fare as the cool weather greens start coming around.

A few days ago was typical cool spring where you can barely move outside without soaking in a mix of sea water, rain and rolling grey clouds. Periodically the mist would recede into fog and we could take our Monster games outside. Much of the day was spent running around inside so to distract the babies I corralled them into the kitchen and enticed them to make butternut squash cupcakes. That is obviously the smartest thing to do for an indoor day with a toddler and a 4 year old but all the craft, game and train distractions had already been exhausted. So, it was time for baking.

My children have always been surrounded by baking and cooking so they are little naturals with a spoon and bowl. I know that more of the indulgent recipes seem to end up here but part of that has to do with my food philosophy. I believe that if you are going to be eating any kind of 'junk food' you ought to make it yourself. Why? No strange chemicals that could potentially cause feet to grow out the top of your head and you are much less likely to eat those sugary/salty snacks if you have to make it yourself. Also, when you bake you start to learn the intricacies of food. Before I really started experimenting with cooking I was tossing around all kinds of fun with baking.

This recipe was inspired by a re-run of Jamie Oliver at Home and a butternut squash that has been kicking around in the potato bin for a bit. I was lazing on the floor and watching the Jamie Oliver show and while I was trying very hard to pay attention it was proving a difficult task. He is incredibly adorable. I was doing my usual dorky kind of bouncy giggle thing I do when something of monumental adorableness is in my vicinity. I am sure I look less than sane at this point. The whole point of this was that he made butternut squash muffins with a light lavender glaze. Since I was working with little direction I decided that I would incorporate a bit of coconut instead of the lavender.

The only picture I have of the finished product was taken by Girly. The morning after making these I got a chance to sleep in (bonus!) and when I woke up the kids (and possibly Mr.) had either licked off the icing or stuck the fingers into the cupcake. This wouldn't normally have been a problem but I didn't take a picture of the attractive version the night before because of crap lighting. I shouldn't say the unadulterated cupcakes were more attractive ... they were the polished version of the much loved and poked cupcakes I found in the morning.

The cake was moist and light but carried a sweet density on the tongue with the sweet subtleness of squash. Coconut milk is thick and creamy but just beneath the velvet liquid is a miniscule dryness that I sense more than feel or taste. The icing captures all the complexities of coconut milk and subtly carries the butternut squash. How it stands, there is only potential with this recipe.

The Recipe:

1/2 butternut squash
1/4 cup butter
one cup coconut milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
256 g gluten free flour (fine white rice, brown rice and soy flour.)
15 g baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

1. Cook diced squash until soft. This should take about 20-25 minutes. When soft, blend until smooth with the coconut milk.

2. Cream butter with sugar and vanilla. Add eggs.

3. Mix together all the dry ingredients.*

4. Alternate flour mix with butternut squash, mix well into the creamed butter.

5. Pour into lined muffin tins and bake at 350º for 2-25 minutes. Keep an eye on them.

6. Once cool spread with coconut icing.

*I always list my flours and baking powder in weight measurements because it is more accurate than using cups. That's the official story. Really it's because I always lose count when mixing my gluten free flours at 1/3 cup at a time and I found estimating as I pour into the one bowl on the scale works. It's really not exact but simple math is not my friend.

The Icing

one tbsp. creamed coconut
2 cups confectioners sugar
coconut milk - just a drizzle, enough to loosen the icing

1. Cream together the creamed coconut and about a teaspoon of the coconut milk. Just start with a little because you don't want copious amounts of icing.

2. Add the icing sugar a little bit at a time and cream together. Don't let it get to thick and dry as you won't be able to spread it on the cake. Conversely, if it's really thin it'll just go everywhere.

Basic icing is really just that: Basic and easy.

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