Category: anise

Spice up your life!

In just a few short days, February will have arrived. The winter is far from over, of course, but with February comes the new onslaught of holidays: Valentines Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Passover, etc, etc, etc. Before you know it, websites & blogs will be proclaiming “SPRING!” while you look out your window & see 2 feet of snow or frost-covered cars.

Not me, however.

I am fully aware that there’s a lot of winter left to go, and that you need some warming up. As do I. So on this, my last post of January, I present you with the following: spice-infused milk.

It’s a goddamn revelation, I tell you. It’s the easiest thing in the world, and I’m sorry I never thought of it before. It’s genius. Leave it to Martha to come up with something so stupidly simple it makes you feel positively soft in the head for not thinking of it yourself. It’s basically the same concept behind flavored coffee creamers. Duuuuh.

Last week when I went to Mystic, CT, in a little shop called the Franklin General Store I found Dave’s Coffee Syrup. It’s basically an all-natural, preservative free version of Coffee Time syrup. The ingredients are simply cold brewed coffee & cane sugar; no high-fructose corn syrup or coffee flavor. It’s typically used to make “coffee milk”; a Rhode Island tradition, but there’s a tag on the label that encourages you to get creative with it. I bought the regular coffee syrup, Jay got the Madagascar vanilla coffee syrup. I decided that I wanted to use my infused milk with my new coffee syrup… and so I did. But first I tried it with a regular coffee.


SPICE-INFUSED MILK (via Martha Stewart Living, Dec. 2012)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Spices of your choice; i.e. star anise, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, freshly grated ginger, vanilla, cloves, etc (see below for recipe ideas)
  • 16-oz. jar for storage

Directions:

  1. Heat the milk in a medium saucepan with the spices you choose, stirring just once or twice. Heat JUST UNTIL STEAMING.
  2. Cover pan and let the spices steep in the milk for 1 hour.
  3. Strain and reheat if necessary, or refrigerate in a jar (up to 3 days). Reheat gently before serving.

There are tons of ideas & possibilities here, and not just for coffee! For example:

OATMEAL: Infuse 2 cups milk with 3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, 1 cinnamon stick or the pod & seeds of half a vanilla bean. Add to oatmeal.

SWEDISH COFFEE: Steep 18 lightly crushed cardamom pods in 2 cups whole milk, add to coffee. Alternately or in conjunction, you can use 1 cinnamon stick or freshly grated nutmeg.

MEXICAN HOT CHOCOLATE: For a spicy Mexican-inspired cocoa, infuse 2 cups whole milk with 1 or 2 dried chiles (smoky chipotles or anchos), 1 cinnamon stick and the pod & seeds of 1 vanilla bean. Mix with cocoa.

INDIAN: Use 10 cardamom pods, a teaspoon of fennel seeds, 1 star anise petal and 1 cinnamon stick. Use with coffee or cocoa. This is also good over muesli or with oatmeal.

GROWN UP MILK PUNCH: Mix milk with 2 tablespoons caramel, 3 teaspoons maple syrup, half a vanilla bean (scraped), 2 pinches ground cinnamon. Cook as directed, let cool. Once cooled, mix with 2 shots of brandy in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain before serving.

I made Swedish coffee milk, but I added half of a vanilla bean & a cinnamon stick to the cardamom. So maybe that wasn’t really a Swedish coffee, but I don’t care. It was delicious. I highly recommend it. Do whatever you want! Add whatever spices you like! Chiles, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, vanilla bean, Chinese 5-spice, etc. Go nuts.

And of course, what’s a Swedish coffee without a Swedish book?

Chai concentrating.

Pinterest has taken over everyone’s life lately. It seems as if everyone is either making something they found on Pinterest or talking about something they found on Pinterest. And I’m no different. My Pinterest page is filled with amazing things; some of which I’ve made, some of which I’ll never make, and most of which I just gush about. I even wrote about it at textdrivebys.com twice…

This chai concentrate from Tasty Yummies is one of the ones I’ve actually both pinned and made.

