I felt strong on my run with Stinker this morning. I ran fast, too…well, for me at least. Or it felt like I ran fast. I love going for runs first thing in the morning. The trails are usually quiet and it helps wake me up. And it puts me in a good mood before work. Gotta love endorphins! After I ran I fed Stinker and then hit the gym to a little weight lifting and core strengthening. I was home by 8:15am. All morning I had been thinking, “What a beautiful day. I’m going to use my solar oven today.” And so I did.
I don’t know why I thought of this recipe. It appeared in Vegetarian Times in February of 2005, for cryin’ out loud. Why I dredged it up from memory is beyond me, but I’ve been preparing to make it for a couple of days now. The original recipe is for a layer cake, but I wanted cupcakes. Plus, I had some dried figs that really needed to be used, so I substituted them for the raisins called for in the original recipe. There were a few additional changes, too, like the addition of allspice to the cupcakes and lemon juice to the frosting.
I guess what I was really looking for was another excuse to use my solar oven, hoping the weather forecast would hold true. I soaked the dried black-eyed peas last night and this morning I put them in a pot with some water and put them in the solar oven. I also put some dried apricots and dried figs in a pot with some water and put them in the solar oven with the peas. As sure as the sun will rise in the east, the very minute I put my oven on the deck, a few sparse clouds appeared in the sky. WFT, over? I decided to have faith in the weather forecasters, and left for work with the oven on the deck, pointed towards the southeast–the sun will shine today. It will.
And it did. For a while. At one point in the early afternoon I looked outside to see some big, fluffy clouds in the sky. When I checked the weather forecast online, there were little thundershowers surrounding us. By the time I left work around 4:30, I had to hustle to get home before the rain hit. Or so I thought. Turns out we didn’t really get any rain, just a few sprinkles, and those came later in the evening. The clouds just looked threatening, but they weren’t moving towards us. But they were in the way of the sun, and when I checked the thermometer inside the oven it registered only 150 degrees F. The pots were still quite hot though, and when I peered inside, everything was cooked to perfection. The black-eyed peas were practically falling apart, which was great since they were destined to become puree anyway. Most of the apricots had cooked down to mush (also perfect), but the figs, which I had left whole, were softened but still held their shape. I was happy with the outcome since it meant I didn’t have to watch over pans on the stove to make sure I didn’t scorch apricots or worry that I undercooked the peas. So I will officially chalk this up as another solar oven cooking success.
I had really hoped to bake the cupcakes in the solar oven as well, but that was not going to happen today–and I really wanted to take a cupcake with me to work tomorrow. So I baked them inside. In my boring electric oven that holds a steady temperature. On the plus side, it only took about 23 minutes to cook them, not 2 hours (or more). And on the plus-plus side, I get to take one with me to work tomorrow!
Black-eyed Susan cupcakes (makes about 14 or 15 cupcakes)
2 cups dried apricots
2/3 cups dried figs
2 cups cooked black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed (1 15-ounce can is approximately 1 1/2 cups peas)
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I substituted some leftover pineapple juice for half of the oil)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
3 ounces cream cheese
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest or lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice
15 chocolate kisses (note the homemade “kisses” in the photos)
35 dried apricots, cut into thin slices
Cook the apricots and figs in a saucepan with enough water to cover fruit, about 2 cups. Cook over medium heat until very soft (OR…use your solar oven!). Puree the fruit and liquid in a blender or food processor. Add peas and puree.
Add puree to a large bowl and add remaining cupcake ingredients. Pour into prepared muffin tins, filling muffin cups to the top. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 22-25 minutes, or until the tops brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove cupcakes from muffin tin to a wire rack to cool completely.
Combine all the frosting ingredients in a medium bowl and mix together well, using an electric mixer if you prefer.
When cupcakes are cool, place a dollop of frosting on each cupcake and smooth over the top, covering the entire cupcake. The place a chocolate kiss in the middle and surround it with 7-8 apricot “petals.”