This Read // Eat post comes to us via Alicia of Jaybird fame. When she’s not making a mess in the kitchen, she tries her hand at home DIY projects and elaborate picnics. Go be friends! Twitter /Facebook.
Is it midnight wherever you’re reading this? If not, pull the blinds down, flip the light switch and get ready to descend into the world of The Night Circus…
“Midnight Dinners are a tradition at la maison Lefèvre. They were originally concocted by Chandresh on a whim, brought about by a combination of chronic insomnia and keeping theatrical hours, along with an innate dislike of proper dinner-party etiquette…”
While the midnight dinners are set in London, the primary setting of Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel The Night Circus travels all around the world. Le Cirque des Rêves (The Circus of Dreams), which is only open at night, is just as mysterious as Chandresh’s parties. Every tent contains a spectacle more fantastic than the last, and visitors can never quite tell which ones have been touched by magic.
Both an adventure and a love story, The Night Circus is a colorful tale of a lifelong competition between two gifted magicians. The circus is their playground, where they strive to impress each other with ever more spectacular feats (I won’t spoil them here). Chandresh’s cooks sound like magicians as well, crafting increasingly extravagant dishes for his exclusive dinner parties.
“The desserts are always astonishing. Confections deliriously executed in chocolate and butterscotch, berries bursting with creams and liquers. Cakes layered to impossible heights, pastries lighter than air. Figs that drip with honey, sugar blown into curls and flowers. Often diners remark that they are too pretty, too impressive to eat, but they always find a way to manage.”
As with any wonder of the world, the circus gains devoted fans. Known as the rêveurs, or the dreamers, they follow the circus on its global journey. While some are wealthy and can afford to cavort around the globe, their community embraces dreamers of all kinds. They only need two things to become a rêveur: a love of the circus, and a crimson piece of clothing to identify themselves to others.This Read//Eat recipe is a dessert to jointly honor the dreamers and the makers of midnight dinners. White chocolate can be used to create all kinds of shapes and frostings for desserts, completely dependent on your personal preference. You can purchase colored candy melts at a craft store like Michael’s or A.C. Moore or a specialty baking store, or you can combine white chocolate chips and gel food dye to create your own colors. To celebrate les rêveurs, I made red velvet cupcakes with bright red toppings in all kinds of shapes. Below are the instructions and a few tips for working with white chocolate.
White Chocolate Cupcake Toppers – Instructions & Troubleshooting
Ingredients & Materials
at least ¾ cup white chocolate chips for each color you want to mix
Wilton gel food dye (or your preferred brand)
1 pastry bag for each color
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and make sure it lies flat.
For each color: Place chocolate chips in a small bowl and melt in the microwave for 30 seconds. Remove, stir, and continue to melt and stir in 10-second interval until smooth.
Use a toothpick to scoop up some dye, then combine it with the chocolate and gently fold it in using a spatula until evenly dispersed. Add more dye, using a clean toothpick each time, until you reach your desired color.
Take a pastry bag and hold it with your non-dominant hand, making a circle around its middle. Fold the top down over your fingers and use a spatula to fill the pastry bag with frosting. There may be air below the frosting, which is fine.
Make a horizontal cut, starting at about ⅛ of an inch wide, across the tip of the pastry bag. Squeeze the chocolate down and use the pastry bag like a pen to create shapes on parchment paper. Cut a larger hole as needed–it’s best to start small and make tiny, incremental cuts to reach the right thickness (up to ¼ inch across). Chocolate shapes that are too thin are likely to break.
Make all the letters and shapes you please on parchment paper. If your work room is above 70 degrees Fahrenheit, it may help to put the chocolate in the fridge to set. Remove it after 10-15 minutes and carefully place shapes on top of cupcakes, cookies, whipped cream or other desserts.
White chocolate will harden if heated too fast. When in doubt, use shorter increments to heat.
If chocolate hardens or separates in the bowl, mix in a small amount of vegetable oil. While this will alter the taste of the chocolate, it will help smooth the texture so you can work with it.
Make extra shapes, especially when working with letters. I wrote “Le Cirque des Rêves” at least four times and still ended up breaking half the pieces. Important lesson: I didn’t make a large enough hole in my pastry bag.
Fresh buttercream icing is recommended for placing cupcake toppers. It’s thick enough to ensure that they stand up, but malleable enough when fresh to push the shapes into the frosting. The cream cheese frosting I used here was not thick enough to provide the same structure.
Have you ever worked with white chocolate? Did you know you could also use it to frost sugar cookies? (Pardon me while I go eat three.)
Huge thanks to Sarah C., who suggested that we make something from The Night Circus for this series! If you have novel or recipe suggestions, please send them our way.