Happy Wednesday. Here in Washington, it’s gray and rainy: an ideal day for making macaroni and cheese, the most perfect comfort food of all. And I call it that after having spent the past two months making mac and cheese in every known permutation — and some unknown ones — for day’s mac and cheese extravaganza. Clip-n-save the Mac-and-cheese-o-matic chart, and you’ll never need another mac recipe again.
Also in Food, Tim Carman explains the hidden charms of West African cuisine, and Bonnie Benwick introduces you to Audrey Scagnelli, a George Washington University sophomore who has just started an online food magazine for college students.
The weather being what it is, I probably won’t even have to try to tempt you to tune in to today’s Free Range Chat. Why leave your home or cubicle? We can promise an entertaining hour of give-and-take. It will end with giving, when we award our customary book prizes to the two chatters whose questions or comments most strike our fancy.
See you at noon. Meanwhile, here’s a leftover question we couldn’t get to in a previous chat:
What’s the best way to put a filling into a cupcake? Some recipes say to insert a piping bag tip directly into the cupcake; others say to cut out an opening and then squeeze in the filling. I find that some ingredients, such as Nutella or dulce de leche, are difficult to get into the cupcake. I’m looking for the best method.
What I do — and we’re all convinced that what we do is the best method, right? — is to vary the strategy based on the consistency of the filling.
I think the quickest and easiest technique is to grab a piping bag with a round tip, stick it into the middle of the cupcake and start squeezing. But the thing is, that works best when the filling is thin and a little runny, like, say, fruit preserves. And you can never seem to get a whole lot in there.
For most thicker fillings, such as the Nutella you mentioned, the way to go is with what some people call the “cone method.” You cut out a cone of cake from the top — wide end up, narrow end somewhere in the middle of your cupcake — and then cut off (or eat off) the bottom of the cone, which will create an empty interior space that will hold the filling. Then you just spoon or pipe in the filling and pop the top back on. Frost as usual.
If it all sounds like too much work, believe it or not, there’s an app for this. A product called Cupcake Genius actually — I am not making this up — includes a rack that you suspend over your cupcake pan. Forms hang down into your cupcake batter, creating a hole in the middle of each cake as it bakes. Then you just spoon your filling into the holes, cover them up with frosting and you’re on your way. Hmph: yet another example of a piece of kitchenware that appears to be pretty much unnecessary. Still, it amazes me how some entrepreneurs are able to see a need and fill it. No pun intended