Sunday, January 4, 2015

This year

Oh, John Darnielle, you and your eerily perfect combination of morbid and catchy. How do you do it? (Actually, morbid and New Year's Eve seem to go together in the arts; two of the numerous books I've recently finished feature terrible things happening to morally ambiguous people on that momentous occasion. Of the two, I'd more strongly recommend Ten Thousand Saints, by Eleanor Henderson. Despite my recent glut of  books featuring tortured adolescent-to-young-adult male protagonists, its unique perspective on a more dangerous New York was striking, to say the least.)

Ringing in 2015 with this and other combinations... like elderflower, berry, and citrus. What's not to love about a berry pastry cream-filled Meyer lemon cupcake with fragrant St. Germain frosting and a sprinkle of toasted almonds to cut through all those florals?

Lemon cupcakes
2 sticks melted butter (room temperature) or oil
3/4 cup Meyer lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
2 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp lemon zest
2 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda

Whisk the sugar into the butter/oil, then add the lemon juice, vanilla, water, yogurt, eggs, and lemon zest. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into this mixture. Fill muffin tins 3/4 of the way to the top and bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes. DO NOT open the oven until at least 15 minutes have passed.

Berry pastry cream
10.5 oz milk
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 oz cornstarch
3 oz sugar
pinch salt
1/2 to 2/3 cup berry puree (I used frozen raspberries and blackberries)
1/8 tsp almond or vanilla extract

Heat the milk to simmering. Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, cornstarch, sugar, and salt. When the milk is simmering, whisk a small amount into the egg mixture to temper, then a little bit more to ensure the egg mixture is warm. Whisk egg mixture into the remaining milk, and add the berry puree. Heat, whisking, until mixture is very thick and begins to bubble. When it does, cook for at least 1 minute, or until it no longer has the taste of raw cornstarch. Remove from the heat and whisk in the extract. Sieve into a container and press plastic wrap over the surface. Cool completely before using.

St. Germain Swiss meringue buttercream
2 egg whites
110 g, or about 1/2 cup, white sugar
1 stick butter, room temperature and cut into cubes.
pinch salt
2 or 3 teaspoons St. Germain, or to taste

Over a double boiler, whisk the egg whites and sugar until the mixture reaches 160F. Remove from the heat. Using a stand mixer, whisk the egg white/sugar mixture on medium speed until the mixture is cool and holds soft-to-medium peaks. Whisk in the butter, chunk by chunk. Keep whisking even if it looks curdled! When it has become homogenous and fluffy, add the pinch of salt and St. Germain, and continue to mix until optimal texture is achieved.

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