Tuesday, August 12, 2008
It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, what with moving someone out, and then moving someone new in. And it’s always an adjustment taking on a new roommate no matter how easy-going one is. What is their bathroom routine like? How anal is she about dishes in the sink? What’s the best way to communicate with him? And there’s always the lingering suspicion that they may not as they seem and sooner or later they will flip out and show their true colors.
Then there is the huge task of incorporating their belongings in with one’s own. With a pretty stocked kitchen already, this process is daunting. My cousin didn’t take anything with him to New York, so the kitchen is still stocked with the belongings of 3 persons, and there wasn’t even enough storage space to begin with!
Amid the moving headache, a friend had requested pistachio cupcakes like the ones at Crumbs for her upcoming birthday. It’s been awhile since I had brought those to the office so I wasn’t entirely sure what they were like anymore. Cream cheese frosting? Buttercream? Nuts in the cake? Almond flavor? Well the online menu says vanilla sponge cake filled and frosted with pistachio buttercream, but I was quite certain I tasted a hint of almond in the cake before. I ended up taking the Billy’s Vanilla Cupcake recipe and adding a bit of almond extract and frosting it with the pistachio buttercream from Epicurious.
As always is the case with the Billy’s recipe, I was bracing myself for exploding cupcakes. I’m not sure it it’s because the butter hadn’t distributed itself evenly usually, or if the soufflé cups were too full, but there have been a few trials were 75% of the cupcakes were disgusting messes. This time I was careful to barely fill the cups halfway and I took great care in incorporating the butter without overbeating. Only a few casualties!
This was actually my first time making buttercream, but though the reviews were mixed, the recipe still sounded solid. It’s a fussy and time-consuming process, but I recommend starting the buttercream just before the cupcakes (if you’re planning on making it the same day) so that the half-and-half, pistachio mixture can cool, and then the cupcakes can cool while the pastry cream is also being brought to room temperature.
The cupcakes turned out wonderfully and everyone adored them, however next time I might try to incorporate pistachios into the actual cake. Maybe fill them with some kind of cream or fruit filling? Pistachio and chocolate is such a great combination so maybe a chocolate cream filling or frosting? The possibilities are endless so stay tuned.
adapted from Billy's Vanilla, Vanilla Cupcakes via Martha Stewart
about 24 cupcakes (although the recipe says 30, I've never had it yield so many)
1 3/4 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
1 1/4 unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup whole milk, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. (I used souffle cups baked on a baking sheet.) In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt; mix on low speed until combined. Add butter, mixing until just coated with flour.
2. In a large glass measuring cup, whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla. With mixer on medium speed, add wet ingredients in 3 parts, scraping down sides of bowl before each addition; beat until ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat.
3. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling about 2/3 full. If using 4 3/4" souffle cups, fill slightly over half full. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 17 to 20 minutes.
4. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat process with remaining batter. An advantage of using temperamental souffle cups is being able to fit more cupcakes (and maybe even all) at one time, allowing all the cupcakes to rise similarly instead of the normal not-quite-as-tall second batch. Frost with Pistachio Buttercream.
Pistachio Buttercream Frosting
1 1/4 cups half-and-half
3/4 cup unsalted pistachio nuts
1/2 cup sugar
4 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1. Bring half and half and pistachios to boil in heavy small saucepan. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 1 hour. Whisk sugar, yolks and flour in medium bowl to blend. Bring half and half mixture to simmer; gradually whisk into yolk mixture.Return to same saucepan; stir over medium heat until mixture bubbles thickly, about 5 minutes. Mix in vanilla. Transfer to processor; blend until nuts are very finely chopped. Transfer pistachio pastry cream to bowl. Cover and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.
2. Using electric mixer, beat unsalted butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add pastry cream by 1/4 cupfuls, beating well after each addition. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using.)