Oktoberfeast: Short, Sweet and to the Pint

Boo-hoo… since Oktober is coming to a close, this will be the last Oktoberfeast recipe for this year: I’m going to miss traipsing around in a steamy beer-infused kitchen.

So this recipe was inspired by one from a gorgeous coffee-table book called African Salad: a portrait of South Africans at home*, by Stan Engelbrecht and Tamsen de Beer – the recipe is for Sprite Scones, and they’re nothing like regular floury scones made from a stiff dough – these ones had just four ingredients (which is why I tried them) which make a batter and are baked in muffin tins. They are YUMMO! Soft and fluffy and slightly sweet, but with more structure to them than fragile little cupcakes and I thought the texture was perfect for standing up to the beer (I did however add extra sugar to make them more cupcake-y and less muffin-y). The beer flavour is subtle but please warn people, or they may think there’s something horribly wrong and fermented going on. Fortunately these are quite ladylike in that they do not cause belching.

These cupcakes are a little confused and sit on the fence between sweet and savoury. They remind me of The Rock in a tutu because they have all this beery masculinity going on, but they’re delicate-looking and sweet. Kind of like – drag-queen cupcakes? No, let’s not go there; those would be scary and bright incandescent cherry-red with enormous false eyelashes on top.

The salted bacon praline embellishment is purely for good looks; it’s absolutely delicious on its own but the intention was not to have a big bacon flavour. I couldn’t stop nibbling on these, they are better than chips. And beautiful – like a pane from a stained glass window in a church full of bacon-worshippers…

For 24 beautiful beer cupcakes:

500g self-raising flour

1 can (330ml) beer – Black Label, you should know this by now

250ml cream

3 tablespoons of sugar

A teeny pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and prepare muffin tins with non-stick spray or use cupcake liners.

Now, you’ve just read through the list of ingredients and you’re pretty happy, right? It gets even better.

To make the batter, mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl, dispense into the prepared muffin tins and bake for about 20 minutes.

No, seriously, that is all. Do not adjust your computer monitor or find a soft cloth to wipe your glasses. The batter just about mixes itself it’s so quick, and there won’t be any lumps. I used a spatula to fold everything in and it took less than a minute.

For the embellishment:

Prepare a buttercream icing using softened butter and lots of icing sugar; make it much stiffer than usual, then add a splash of beer to adjust the consistency (if you add too big a splash, just add some more sugar). I left mine in the piping bag (with a big star nozzle) in the fridge while the cupcakes were baking, to ensure that it wasn’t too floppy for piping.

Then remove the fat from four rashers of back bacon and dry-fry them (losing the fat will let the meat stay flat and neat and tidy). Cut the cooked bacon into small pieces with sharp scissors, then scatter them on a baking-paper-lined baking tray. Slowly heat 1 cup of white sugar and about a cup and half of water while stirring; once all the sugar has dissolved, allow the mixture to boil undisturbed until it just turns a caramel colour – it will take a while but be sure to check, because once it passes the caramel stage it reaches the burnt-beyond-fixing stage (the bubbling will slow down the closer it gets to caramelisation). Try not to have a brain fart when you get to this part – don’t use a black saucepan, this makes it very difficult to see the change in colour *shamefaced*.

As soon as it is a nice golden caramel colour, pour it over the bacon bits then tap the baking tray on the counter a few times to get excessive air bubbles out. Sprinkle the surface with salt. When it’s cooled and set, lift it off the baking paper and hold it up to a light – isn’t that stunning? Then break it into shards, and eat a few of them to check that they really are that delicious. If you’re not using them immediately, store them in a single layer in an airtight container.

Contemplate eating all of it and putting just edible glitter on the cupcakes, and decide that that would be selfish and your teeth will rot as punishment.

Pipe the icing onto the cooled cupcakes (because they’ve got lumpy tops, I sliced off a thin layer to make them flat and easier to decorate), and decorate with the salted bacon praline just before serving. Try not to steal the praline off someone else’s cupcake while they’re not looking.

*I was given the book as a much-appreciated gift – it’s absolutely beautiful and you need to get a copy immediately. Alternatively, you can come over and flip through the one on my coffee table. I may even make those scones on page 54.

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