Warning – you are approaching a stream of consciousness post. It’s not exactly of Virginia Woolf quality, either. It may be of no interest to anyone but myself and, to paraphrase Alice, there is ‘too much conversation and not enough pictures’.
So, what goes with gin? I’m kind of mulling around the idea of cranberry muffins with a juniper syrup drizzle, but I’m interested in playing around with the flavours in my brain before I make anything. The juniper syrup is the main thing I’m interested in using, juniper being the main flavouring of Mother’s Ruin, so I thought to myself, what goes with gin? The answers I came up with are as follows:
- orangeade (don’t argue with me, it does go)
Then I looked up some gin cocktails, hoping for more ideas. There weren’t that many that aren’t covered by the list above . Other fruit juices were mentioned, and mint which I think is a good one, but nothing else stood out. I’m actually quite proud that there wasn’t much that I hadn’t thought of myself. One more thing that came up from the cocktail recipes was that of incorporating some kind of fizz in with the muffins; I’m not sure how yet but it will probably involve using a prosecco or other fizzy wine somewhere along the line. Is there something I could use that would cause a real fizz on the tongue? How does one go about making sherbet?
I’ve looked it up – all I need is powdered citric acid. Oh well, I thought, of *course* I have some of that kicking about the kitchen. I was being sarcastic, by the way, in case that didn’t really come across. You never really know what you might find in my kitchen drawers, oo-er, etc. Anyway I soon found out that it’s easy to buy this stuff, they sell it on Amazon and everything. The only thing is that you need to keep the sherbet dry or it starts fizzing, so how am I gong to incorporate it into a nice, moist cake with a sticky syrup poured over the top?
This can be solved in a few ways, the way I see it. First, I can wrap the sherbet up in rice paper, or another edible covering, and place it in the centre of the muffins waiting to be discovered. If I was going down this route I’d have to put the package of sherbet in after baking, so not sure how that would work without spoiling the look of the muffins. Also, I want to drizzle the syrup over the top but also to make channels in the muffin for it to run into, so I’d have to either do this first and let it dry or just be satisfied with a glaze over the top of the muffins instead of the juniper flavour running all the way through them.
I don’t love the rice paper idea – I’m not, as they say, married to it. I think the texture would be off-putting. Right now I’m thinking, ‘What would Heston do?’ – I’m sure he’s a regular reader and will be delighted to know that. I did once see him use a chocolate chamber to get a similar effect that I’m after now – dry ingredients in the chamber and the diners poured the liquid ingredients in to it to get the reaction started. I don’t want to use chocolate, and I wondered about a hard caramel construction for a minute there but again, there’s a texture issue, and also a skills issue. I’d have to successfully make a caramel hard enough to act as a container but soft enough to eat, and I’d have to avoid burning myself on it while I was about it.
I wonder if cake is wet enough to kick off the reaction, or if I’m trying to make a plan to avoid something that wouldn’t happen. I mean, we use to word moist to discuss cake but it’s not like you could wring it out like a dishcloth, unless there’s something really wrong. I think we’re going to have to do some experiments with this one. Have to buy citric acid first – it’s really tempting just to order some online right now, even though I have a lot of things to save money for this month.
I found some for £2.50, including postage. I’ve ordered it. I may well have been able to get it cheaper in real life but who has to time to trawl round the shops when there’s sherbet to be made? Not me.
Back to how I’m going to apply the sherbet… I’ll experiment with how volatile it is, and how it reacts to cake. Another way would be to use it as a powder to coat the top of the muffins with, once the juniper glaze has set. This would give an initial fizz but I fear it would be lost in the rest of the mouthful, whereas if the fizz was in the centre of the cake you’d get more impact, as it would be at the end of a bit and nearer the tongue, not at the start and nearer the roof of the mouth. If the sherbet doesn’t react to the moistness of cake I could potentially use a funnel or icing nozzle to pour some in to the middle of the muffins, and cover the hole that this made with a cranberry or some other edible garnish.
I’ll really just have to see what it’s like before I can decide, so I’ll get back to thinking about the actual cakey part of the recipe. I’m set on the juniper syrup, I really like the idea and I think that it’ll work – I figure if I crush some juniper berries up, leave them in with some sugar for a week or so then heat the whole lot with a little water I’ll get what I’m after – then I can strain the crushed berries out before I use it. Again, I’ll have to try it, but it feels like a winner in my brain. Sometimes I just get that feeling about things; it happens with crosswords, too, sometimes the answer is just indefinably *right*, even if you can’t quite work out why it fits the clue. This is less cryptic than that, the brain taster just says yes.
Looking at the list of flavours above, and also bearing in mind the idea of the gin fizz cocktail, I like the lemon and cranberry flavours best as potential ingredients. I also wonder about just going for it and using gin, not sure how it would bake off, and I don’t really like the taste of it neat – or the smell. It smells oily, though maybe that’s just because that’s how George Orwell describes it in 1984 and it stuck in my head. So I’ll probably not include any real gin, though I’ll call them Gin Fizz Muffins cos I like the sound of that. A gin fizz doesn’t have any cranberry in it, but I think it should – it’s just gin, lemon juice, sugar, soda water and sometimes egg white, I think to give structure to the bubbles and make them hold. Personally I think that a dash of cranberry juice would add to the flavour range, keeping it dry and fruity and joining with the sharp lemon in a whirling dance of zestiness. A tangy-go – geddit? Oh dear.
I wonder, though, about using dried cranberries – how will the chewy texture of those go with the fizzy sherbet? Will it be too much for the mouth? The other way is to try making a puree or jam to swirl through the cake mix, or using cranberry juice to get the cranberry flavour. I like that idea better – just a tiny amount of cranberry jam, a hint of it.
Sudden thought: making little layered cakes. If the sherbet doesn’t react to baked and cooled cake, then I could do a lemon and juniper syrup sponge with one layer of sherbet and one of cranberry jam, and top it with some lemon rind. I could swap the idea of a drizzle of syrup for just incorporating it into the sponge, then the flavour would be guaranteed to come through, though the cakes might not be so moist. Each bite of the cake would then have juniper and lemon flavours, plus a bit of sharp cranberry and fizzy sherbet. Sherbet can be flavoured with other dry ingredients as well, I wonder if juniper berries can be crushed to a fine enough powder and I could get the flavour in that way.
Second thought: tiny cakes coated completely in sherbet, with a cranberry jam centre and lemon zest… somewhere. Have to iron that out. It would work the other way round, too, with sherbet in the middle (if I manage to figure out a way to do that) and cranberry round the outside, in the form of a glaze. And lemon zest… somewhere. I think lemon zest in the sponge is probably OK in terms of texture, if it’s very small pieces. Either that or I try to dry and then powder some lemon zest and add it to the sherbet
I am now impatiently waiting for my citric acid to arrive…
Tunes: A sweet but sad tune by The Hold Steady – Citrus. I happen to think that it’s beautifully written, but that’s just my opinion. My undeniably correct, far from humble opinion. It looks like there are a lot of fan videos for you to check out if you fancy it – I know I could listen to the song on repeat for a considerable length of time.
Viewing: Cocktail. Another terrible film from the 80s where Tom Cruise stands on a box a lot so he appears taller. Still though, all good fun, and for a change it’s definitely relevant to the rest of the post.