May 25, 2010

On the cooling rack: Strawberry cupcakes

Remember all those strawberries I couldn't stop gushing over? They have found a new favorite home.

We borrowed Martha Stewart's Cupcakes book from our local library in case it wasn't any good. You know how she's sooooo hit-and-miss with her creations sometimes. But this time, it looks like we, ahem, "hand-picked" a winner. I made both standard size and mini cupcakes, and both were excellent, but here's my note for that: recipe calls for "finely chopped" fresh strawberries in the batter. I didn't have patience for finely chopping the berries, and I knew a food processor would just puree them, so I rough-chopped them. Of course, since those particular berries were so darn juicy, it meant that with the mini size, I really had to make sure the batter got cooked all the way because in a few of them, the cake just around the pieces of berry were a titch underdone. Not enough to stop me from eating most of the ones in the picture below, but just so you're aware. This wasn't the case with the standard size - make as many as you want of those.

Also, she swears by this Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting. To quote her book, "If there is one frosting a home baker should always have on hand, this is it." She backs up that claim by saying it's nice to spread and pipe, silky texture, flavors and colors perfectly, etc. My personal note is that sometimes Martha can get a little too fussy for my taste. But then, that's why she has a show and hundreds of people working for her, and I don't. I followed her strawberry variation of this particular frosting to the letter, hoping I wouldn't screw it up since it calls for basically cooking egg whites with sugar without letting them curdle. I used a double boiler, and made sure my water was only simmering (not at a rolling boil), and I periodically removed the top pan from the bottom while the sugar was dissolving just to make sure it didn't get too hot. Martha suggests using the bowl of a stand mixer over a pot of simmering water, which I would have done if I had a stand mixer, which I don't. So this frosting took me about 3x as long as it maybe should have, but I must say, I was NOT disappointed. I rarely lick frosting beaters, because I have to draw the line somewhere, but I could not be restrained this time. The end result instantly took me back to homemade strawberry ice cream at Laura D's house every Memorial Day and Labor Day growing up. It wasn't as cold as ice cream, of course, but the flavor was spot-on and incredibly delicious and creamy.

Strawberry Cupcakes makes 34 standard size cupcakes
2 3/4 c. flour
1/2 c. cake flour
1 T. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
2 1/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
3 large whole eggs plus 1 egg white
1 c. milk
2 c. finely chopped fresh strawberries (about 20) plus more for garnish
Strawberry Meringue Buttercream (recipe below)

1. Oven to 350. Line muffin tins. Sift together flours, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
2. Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla until pale and fluffy at med-high speed. Add eggs and the white one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the milk, and beating until well combined. Fold in chopped strawberries by hand.
3. Divide batter evenly (I use a large cookie scoop), filling each liner three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins if necessary until golden and toothpick comes out clean, about 25-30 min (I checked at 15-20. They were done at 21 min, but my oven runs hot and I also can't stand overcooked cupcakes). Cool in pans 15 min, turn onto wire rack and cool completely. They can be stored in airtight containers at room temp for a day.
4. Frost with buttercream, or pipe onto the tops and garnish with strawberry slices and eat like crazy. note: If you refrigerate your buttercream, you must let it come to room temp before serving. Learned that by experience. Tastes SO MUCH better.

Strawberry Meringue Buttercream (makes about 5 cups, plenty for one batch of cupcakes)
1 1/2 c. fresh strawberries (8 ounces) rinsed, hulled, and coarsely chopped
4 large egg whites
1 1/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. (3 sticks) cut into tablespoons and allowed to come to room temp.

1. Puree strawberries in a food processor. Combine egg whites and sugar in bowl of a stand mixer set over simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar dissolves and mixture feels completely smooth when rubbed between the fingers.
2. Attach bowl to the mixer with whisk attachment. Starting on low, whisk until stiff peaks form (mine never became super stiff like a regular meringue. It was very glossy and got firm, but the end result was perfect. I beat with a hand mixer for close to 20 min). Increase speed gradually to med-high until mixture is fluffier and very glossy and bowl is completely cool (about 10 min).
3. With mixer on med-low, add butter a few tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. Once all butter has been added, scrape down sides and switch to paddle attachment; continue beating until all air bubbles are eliminated, about 2 min. Add strawberries and beat until well combined. Stir with rubber spatula until mixture is smooth. Keep at room temp if using the same day. Can be refrigerated or frozen, but allow to come to room temp, beating about 5 min in stand mixer, before serving.

Kudos, Martha. You make me sick.


Jean said...

Waaaaaant. WAAAAAAANT!!!

ssyphus said...

Droooool, they look amazing Allison.

Stacey said...

Can you make these for me next week when I come? I arrive Tuesday and leave Friday! Can't wait to see you guys!

The Cooling Rack

Baked goods are only half the story...