When I was growing up, my dad ran a catering business from our home. He converted our basement into a commercial kitchen and a large number of my weekends (and weekdays) were dedicated to helping prepare food for parties and weddings. My bedroom happened to be above the kitchen, so I often woke up to the smell of something delicious cooking below me, starting my day by trying to register what dish's aroma had wafted its way into my nostrils to awaken me from my dreams. Though there always seemed to be something cooking downstairs, my favorite meals were ones that my dad made just for us--ones that weren't on the catering menu and couldn't be doubled or tripled to feed the members of the PTO or a fiftieth anniversary party. One meal that always seemed like a treat was paprikash. My dad's father was 100% Hungarian, and though he didn't speak the language (at least not to us, anyway), this rich sour cream chicken dish was one of the few things he did pass on from his heritage (well, that and Hungarian cookies, but that's a post for another day).
Fast forward to the present. A few weeks ago, I had made a variation on dobostorta for dessert when my friend Steve had me over for dinner. While we were waiting for the main course to cook, we were discussing Hungarian cuisine. Steve mentioned that he had just made Hungarian paprikash from a recipe in Saveur and that it was delicious. Naturally, I went home to compare my dad's version with the magazine's. I'll be honest. I was pretty skeptical about trying a new recipe (especially seeing as how it called for an Italian frying pepper, which I thought was a little out of place), but my doubts were for naught. The sauce was redder, richer and far more flavorful than my dad's, thanks to the addition of tomatoes and chicken broth. The chicken was moist and flavorful, despite it being cooked without the skin (my dad cooks the chicken whole--skin on, too). The only thing I didn't care for were the dumplings, as they were a bit too dense for my liking. My friend who I invited over for dinner informed me that they were pretty authentic to the dumplings he had while in Budapest a few years ago. (That was slightly reassuring. I normally have bad luck with doughs and have had countless failed attempts at making pasta).
My friend Ben was kind enough to come over and put together a bookcase for me, even though it was his birthday. In addition to feeding him foods from the homeland, I baked him birthday cupcakes. I should tell you that Ben has fantastic ideas for cupcakes. Normally when I ask someone what kind of cupcake they would like for their birthday (or, slyly, what kind of cupcake they would be if they could be a cupcake), I usually get standard generic flavors like vanilla or chocolate (or worse, someone who thinks that Funfetti is original. ::DISCLAIMER:: I am not, nor would I ever, hate on Funfetti. However, it loses its "fun" when I have to make it all the time). A few months ago, Ben mentioned maple cupcakes. Taking his idea and running with it, I made french toast cupcakes with maple cinnamon vanilla bean cream cheese frosting (and yes they tasted as good as they sounded, though I would still argue that they would have been perfect with a piece of candied bacon on top). This time around, he mentioned creamsicle cupcakes. This, dear friends, was a challenge I was quite excited about.
After scouring the internets, I found a recipe that got great reviews from Dulcedo. The cake was made with orange pulp that was a stunning orange color and made my apartment smell of summery citrus (a lovely smell to start my day, I must admit).
I added vanilla bean paste to give the batter an extra vanilla kick. The combination of vanilla and orange was spot-on! I couldn't help but lick the bowl.
The cupcakes themselves were more crumby and dense than I had expected. I normally prefer fluffy cake, but the flavor certainly compensated for any textural qualms I had with the recipe. Next time, I might try to find a way to aerate the batter and lighten up the consistency. The frosting, however, was spot-on. Half orange frosting and half marshmallow, it was a combination of tangy and sweet orange and vanilla. If I had to do it again, I might try a different marshmallow method (I don't have much luck with Swiss Meringue technique and for some reason my sugar didn't come to temperature so the marshmallow wasn't as stiff as I would have liked and it looked more like a meringue. It still tasted good, though, so I suppose I can't complain!)
The instructions are a bit long, so to get the recipe, click HERE :)