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November is doing it’s best to get fully settled in. It’s been very, very cold, and as a matter of fact in addition to hurricane Sandy hammering us last week, tomorrow we’re getting a Nor’easter! Gusty winds, heavy rains and even snow in some places. So it’s time for warm drinks & spicy flavors. Hot cider, hot chocolate, hot tea. One chilly Sunday I was browsing Pinterest, looking at things I had been pinning for something interesting to create, and I noticed this chai concentrate that I had pinned way back in August. As soon as I saw the stunning photo of it in a Mason jar (how could I turn away!?) I pinned it. I’m not a massive chai person, but I do enjoy it every now & then. And it’s worth it to me to try a homemade version because I really never buy it when I’m out. I usually prefer a coffee. So when I do have chai, it’s at home. And I love some pre-made brands, and some tea companies versions of it. But sometimes it’s just not the same.

The history of chai is quite a rich one, despite most people only knowing it from it’s existence in lattes at Starbucks.

Masala chai (literally “mixed-spice tea”) is a beverage from India made by brewing tea with a mixture of aromatic Indian spices and herbs.

Plain chai

By itself, chai or cha is merely the generic word for “tea” in many European and Asian languages. The widespread form chai comes from Persian چای chay. Street vendors called “chai wallahs” (sometimes spelled “chaiwalas”) are a common sight, although coffee is a more popular beverage in some southern parts of India. Chai is also a popular item in restaurants known as Irani cafés or the genre of South Asian restaurants known as Chai Khanas or Ghahve Khane.

Spiced tea

For many English speakers, the term “chai” is synonymous with masala chai, as further described below. The redundant chai tea is sometimes used to indicate spiced milk tea as distinct from other types of tea. Numerous coffee houses use the term chai latte for their version to indicate that the steamed milk of a normal latte is being flavored with a spiced tea concentrate instead of with espresso, without necessarily implying the addition of coffee. Some coffeehouses and brand names refer to their product as chai tea latte.

The beverage is locally known as Chai karak in the Middle East.

And might I add… DELICIOUS. And this homemade concentrate is also easy. Cheap, too. But at the same time it’s quick- it takes no time at all, and it makes your house smell absolutely amazing. The smell alone is worth it! Just like the homemade pumpkin spice latte mix I posted about last month, if you’re a chai lover who buys a lot of chai lattes, this could totally save you some money.

HOMEMADE CHAI CONCENTRATE (adapted minimally from Tasty Yummies)

Yields: 1 batch of concentrate, approximately 4 cups

Ingredients:

  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 8 bags black tea – I used PG tips
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 1 1/3 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 whole star anise pods
  • 1/2 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Directions:

  1. Add the water and sugar to a medium sized saucepan and bring to a boil over a medium-high heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and put in the tea bags, cheesecloth pouch and cinnamon sticks. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat strain the concentrate through a sieve, separating the large pieces (tea begs/cinnamon sticks/cardamom pods/anise/cloves/etc) from the mix. At this point, add your vanilla extract & honey. Stir to combine.
  3. Allow the mixture to cool before pouring it into an airtight jar or container. This amount fits perfectly into a 1-quart mason jar. Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

To use it, mix one part concentrate with one part milk or milk-like product of your choice. Heat the concentrate for a hot version, pour over ice for a cold version.

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I used ground cardamom & ground ginger, I had fresh ginger but it was frozen & I didn’t feel like defrosting it so I could cut it (it’s a pretty large hunk, and yes I freeze my extra ginger). I didn’t have any cardamom pods but I had a large jar of it ground, so I opted to substitute that. Also, the original recipe called for a whole vanilla bean, coconut sugar & raw honey- I only had regular sugar, brown sugar, a small amount of German rock sugar (for my tea) & sugar cubes myself, so I made an executive decision. If you want to use another kind of sugar, go right ahead, but you might want to read what she says her results were first. My honey wasn’t raw either, but I don’t think that makes much of a difference taste-wise. All of my vanilla beans were being made into homemade vanilla extract at the time, so I had to use some vanilla extract instead. If you like a spicier chai, add more peppercorns. If you like a sweeter chai, add more sugar. Likewise… if you prefer a less sweet chai then just use less sugar/honey. What you use in it is totally up to you. And as a matter of fact, this mix makes a nice hostess gift, too. Tie some raffia around the top with some cinnamon sticks & handwritten instructions, and you’re good to go. And if you know someone who was in the path of Hurricane Sandy who has no power but still has a gas stove to heat it up with, maybe bring them some, along with some food.

