Dinner and Dessert Delight

In addition to teaching my regular English class for ecotourism students, I also teach a weekly class for staff members who want to learn more English. We meet every Wednesday night, and there is a group of four wonderful women who come regularly. One is a professor of veterinary science, one is the director of the tourism program, one is an education student completing her thesis, and one is the school psychologist. This Wednesday, we held class at the volunteer house where I live, and the staff cooked a delicious Bolivian dinner. dinner 1Carmen, the vet science professor, prepared fritanga, a yummy fried pork dish with a spicy red sauce, along with mote (hominy) and traditional dehydrated potatoes called chuño.

dinner 2I made dessert, and although my brother is usually the one who shares his cooking adventures, I’m including the recipe for these cupcakes because they were so delicious! They’re a dark chocolate cupcake with salted caramel icing and garam masala praline – super yummy, especially with fresh mango on the side.dinner 3It was a delightful evening with wonderful food and great company, and I hope we can repeat it again soon. I loved the opportunity to get to know each other, build community, and share our unique food traditions.dinner 4

Recipe: Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes with Garam Masala Praline

The cupcake and icing recipes are from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics, published by Clarkson Potter in 2001; the praline is something I came up with!

Deep Chocolate Vegan Cupcakes

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with 12 liners, or grease with butter or cooking spray and dust with cocoa powder.

Sift together 1 1/2 c. flour, 1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1 c. sugar. In a separate bowl, combine 1/2 c. vegetable oil, 1 c. chilled brewed coffee, and 2 tsp. vanilla. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until smooth. Add 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar and stir briefly; pour batter into pan immediately.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool.

Salted Caramel Icing

Combine 2 c. brown sugar, 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, 1 c. half-and-half, and 1/4 tsp. salt in a large saucepan. (Add more salt to taste, if you wish.) Bring to a rolling boil, stirring often. Cover and boil on medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Uncover and continue to boil until the caramel begins to thicken and coats a spoon, about 4 minutes. Be careful not to let it burn! Remove from heat and pour into a large mixing bowl.

Add 1 tsp. vanilla and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until creamy, thick, and a good spreading consistency, about 10 minutes.

While the icing is still warm, frost the cupcakes and top with the praline.

Garam Masala Praline

Combine 1 c. chopped nuts (walnuts, brazil nuts, and pecans are all yummy!), 1/2 c. white sugar, 1/4 c. water, 1-2 tsp. garam masala (depending on how spicy you want them to be), and a pinch of salt in a saute pan. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until the liquid boils off, leaving a sugary coating on the nuts. Pour onto a buttered plate, spread out, and let cool. Break into pieces and top the cupcakes.

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