As embarrassing as it is to admit, I don't remember much about high school. I remember my friends and the strange teachers that we seemed to have but as for the actual lessons, well they seem to have gone into a bank of hazy, grey-tinged memories.
I do remember my maths teacher's half pinky finger which seemed interested us more than his actual maths lessons. And I do vaguely recall something about Bunsen burners during science class but I more clearly remember the time that my friend leaned back to ponder a particularly difficult question during a science exam and accidentally clutched at the science teacher's pants around the crotchal area as he walked around the desks supervising us. She would never look at him again in the eye for the rest of the year.
There was another science class that I do remember and that was because something memorable happened in it. Our teacher (not the groped one) had procured us a pair of lungs and a heart from a sheep and we were to learn how alveoli worked.
The teacher stuck a tube into the lung and urged one student to clamp her lips around the tube. "Breathe in and you can see the alveoli inflate with oxygen" she instructed.
The student hesitated for a moment before blowing in with a lungful of air. What happened then would scar the rest of us as the air filled some of the lungs but as she has breathed so hard, some of it came back with some of the liquid still in the lungs. She spat out the tube and gagged on the liquid while the teacher tried to calm us all down. There was a classful of girls all dry retching over sinks and clutching our stomachs.
After that, everyone refused to even touch the heart. But I bet everyone still remembers the word alveoli ;)
So hopefully you'll forgive me when I say that I don't really remember what an actual animal heart looks like. But because there must always be a cupcake at my Hallowe'en party I thought that I'd do an homage to a heart - just the less romantic kind. I know that the instructions sound long but you could do an abridged version and not fill them with blood clots aka jam and not ganache them although gananche improves the taste of fondant topped cupcakes measurably. The hearts themselves are really quite easy to do. The best thing about Halloween decorating is that there's no such thing as too ugly-it's actually desirable! All you have to do is make it memorable - much like science class! Happy Hallowe'en Dear Readers!
So tell me Dear Reader, do you still remember what you learned in class? And would you have put the tube to your lips or refused? And a very big Happy Hallowe'en Dear Readers!
P.S. You can save this for an irreverent Valentines Day too! ;)
Beating Heart Cupcakes
An Original Recipe by Not Quite Nigella
For Red Velvet Mud cupcakes
- 165g/6ozs. butter (doesn't matter if it's at room temp or not in this recipe)
- 120g/4ozs. white chocolate broken up into pieces
- 1 1/3 cups caster or superfine sugar
- 1 cup water
- Red Velvet colouring (1 tablespoon of the Lorann one plus 1 tablespoon regular liquid just for good luck)
- 1 cup plain flour
- 1/4 cup cornflour or cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup cherry jam
- 150g white chocolate
- 1/4 cup cream
- White fondant
- Red fondant
- String candy
- Yellow icing pen
- Blue food colouring
- Toothpicks to secure the heart onto the cupcake
Step 1 - Preheat oven to 150c/300F. Line a cupcake tray with liners.
Step 2 - Place butter, chocolate, sugar and the water in small saucepan over low heat until melted and combined. Cool for 15 minutes. Whisk in both red food colourings.
Step 3 - Using a whisk, add flour, cornflour, cocoa and then egg (at this stage it will look like delightfully blood-like!). I find it easiest if I pour the batter into a measuring jug and pour it into patty tins.
Step 4 - Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Cool in tin.
Step 5 - Make chocolate ganache by melting the 150g of white chocolate and cream together until liquid and smooth. Allow to cool and become spreadable (on very hot days, you can put it in the fridge once it has cooled a little).
Step 6 - While the ganache is cooling, fill the cupcakes with the jam. Cut out small cone shapes in the cupcake itself and fill with a little jam. Slice off the pointy bit of the cone and replace the "lid" back on the cupcake.
Step 7 - When the ganache is spreadable take an angled palate knife and spread the ganache on top of the cupcake surface. You don't have to make it super smooth for the time being. Complete for all of the cupcakes. Then take a glass of water and dip the clean angled spatula in it and then pressing the spatula against the ganache, smooth it out. This takes a bit of practice to know how hard to press but you'll get the hang of it before long and you'll get a smooth surface on which to place the fondant.
Step 8 - Roll out the white fondant and cut out discs using a round cutter that will fit the top of the cupcake. Wet the ganache top lightly and the fondant will adhere to the ganache.
Step 9 - Make the hearts. These were surprisingly easy if not 100% anatomically correct. Shape a small red ball of fondant into a teardrop shape. Take a pair of scissors and cut the top of the teardrop into three sections. These will be your major arteries.
Step 10 - Cut small lengths of the candy strings, I used different colours like purple, yellow, blue and pink and stick them in the heart. They will be the veins. At this point if there are any doctors in the house, I'm sure it's rather obvious that I don't have a clue about what goes where. I'm just a baker :)
Step 11 - Empty a teaspoon of blue food colouring into a small ramekin and take a toothpick. Draw little capillaries or small veins. Again the last time I saw an actual heart was in biology class and I tried not to look. Then using the yellow icing pen squirt some "plaque" on the heart. Allow to set and then secure the heart to the cupcake with a toothpick.