As for me? I’ll be drinking some later tonight watching the 2012 Presidential election returns. Make sure you registered U.S. voters get out there today & do your duty! It’s a privilege to be able to push that little lever or fill in that circle on paper, so get your lazy, apathetic asses out there. And to everyone who already voted; good for you. It’s not even 8 a.m. & you’ve already made more of a difference than most people will all day. And if you’re one of those people affected by Sandy, you can still vote. Download a mail-in ballot or call your local elected officials to find out where to go to vote in New Jersey, or if you’re in NY you can click here & find out where to go (and in turn pass it on!). I know you’re all dealing with so many other things, but voting is going to continue; no matter what election day will not be suspended. And it’s so important to get your vote in. So please, try and get as many folks as you can to the polls today.

And if you remain unaffected, if you’re safe, warm & dry today, and you know where you’ll be voting & that you’ll be coming home afterwards… then especially be thankful for that.

;;

Dia de los Muertos/Noche de Altares.

I hope your Halloween was awesome! Mine was pretty good- tons of treats (& maybe some tricks). I was pretty bummed that I didn’t get a lot of trick-or-treaters, but what can ya do. I guess times are changing.

Each year, this particular time of the season is my favorite. I love fall weather, when it’s cool but not too cold yet (well, usually, this year we had snow before Halloween), the leaves are changing (again, usually, not so much this year), and of course Halloween & Dia de Los Muertos. The Mexican Day of the Dead has always been a holiday I’ve appreciated. The concept of it is one I think more Americans should embrace.

Dia de los Muertos is a traditional Meso-American holiday dedicated to the ancestors; it honors both death and the cycle of life. In Mexico, neighbors gather in local cemeteries to share food, music, and fun with their extended community, both living and departed. The celebration acknowledges that we still have a relationship with our ancestors and loved ones that have passed away.

- source

This year it especially hits home for me. Halloween marked the beginning of a long season of “first holidays” without my grandmother. My grandmother loved Halloween, as did her mother before her. And ever since I was a child, my Nana told me about All Saints’ Day/All Souls’ Day. She told me about all the superstitions her Irish grandmother & mother told her as a child. And those two holidays have a big tie-in with Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). The main difference being the Irish are very melancholy, sad and superstitious about it, whereas the Mexican view is much more celebratory: celebrating the dead AND the living, and reflecting but not being regretful. I love that! I’m not religious, not particularly spiritual, yet I find this to be a wonderful “holiday” that most Americans get totally wrong but could really, genuinely learn from. I also love the tradition of going to the cemetery & cleaning up & sprucing up the graves, decorating them & making them beautiful. Too many Americans forget about their deceased ancestors remains, and don’t bother to ever “visit” them… and trust me, the “Perpetual Care” you pay for ain’t so perpetual. Not only that, but opening yourself up to another culture & it’s traditions is so amazing. You learn so much, & not just about yourself.

Anyway, one of the most famous images of the Day of the Dead, aside from the sugar skull, is the Catrina, or the female skeleton. Popularized in 1913 by José Guadalupe Posada in a print/zinc etching he created of a figure he called La Calavera de la Catrinas or La Calavera Catrina.

© José Guadalupe Posada

On that same note, one of my favorite artists, Sylvia Ji, paints a lot of Catrina-themed women. I just adore her work and I think they’re so beautiful. The Catrina or Calavera is another aspect of Dia de los Muertos that makes me love it. I’m so inspired by these, as well as the imagery of Dia de los Muertos.

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Last year I made tres leches coconut cupcakes for Dia de los Muertos with little hand-painted sugar skulls. I still think they were completely amazing & adorable… but I didn’t want to repeat the same thing this year; I hate reruns. I wanted to do something a bit different. My friend Xenia asked me for my grandmother’s photo to add to her altar which was chosen for Noche de Altares (A Night of Altars), an event in Santa Ana that takes place tomorrow, November 5th. I was flattered that she would think of me… but also it gave me the bug. So I thought it was a great idea to make my own! It was a very small & simple one, but I think it served the purpose. I used the traditional marigolds, but some chrysanthemums too. So here are some pictures of my altar, and once the event is over I’ll add the pictures of Xenia’s as well, or a link to her post about it.

