Baking & DessertGrilling

By Suzanne Lehrer | July 13, 2011

Photo: Suzanne Lehrer

One of the things I love most about mint is how vastly different fresh mint is from processed mint flavors. Sometimes with watermelon, the fake flavor resembles the real one very closely, but it’s very difficult to capture the complexity and brightness of fresh mint in, say, a stick of Double mint (more like no mint) gum. And the benefits of fresh mint certainly outweigh those of the processed kind-peppermint is one of the most healing herbs around. 

When ingested internally, peppermint induces and improves circulation in the body, making it ideal for colds and fevers. Peppermint also relaxes anxiety, can relieve pain, and aids in digestion. In the Middle Ages, people used to chew mint leaves to whiten their teeth, and peppermint has a cooling and revitalizing effect because it numbs and extends the respiratory tract. Another little known mint fact: it’s said to restore sexual desire for men. No wonder Pliny the Elder told his students in Ancient Rome to wear wreaths of mint around their heads-supposedly to “exhilarate the mind.”

Photo: Suzanne Lehrer

Mint Chocolate Cupcakes Recipe

If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Why refrain from pairing together the two flavors that were meant to be? For the chocolate cupcake, I used a recipe from one of my favorite old-school cookbooks, Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Chocolate Desserts. Aside from the fact that I once convinced some friends that Maida was my grandmother, I love this cookbook mostly because Maida is never wrong, and there’s something very homey about baking with recipes from the “good old days” before Splenda was invented.

The frosting for these cupcakes is refreshing and light (or about as refreshing and light as frosting can be), and I like to think that because the main ingredient came from garden, they’re a sort of farm-to-table cupcake. For a deeper mint flavor, I chose spearmint leaves, but regular mint is fine as well.

Makes 12 Cupcakes

Cupcakes from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Chocolate Desserts

Frosting from The Seventeen Cookbook (1964)

Photo: Suzanne Lehrer

Grilled Cantaloupe with Mint Syrup Recipe

After my experiment with peaches, I’ve been anxious to try throwing another fruit on the grill. It’s something easy, but unexpected, and the leftover mint syrup can go on just about anything.

Makes 2 Skewers

For Cupcakes:
  • 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
  • 5 1/3 tbsp sweet butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
For Frosting:
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp mint extract
  • 10-15 fresh spearmint leaves, finely chopped
For Cantaloupe
  • 2 large cantaloupe slices, cut into chunks
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
For Mint Syrup
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves

Directions

To Make Cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350º. Line cupcake pans with foil cupcake wrappers. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa, and set aside. In a large bowl, cream the butter with an electric mixer. Add the vanilla and sugar and beat to mix. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition, and taking care to scrape the sides of the bowl to keep whole mixture smooth. On the lowest speed, alternate adding the cocoa mixture in 2 parts, and the milk in 2 parts. Continue to scrape the bowl and beat until smooth without over-mixing. Spoon batter into cupcake foils about halfway full (do not worry about evening out tops they will magically smooth themselves out). Maida says to bake for 25 minutes, but mine baked in 18 minutes.

To Make Frosting:

Beat the egg white until very stiff. Add the sugar, a little at a time, beating after each addition. Add the salt, mint extract, and finely chopped mint leaves and continue to beat until mixture forms peaks when beater is lifted.

To Make Cantaloupe:

Slide melon pieces onto a metal skewer (or a wood skewer, soaking in water for 1 hour first). Heat the grill to medium heat, and brush the oil over the grill to coat. Grill for about 7 minutes a side.

To Make Mint Syrup:

Bring water and sugar to boil over medium heat, stirring to help dissolve the sugar. Once sugar is dissolved, remove syrup from heat and add in mint leaves, rinsed and dried. Let the syrup cool for an hour, and then pour through a sieve to remove mint leaves. Pour over cantaloupe skewers.

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