It’s funny, the way we do family birthdays. The ones that fall outside of October, that is.
Between Christmas and August it seems impossible to get us all together to celebrate individual birthdays, one each in January, March and May and two in July. We’ve tried numerous times, but our schedules don’t mesh very well. And having Bob out of town on business so frequently these days doesn’t help either.
A late summer party to exchange gifts and belated birthday cards seems to work. There’s a small window of opportunity, around the third week of August, after you and Alan return from vacation and before Janet and Jenny head off in early September. By this time, there’s usually been enough warm weather and lazy summer days so we’re all relaxed, to some extent, along with more relaxed summer schedules.
After spending the day in the kitchen chopping, roasting and making vinaigrettes, I was happy to enlist some help to assemble the appetizers — Alana with the smoked salmon canapes and you with the melon pieces wrapped with prosciutto. We don’t hang out too often in the kitchen together, but it’s always interesting to compare how we’d tackle things.
Like the prosciutto wrapped melon. If it were you, you would have put the ingredients on a plate so your guests could assemble their own appetizers. The pieces of melon are so small, you want me to wrap each one?
Yes, Eve. (Tee hee hee.)
It’s true, making individual bites of prosciutto wrapped melon is more labor intensive. But I like them that way. I think it’s partly because I like to be on the receiving end of perfect bite-sized canapés. It’s like you’re at a posh cocktail party, you know?
It could be my Dad’s side of the family coming out in me too. I can remember his mother taking a lot of care and attention to assemble a fruit platter for a party, fussing to make sure the watermelon slices were all evenly spaced in a fan shape and fretting a little when they would slide out of order.
To complement your rustic peach blackberry galette for dessert, I made chocolate blackberry cupcakes. Mini sized ones. (There’s that labor intensiveness again. But they’re so cute. And bite sized!) A blackberry in the bottom of each cup, rich chocolatey cake and a Swiss meringue buttercream, lightly flavored and colored with juice from fresh blackberries that I squished through a fine mesh strainer.
It was so good to get everyone together at last. We bundled up to eat outside, and I was thankful we had the outdoor heater going. When the light faded so quickly after dinner we ate dessert in the pitch black, except for the glow of the candles. The stories, laughs and bites of blackberry galette and cupcakes made me think this is just what a late summer barbecue should be like. Happy Birthday, Bob, Eve, Jenny, Alan and Dad. Thanks to Janet, Brittne, Alana and Mike for helping make the night a special one.
MINI CHOCOLATE BLACKBERRY CUPCAKES
Adapted from Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood, via Cake on the Brain. These cupcakes are super moist, almost too moist for my liking. (Hard to believe, I know.) Next time I’ll try it with 3 eggs to see if it makes a slightly drier, but still moist, batter. Will keep you posted.
2 cups cooked quinoa, cold*
1/2 cup milk
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
*Make the quinoa first: For 2 cups of cooked quinoa, rinse 2/3 cup raw, white or golden quinoa. Place it in a heavy saucepan with 1-1/3 cups water and bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low or to a simmer cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and leave covered for another 10 minutes. Fluff with fork and allow the quinoa to cool completely. (If you’re in a hurry, spread the quinoa on a baking sheet and pop it into the fridge so it will cool faster.)
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a mini muffin tin with paper liners. Drop 1 blackberry into each liner.
In a blender or food processor, combine milk, eggs and vanilla and blend until combined. Add 2 cups of cold cooked quinoa (see below) and the melted butter. Blend until smooth.
Add the sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt, and blend well to combine.
Pour (if you’re using a blender) or spoon out (if you’re using a food processor) the batter into the cupcake liners. Fill them about 3/4 full. Bake the cupcakes for about 20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.
Let the cupcakes cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely. Frost if desired with blackberry buttercream.
Makes approximately 44 mini cupcakes.
BLACKBERRY BUTTERCREAM FOR CUPCAKES
Adapted from a recipe on Sugar for the Brain. I scaled it back by 1 egg white and a little less sugar and butter, but still ended up with more buttercream than I needed for the cupcakes. (Maybe I just don’t like that much topping when the cake is so chocolatey good.)
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
3/4 pound butter, softened
1/2 cup blackberries
Fill a medium saucepan 1/4 to 1/3 full with water and bring to a simmer. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the egg whites and sugar. Place the bowl on top of the saucepan and whisk constantly until the temperature reaches 160F. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, whisk until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
Remove the egg white and sugar mixture from the heat and quickly move it to your stand mixer. With the whisk attachment, whip until the mixture is thick, glossy and cool, about 4-5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and remove the whisk attachment. Using the paddle attachment, beat the mixture on medium speed. While the mixture is beating, add the softened butter one piece at a time and mix until all the butter is incorporated. Add the salt.
Squish the blackberries in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl to extract the juice. Add to the buttercream and blend until smooth.