It’s just a small, simple altar, but I think it’s beautiful. Represented in the altar: my grandmother Agnes & grandfather Clarence, my great-great-grandmother Winifred Mackin, her daughter Mary & husband Thomas Rooney, my other great-great-grandmother Frances Hebrank & her husband Henry Sonnanburg, my great-uncle Pat, my great-aunt Winnie & her husband Sam Prybuski, my uncle Kenny, my great-aunt Eleanor Sonnanburg & her husband Frank Rooney, and my great-uncle Jack Sonnanburg; all deceased. I think it’s a gorgeous tribute. So in addition to creating my own altar this year, I also made Pan de Muerto. My grandma loved my baking, and my uncle Pat couldn’t eat a lot of sugar or carbs, being a diabetic, so as my offering to them this Day of the Dead, I thought this was appropriate on so many levels. Plus, it’s a day for celebrating life too, and what’s more celebratory than baking delicious bread & enjoying it!?

PAN DE MUERTO (BREAD OF THE DEAD) (from Look What We Brought You From Mexico! by Phyllis Shalant)

Makes 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup milk
  • ¼ cup (half a stick) margarine or butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup very warm water
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, unsifted
  • ½ teaspoon anise seed
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

Directions:

  1. Bring milk to boil and remove from heat. Stir in margarine or butter, ¼ cup sugar and salt.
  2. In large bowl, mix yeast with warm water until dissolved and let stand 5 minutes. Add the milk mixture.
  3. Separate the yolk and white of one egg. Add the yolk to the yeast mixture, but save the white for later. Now add flour to the yeast and second egg. Blend well until dough ball is formed.
  4. Flour a pastry board or work surface very well and place the dough in center. Knead until smooth. Return to large bowl and cover with dish towel. Let rise in warm place for 90 minutes. Meanwhile, grease a baking sheet and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  5. Knead dough again on floured surface. Now divide the dough into fourths and set one fourth aside. Roll the remaining 3 pieces into “ropes.”
  6. On greased baking sheet, pinch 3 rope ends together and braid. Finish by pinching ends together on opposite side. Divide the remaining dough in half and form 2 “bones.” Cross and lay them atop braided loaf.
  7. Cover bread with dish towel and let rise for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix anise seed, cinnamon and 2 teaspoons sugar together. In another bowl, beat egg white lightly.
  8. When 30 minutes are up, brush top of bread with egg white and sprinkle with sugar mixture, except on cross bones. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

I made mine a bit differently. I used about a ½ teaspoon anise extract in the actual dough, seeing as how I had no anise seed. I used 100% butter, not margarine. Also, obviously, I made my bread in a round shape and covered it with a rough-shaped cut-out dough skull & crossbones. Of course, as the bread bakes & rises the shapes don’t exactly stay together but I think that adds to it. You can also paint the dough or color parts of it using food coloring. The anise didn’t make it overwhelmingly “licorice-y” at all, so don’t be afraid to do it. It actually was so subtle, I could barely taste it. I put this bread in the ‘quick & easy’ category because I was surprised at how simple it was to make. I think it definitely makes things easier if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, however. The crumb of the bread was fantastic, too.

I hope all my family had a wonderful Day of the Dead, wherever they are in the great beyond. Maybe they came to pay a visit & saw my altar for them.

..

“As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well used brings happy death.” Leonardo da Vinci

A monster mash-up of Halloween goodies!

And so here we are. As much as I can’t believe it, it’s fall. Another October, another Halloween is upon us. The air is getting drier & brisker… & yes, I do love this time of year. I’ll desperately miss my garden, fresh fruits, canning up a storm & the sunshine. This summer went by too fast & wasn’t quite as enjoyable as I had hoped it would be. But there ain’t no use in moping, especially about things I can’t control. Besides, this really is my favorite time of year. The best part, though, aside from Halloween (of course) is the fall baking. Pumpkin, apple, cinnamon, allspice; all those delicious, warming, spicy ingredients. Not to mention the incredible creative opportunities Halloween gives you in terms of decorations!

