week twenty-one – cupcakes à la gioia

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i genuinely feel busier now that uni is over than i felt in the week before the term’s end. to be fair, the busyness now is rather self-inflicted. too many books to read and people to see songs to sing and things to do. as ever, really. i also spent an unexpectedly long time playing monopoly (a special star wars edition, accompanied by the star wars films playing in the background (i was way too busy suggesting outrageous deals to my contenders, usually including joining the dark side (the gioia empire) to actually pay attention properly)). ten hours. ten continuous hours, only interrupted by me baking cookies for my fellow players. what a day/night. speeeaking of baking: cupcakes.

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well, i didn’t actually bake. not really. but let me start by saying this: my love for cupcakes is a grand and deep and pure one. in fact, cupcakes are actually what first truly got me into baking (which then lead to me spending more time in the kitchen and eventually branching out to cooking in general). ella, a friend and almost-neighbour of mine, had spent an exchange years over in the states where cupcakes were much more common and actually known. switzerland always tends to be a bit behind with culinary trends. so one afternoon back in 2009 (bloody hell) i went to hers and baked and ate cupcakes for the very first time. they were really sugary and frosted with a buttercream frosting (which i don’t really like as  i find them too sickly sweet. even me) and decorated with u.s.a.-patriotic red, white and blue sprinkles. even though they weren’t the culinary highlight of my career as a hobby baker, they definitely did something to me and i haven’t really stopped baking them since; tiramisù cupcakes, mocha cupcakes, raspberry custard cupcakes, chocolate-chili cupcakes, carrot cupcakes, strawberry and cream cupcakes, oreo cupcakes, apple streusel cupcakes, chai tea cupcakes and many many many others. one of the things i love the most about cupcakes (except for them being pretty and absolutely delicious (not in that order, necessarily) is their portability; they’re perfect for parties or book club meetings or wherever one may choose to bring something sweet. (ever so slightly off topic, but speaking of sweet: a couple of years back rahel and i baked dozens and dozens of tiny cupcakes on valentine’s day and distributed to random strangers in the city of basel. ever since i have made it a tradition to bake each v-day and hand the cupcakes out to whomever happens to cross my ways that day. cupcakes as a trip down memory lane (and the freie strasse).)

all of that being said, i didn’t exactly go where i thought i would with this week’s challenge. i had originally planned to do something star wars themed for monopoly thursday but ended up doing something entirely different; my dearest friend george (incidentally thursday’s host) and i have somewhat of a tradition of cooking together which was long overdue when he came to mine on tuesday. as i always keep him informed of what’s happenin’ on da blog, he knew about the theme and after his initial suggestion, together we crafted an ingenious creation: cupcakes as a main. to be more specific: little beef and guinness pies with a potato-carrot- or a potato-turnip-mash and green string beans with breadcrumbs (as my mum makes them) on the side.

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to make things a bit more flavourly (i wish this were a word) interesting, we added some honey and thyme to the carrot mash (ain’t nobody got thyme for that, honey (i am so sorry)) and some wholegrain mustard to the turnip one. but the absolute star of the meal was definitely our filling for the pies. tender braising beef and hearty guinness with some delicious mushrooms and onions enhanced with a dash of maple syrup, a sprig of rosemary and a dash of rich red wine (my adjective game is on fleek today).

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the two of us and alice (whom i promised to mentioned, as she kindly volunteered in helping with the dish chaos after we had eaten), a contortionist who was staying at mine at the time (ain’t mah life interesting, y’all? (if only)) spent most of the two plus hours of cooking time standing around the hob (which i have cleaned since the picture above has been taken) and, uhm, tasting the food. just to be sure. because it totally might have changed within the last two minutes. anyway. the pies turned out oh so deliciously that george and i are still talking about them and that i ended up having them for all of breakfast, lunch AND dinner the day after.

put your coats on (or take them off), as next week we’re making hot beverages (good thing the weather is ridiculously un-mayish over here on the london front)

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the one and only george, the gorge (as in gorgeous. not the canyon kind)

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