I’m giving away a trade secret on this fine More Cowbell Monday! Scores of my friends are going to start whispering, “The Edible Crack recipe is on More Cowbell” (a phrase that will make perfect sense by the end of this post).
I have a friend named Kitty who is an AMAZING cook. We can’t call her a chef because she’s never been formally trained, but she is by far once of the best all-around cooks I’ve ever met.
Like so many of the great cooks, she takes a perfectly good recipe and makes it great. She’ll start out with a lovely Better Crocker recipe and just…change a few things. A bit of this and that, perhaps she’ll slow roast a baked item or pressure cook something when the recipe says pan fry. No matter what she does, her food turns out magnificent.
One night when we were having dinner over there, Kitty gave us the choice of having normal “Choice A” or “Unusual Choice B” for dessert – I believe it was some outrageous take-off on Bananas Foster. Her daughter summed it up perfectly: When in doubt, go for the concoction option.
What a fantastic piece of advice! In food and in life, creativity is king…at least it is for me.
There’s only one rub. I’ve tried getting recipes from Kitty and they rarely turn out anywhere close to hers. How can I properly “concoct” if I’m missing half the rule book? I finally got into the habit of making the dish a few times with her before trying it on my own.
A great example of this is her Burnt Caramel Frosting (known far and wide as “Edible Crack” to me and my peeps).
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 cup light-brown sugar
- 1/3 cup evaporated milk
- 2 to 2.5 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1/2 tsp. maple
- Melt butter – low heat
Remove from heat.
- Add brown sugar – stir until smooth
- Using low heat, bring to boil.
- Stir at a boil for 1 minute.
- Add evaporated milk
- Return to boiling.
- Remove from heat. Cool to 110 F.
- Move to a mixer, add vanilla, beating at medium speed.
- Beat in powdered sugar until smooth.
The above is what the recipe SAYS. I can tell you from experience that the above is not how Kitty makes Edible Crack frosting.
Here is what she does to the frosting (I’ve numbered the above so you can follow along by number.
- Go ahead and melt that butter but do not remove anything from the heat.
- Do add the brown sugar and plan on it taking a while for things to stir in and become smooth.
- You’re STILL stirring that brown sugar.
- You never turned the heat off so do bring the mixture to the recommended boil BUT keep it there for 4-5 minutes, rather than the recommended 1 minute.
- Add the evaporated milk in about a teaspoon at a time, mixing each time until smooth. It takes a LONG time.
- This step is actually correct.
- Do not cool the frosting mixture
- Your maple and vanilla both get stirred in at this step but they are in EQUAL proportion, no matter what that recipe says. Use only pure vanilla extract or the maple overpowers it.
- Do stir in your powdered sugar, but it should have been SIFTED and you want to err on the low side or your frosting is too sweet.
You see what I mean about the “by-the-book recipe” and the real recipe she makes? The two have nothing in common but the ingredients! I never make this recipe without at least tripling it because (a) it is sooooo good and (b) it can be kept in the refrigerator and reheated for a few weeks.
This frosting tastes best with Swiss Chocolate cake by Duncan Hines BUT there’s changes to that recipe too. Kitty uses room temperature eggs, tepid water and stirs in chocolate instant pudding. She also dips her cupcakes upside down in the hot frosting which is a magnificent trick. It makes the cupcake look way better and it’s faster than trying to frost them with a knife.
Believe it or not, Kitty and her concoction option remind me of writing. Like most experts, she can’t really teach you what she does. Experts have an intrinsic knowing that only practice and hands on application can achieve. The rest of us have to watch these people like a hawk because they rarely understand their own abilities.
If you put in the time with an expert, they can backtrack and tell you why they chose to put ingredient “x” with ingredient “y”…that’s when the magic comes.
I would never have known that cake comes out fluffier if you use tepid water and room temperature eggs and beat in pudding mix for at least two minutes. But Kitty learned this from somewhere, most likely at the knee of her Irish granny.
And that business with the evaporated milk only working if you stir it in slowly? That defeated me the first three times I made the recipe. But I kept at it because…hello? Edible Crack. It really doesn’t get better than this frosting.
When I run out of patience with my writing, my usual go-to activities are reading, gardening or baking. Baking often is the first thing I want to do. There’s something about the magic of being in my kitchen and melting butter or listening to the sound of my mixer that opens up my mind.
What about you? What opens your mind to magic? Are there books you re-read when your life gets into a tangle? Activities you engage in? Places you go? Do you know experts who give you directions that don’t work for you like they do for them?
I love hearing from you! I love it so much I created the Let’s Meet Up Contest where your comments throw you into a drawing for an hour-long webinar of partying learning.
Note: In honor of the July 4th Independence Day, I hope all of you take a moment to honor a soldier or say thanks to our men and women in uniform. They do so very much for precious little. My heartfelt thanks goes out to them each and every day.
See you tomorrow for Techie Tuesday!