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Part of the charm & intrigue of Halloween is the fright factor. That things-that-go-bump-in-the-night-”what-was-that-sound” factor that gives you the chills- but you love it. The reason why people go on scary roller coasters or watch horror movies. That same feeling, that’s the best part of Halloween. I try to make that a part of everything I make around this time of year, not to mention I try to include the fall flavors that everyone loves. Of course, I’m biased. Like I said, this is my favorite holiday. I think some of my favorite things about it, in addition to the “scary” aspect, are all the traditions & symbols. It has such strong Celtic roots, I find the origins of the things we do today to be really interesting. Some of which I’ll be sharing with you over the next few weeks in detail… for now:

Development of artifacts and symbols associated with Halloween formed over time. For instance, the carving of jack-o’-lanterns springs from the souling custom of carving turnips into lanterns as a way of remembering the souls held in purgatory.[5] The turnip has traditionally been used in Ireland and Scotland at Halloween,[6][7] but immigrants to North America used the native pumpkin, which are both readily available and much larger – making them easier to carve than turnips.[6] The American tradition of carving pumpkins is recorded in 1837[8] and was originally associated with harvest time in general, not becoming specifically associated with Halloween until the mid-to-late 19th century.[9]

The imagery of Halloween is derived from many sources, including national customs, works of Gothic and horror literature (such as the novels Frankenstein and Dracula), and classic horror films (such as Frankenstein and The Mummy).[10] Among the earliest works on the subject of Halloween is from Scottish poet John Mayne in 1780, who made note of pranks at Halloween; “What fearfu’ pranks ensue!”, as well as the supernatural associated with the night, “Bogies” (ghosts), influencing Robert BurnsHalloween 1785.[11] Elements of the autumn season, such as pumpkins, corn husks, and scarecrows, are also prevalent. Homes are often decorated with these types of symbols around Halloween.

Halloween imagery includes themes of death, evil, the occult, or mythical monsters.[12] Black and orange are the holiday’s traditional colors.

I’m aware not everyone enjoys this day as much as I do, and I guess my personal opinion that they’re a bunch of boring, humorless stick-in-the-mud’s is irrelevant, but either way I think it’s fun & harmless. What could be more fun than dressing up as something you aren’t & getting free candy? I don’t know. It sounds pretty friggin’ amazing to me. So being it’s my favorite holiday, I have lots of treats for you to choose from for your spooky fall baking needs. I’ve done compilation posts before, as a matter of fact this past year, 2010-2011, I did one for every holiday, Halloween being the first. But being I did it early on each season, I excluded all the new ideas I had & implemented afterward. So this year it’s a truer compilation: all (or most) of my muffins, cupcakes & other treats; all with a Halloween or fall theme. Some are slightly more complex than others, but all of them are pretty simple when you get down to it & they really don’t take a lot of time or effort (or money, or experience really) to execute.

If you have any questions about where I bought supplies, etc, or just about the cupcakes/treats in general, feel free to comment or e-mail me.

CHOCOLATE STOUT CUPCAKES WITH WHITE CHOCOLATE BONES TRUE BLOOD ORANGE CUPCAKES WITH CANDIED BLOOD ORANGES

DEVIL’S FOOD CUPCAKES WITH CINNAMON RED-HOTS FROSTING DOUBLE CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN CUPCAKES

CHOCOLATE MALT CUPCAKES WITH FUDGE FILLING EERIE MONSTER CUPCAKES WITH SWEETMELT EYES

TRUE BLOOD VELVET CUPCAKES & CREAM CHEESE FROSTING BLACK LICORICE CUPCAKES & ORANGE MARSHMALLOW FROSTING

JACK-O-LANTERN PUMPKIN MUFFINS PUMPKIN STREUSEL MUFFINS WITH CREAM CHEESE ICING

MARSHMALLOW BONES APPLE MUFFINS

CINNAMON VANILLA CUPCAKES & MEXICAN HOT CHOCOLATE FROSTING TRES LECHES COCONUT CUPCAKES

S’MORES CUPCAKES WITH MARSHMALLOW BUTTERCREAM SPICE CUPCAKES WITH BROWN SUGAR FROSTING

And of course, if you’re looking for something in particular, you can always go through the archives, specifically the seasonal ones, like the pumpkin or apple categories. Another particular favorite of mine not pictured are the infamous apple cider donuts, they’re perfect for Halloween shenanigans. You could go bobbing for apple cider donuts! And if you’re into pumpkin seeds, I have two recipes, both plain & brown sugar/spice versions. And the two recipes second to last on the list, the cinnamon/vanilla & tres leches coconut, would both be perfect for Dia de los Muertos as well (which is what I used the latter for myself).

