Friday, April 2, 2010

Learning to Write a Recipe


photos by Anthony Palatta

I'm currently taking a food writing class at NYU taught by chef Corinne Trang.

Our first assignment was to make up our own recipe and write it up. I decided to create what I thought would be a totally original concoction: limoncello cupcakes.

For those of you unfamiliar with limoncello, it's a deliciously sweet and tart after-dinner liquor made from vodka, sugar, and the rinds of Sorrento lemons. The best limoncello comes from the Amalfi Coast in Italy, and with a little perseverance, you can find it at your local liquor store.

As it turned out, there are already a fair number of variations on cupcakes involving limoncello out there. However, I haven't found any yet that do what mine do, which is to include limoncello in all facets of the cupcake: cake, frosting, and filling.

I start with a lemon curd that gets spiked with limoncello. (You can add it during the cooking process, but I found the alcohol upset the delicate balance of the curd.) Then I make cupcakes (with limoncello in the batter), hollow them out, and fill them with curd. Finally, I frost the cakes with a limoncello-flavored cream cheese frosting, then drizzle more limoncello curd on top for color. A few yellow sanding sprinkles don't hurt either.

When I submitted my first draft of the recipe to my class to workshop, a few of my fellow students had panicked looks on their faces. My recipe had about 22 ingredients and 11 steps, which I learned was far too daunting. After reducing the number of ingredients, combining some steps, and separating my curd recipe from the main recipe (it's now added on as a "bonus"), I managed to reduce some of the shock factor.

As for the cupcakes themselves, I got rave reviews for my taste testers, but I'm going to tweak the recipe further before publishing it. Lemon freak that I am, I want to amp up the lemony-ness of my cake. In the meantime, here's a sneak peek at how the first ones came out.

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