Saturday, February 25, 2012

Hellllllllllllllo Hibiscus!

Since moving to New York City I have found that it is a lot easier to try and discover new and exciting flavors.  The city and its suburbs offer the cultural diversity in its groceries and restaurants that have enabled me to discover flavors I never would have experienced in my small NH hometown.  After being obsessed with passion fruit for the past few years (because it is AMAZING) I recently developed a new flavor obsession after enjoying a delicious Hibiscus Margarita.  Hibiscus offers a very unusual and amazing flavor that is hard to describe, but I will do my best.  Being a dried flower, you would think it has a floral taste, but it is not overpoweringly 'flowery' like rose or lavender, instead it has somewhat of an earthy fruity taste.  It basically tastes like sitting in a beach chair with a tropical breeze grazing your skin, looking out at teal waves splashing over the sand.  So yeah...its pretty delicious.  The other night I was enjoying my new found flavor in one of my homemade mojitos when it hit me that this flavor could be a delicious addition to buttercream.  So voila!  Below is the result:  Vanilla cupcakes topped with hibiscus infused ruffled buttercream.
You can find dried hibiscus at many Mexican food stores as well as in gourmet groceries and online at such sites as Amazon.  To extract the flavor from the flowers simply boil a pot of water.  Once the pot is at a boil, shut off and add the dried petals.  The more petals you add the more intense the flavor.  Let set for 20 to 30 minutes.  The color of the water will change to an intense and bold reddish pink color.  Strain the liquid and it is ready to use.  You can than use this to add flavor to various cocktails, lemonade, ice cream, or cupcakes as I did!

To make my hibiscus buttercream I decided to make a hibiscus infused simple syrup to add the flavor to my buttercream recipe.  Hibiscus water would thin the frosting out too much so I figured the syrup could get more flavor into the buttercream without sacrificing its consistency.  It worked out pretty well; however, the intense color from the syrup did not transfer to the buttercream like I hoped.  The flavor was good but still not as intense as I would prefer.  Next time I am going to try and grind the petals into a fine powder and add that to the buttercream for perhaps a bolder and brighter result.  I also plan to soak the cake with the hibiscus syrup for even more flavor.
I used the hibiscus buttercream to make a ruffled cake for a dear friend of mine who grew up enjoying the flavor in her home country.  She loved the cake and is excited to help me perfect the balance of flavor and color in the buttercream.  I am going to continue to explore this unique flavor and I hope you do the same.  Start with some hibiscus water or cocktails...who knows what fun creations you will make from there! (=

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