Almost any cupcake recipe or cookie recipe can be altered or decorated to fit in with Halloween. Use your imagination… you never know what you may come up with. If worse comes to worse, and you’re stuck for ideas, ask a kid! Kids have the best imaginations and come up with the best stuff, especially for Halloween. A kid’s brain works on a totally different level, they’re practically un-offended by everything, which is perfect.

And stay tuned this month for many more creepy (& not so creepy) fall-appropriate recipes & ideas.

The Devil’s road is paved with… orange marshmallow buttercream?

Before I get started on this post, I want to say how awesome it is that on October 13th the official Tru Blood Beverage website wrote a post about my True Blood Velvet cupcakes on their news page! So exciting, especially for me, I’m a huge fan of the show True Blood & the Sookie Stackhouse books. It was really spiffy that they noticed me & my lil’ ol cupcakes. I really geeked out over it for a while, truth be told (and still am, kinda). If you missed the post, and can’t find it, don’t worry. If you check out my press page, you’ll see a screenshot of what was written.

In researching my latest cupcake endeavor, I found out an interesting new fact. I didn’t know that black licorice was referred to as ‘Devil’s Road Tar’, but once I did I was so excited. I’m a big black licorice fan, I’m that person who eats all the black jelly beans and gum drops and leaves the rest. Not to mention there’s nothing like a good quality piece of licorice candy. I love it. Fennel, anise, licorice… whatever. I love it all. When I was little, my grandpa used to share his licorice pastilles with me, when I was a kid I’d devour Good & Plenty’s like there was no tomorrow, and as I got older I fell in love with Luden’s Honey Licorice cough drops (which are really hard to find, but I’ve been suckin’ ‘em down like crazy the past few weeks since I’m just getting over a bad ass cold) whether I was sick or not. I used to brush my teeth with Tom’s of Maine fennel toothpaste for a while, too. And Sambuca? Yes please. But all that aside, when I discovered that alias above, I knew it was perfect that I make these for Halloween. I stumbled upon a few different licorice cupcake ideas on the web. Some didn’t really appeal to me, to be honest, and others were combined with odd flavors. I don’t like chocolate with licorice, sorry. Vanilla was a safe bet, but I wanted something a little different. And so inspired by a few other bloggers, I decided the best bet would be an orange marshmallow topping made with Fluff. Why orange? Well, there’s an ice cream called ‘Tiger Tail’ (thanks Tania) that is orange ice cream with licorice sauce, and also there was a candy made by See’s that was a licorice stick, but orange & licorice together. The combination intrigued me, since both flavors are in my list of favorites. And really, what’s more Halloween-y than black & orange? Plus they match my Halloween cupcake cookie jar & cupcake candle… heh.

Admittedly, these will not be for everyone. Most of you will probably gag at the thought of these. That’s alright. It’s my blog & I’ll bake licorice cupcakes if I want to! And if no one else likes them, then more for me. This recipe only makes 12, so it’s not like a lot will go to waste. Honestly, they were really delicious. Not too much of an in-your-face licorice flavor, just a pleasant anise taste. And I even added more anise to mine! Don’t be afraid to try them, even if you cut the recipe in half. I am not ashamed to say I ate three in a row. Okay, maybe I’m a little ashamed. But they’re made with egg whites, so they’re healthier. Right?

The cupcakes, with an interesting cast of characters on top.


.You know what I learned while looking up licorice? Licorice is not the same thing as fennel or anise, despite having the flavoring compounds.

The flavor of liquorice comes mainly from a sweet-tasting compound called anethole (“trans”-1-methoxy-4-(prop-1-enyl)benzene), an aromatic, unsaturated ether compound also found in anise, fennel, and other herbs. Additional sweetness in liquorice comes from glycyrrhizin, a compound sweeter than sugar.

But for our purposes, for this recipe, anise = licorice and does a pretty good job of it. Licorice has quite a rich history. It’s been used in drinks & teas for ages, and used to soothe many ailments. Not only that, but it’s just plain yummy.

Licorice. Just the word by itself evokes certain memories in each of us. Now imagine tasting some licorice right now; yum! In fact licorice has been enjoyed throughout the ages by pharaohs, kings, and people like you and I! Licorice comes in more varieties than the candy vines, it is used in teas, medicine, booze, food, and all sorts of candy. Let’s take a look at how licorice has become such a delectable treat worldwide.

Now, licorice wasn’t always used in candy of course, it was often put into a drink consumed by the ancient Egyptians. Often time warriors would use licorice because it could help out on long marches when a thirst needed slaking. Many wise men in many countries like Alexander the Great and the Indian prophet, Brahma, encouraged the use of licorice for its healing properties. Even today the Aveda Company makes a comforting tea using the licorice root, Glycyrrhiza Glabra. Licorice has even been used to soothe coughs and heal peptic ulcers.

In spite of all its medicinal qualities, its most popular quality is its wonderful sweetness and its use in candies. It can be found around the world: In the United States of course, and in Germany, England, the Netherlands, and Nordic countries. Its popularity knows no boundary.

In 1914 the American Licorice Company was founded in Chicago, Illinois. Black Vines were born that year and have remained a popular treat ever since. The chewy black goodness evolved into “yummies” such as: Black Crows, Licorice Snaps, Black Scotties, and an all time favorite, Good and Plenty. My favorite was a product call “Allsorts.” These were originally manufactured in England and looked like beautiful candy jewels with licorice surrounded by pink, blue, and yellow confections. They were cut into squares, cylinders, and rounds; usually layered so you could see the licorice in the center of say a pink round candy. The look was tempting and the taste magnificent. You can still buy these today.

Eventually, in 1920 the classic Raspberry Vines made their debut, and while they weren’t really licorice, they became synonymous with licorice because they were produced by the same company and had the same chewy characteristics as real black licorice. However, red licorice is made with strawberry or cherry extracts; they are not made with the licorice root, therefore, they don’t taste anything like black licorice, but are delicious in their own right.

Licorice has been used for kinds of purposes throughout the ages. One thing that stands true is the tastiness and the memories we get when licorice is on our palate. We reminisce a bit about when life seemed to move a bit slower, or when grandpa would hand us a licorice morsel out of his jar. Whatever the memory is, there is no denying the history and goodness of a licorice treat!

BLACK LICORICE CUPCAKES

First you get:

  • 1 1/3 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons anise extract
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 2 oz white chocolate (good quality)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 5 egg whites at room temperature
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

Then you:

  1. Melt chocolate and butter in a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water, or in the top of a double boiler. When completely melted and combined, stir in the sugar, and set aside to cool slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in separate bowl.
  3. In a large glass measuring cup, mix together the milk, vanilla, and anise extracts.
  4. Transfer chocolate mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer, and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the milk mixture in 2 parts, starting and ending with the flour. Beat just until ingredients are combined after each addition.
  6. With clean bowl and beaters, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on low speed for one minute,then on high until soft peaks form.
  7. Transfer 1/3 of the egg white mixture into the batter bowl, gently fold to combine. Fold in the rest of the egg whites.
  8. Fill 12 cupcake papers to ¼ inch from the top rim. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Allow the cupcakes to cool slightly in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

I frosted them with an orange marshmallow Fluff frosting that I striped with black & orange stripes, then piped it on and sprinkled it with orange and brown sprinkles with miniature black bats. I don’t often do the “holiday themed jimmies” thing, but these were so freakin’ cute with the mini-bats, I had to. The toppers are vintage, they include a jack-o-lantern, a flying witch, a black cat face, a witch’s head, a black cat, a scarecrow and a skull & crossbones. Cute, right? The liners are Martha Stewart for Michael’s, of course. She always pulls me in with these adorable liners and then I always buy way more than I need to. But that’s alright, it just means more cupcakes and muffins for this delicious holiday.

Honestly, even if you aren’t a big licorice fan, you might like these. They aren’t bold at all, they have a very light flavor. And if you’re looking for the frosting recipe, it’s here. Just add orange extract to it instead of vanilla and you’re ready for Halloween. And Arwyn, my darling little creature the color of licorice, is ready for Halloween too. As always.