Lemon-Raspberry Cupcakes

If you're looking for a cupcake recipe that's a little different, try this one! Lemon juice and zest is added to the batter, so it's nice and citrusy. A crisp lemon-raspberry glaze goes on top, and a dollop of raspberry jam awaits you in the middle of the cupcake (okay, so my jam sank to the bottom -- maybe because I didn't have a thick enough batter?).

Next up, I'm going to try to tackle the ubiquitous strawberry sponge cake that can be found at just about any Asian bakery. You know the kind -- the cake is soft and airy, the icing is fluffy and not too sweet, and the strawberries just bring it all together. Trouble is, I simply can't find a recipe for one. I'm starting off with a Norwegian sponge cake recipe that is supposed to be similar, and working from there. I'll keep you posted.

Lemon-Raspberry Cupcakes
Bon Appetit, April 2008

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar, divided
4 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel, divided
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups self-rising flour
1/4 cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
12 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon seedless raspberry jam
Fresh raspberries (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Using electric mixer, beat butter, 1 1/2 cups powdered suga, and 3 teaspoons lemon peel in large bowl until blended, then beat until fluffy and pale yellow. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating to blend after each addition. Beat in half of flour. Add buttermilk and 2 tablespoons lemon juice; beat to blend. Beat in remaining flour.

Drop 1 rounded tablespoonful batter into each muffin liner. Spoon 1 teaspoon raspberry jam over. Cover with remaining batter, dividing equally.

Bake cupcakes until tester inserted halfway into centers comes out clean, about 23 minutes. Cool cupcakes in pan on rack. Meanwhile, whisk remaining 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon peel in small bowl. Spoon half of icing over 6 cupcakes. Whisk 1 tablespoon raspberry jam into remaining icing. Spoon over remaining cupcakes. Let stand until icing sets, about 30 minutes. Garnish with raspberries.

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Blackberry and Lemon Verbena Sorbet

A pound of blackberries from the farmers' market ended up in the refrigerator this weekend, which led to a midweek panic when they started to go bad. This wasn't a huge problem really, because Susan and I both spend our weeks with graduate students and graduate students are powerless to offers of free food. (Thank you Melanie, Dan and Vaishnavi for volunteering to stuff your faces.)

I had planned to simply sprinkle the berries with sugar and finely chopped lemon verbena, then thought about revisiting the dutch baby pancakes and tossing the blackberries with a lemon verbena syrup. In the end, though, I threw the berries in a pot with the verbena syrup, boiled everything to a sugary mess and bought the cheapest ice cream maker I could find

Blackberry and Lemon Verbena Sorbet

1 cup water
1 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
10 fresh lemon verbena leaves
1 pound fresh blackberries
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Bring the water to boil in a saucepan then remove from heat and stir in the sugar. When the sugar has dissolved, add the lemon verbena leaves and steep for half an hour. After steeping, strain the sugar syrup, discard the verbena leaves and place the syrup in a covered container in the refrigerator until cold.

Now throw the blackberries and lemon verbena syrup into a saucepan and boil the mixture for a few minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow it to cool for a few minutes, then pour the contents into a blender and puree until smooth. Now strain the mixture to remove the blackberry seeds--there should be about half a cup of them. Add lemon juice and refrigerate overnight.

Now follow the instructions for your ice cream maker and when finished dump the sorbet into a very cold container and freeze it until firm, about 5 hours. Sorbet will be the consistency of soft ice cream and I recommend serving it in frosted glasses.

Makes about 4 cups.

Sorbet Recipe
from Lynn in Georgia

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Lemon and Asparagus Risotto

Minnah came and stayed with us a few days this week. She's good at giving encouragement in the kitchen, so we did a lot of cooking. This recipe is for a lemon asparagus risotto inspired by a recipe from Nigella Bites by Nigella Lawson(You can read some of Nigella's recipes for free at her website nigella.com. Though I don't think this risotto recipe is available there.) I replaced shallot and celery with leek for less punchy flavors that wouldn't compete with our fresh-from-the-farm-market asparagus.

Lemon and Asparagus Risotto

Makes 4 servings

2 large leeks
6 stalks of asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (can be replaced with additional olive oil)
1 1/3 risotto rice (I like Arborio)
approx. 1 quart vegetable stock
zest and juice of 1/2 unwaxed lemon
needles from 2 small sprigs of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 egg yolk
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan (I like Grana Padano instead)
4 tablespoons heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

First prepare the leeks. Trim off the roots, leaving the bulb end intact, and cut off all the dark green tops, leaving about 2 inches of pale green stem and all the white part. Halve the leeks lengthwise and splay open the layers with your hands. Rub each layer with your fingers while holding the leek under running water to dislodge any grit. After cleaning the leeks, slice them thinly and set aside.

Heat the stock in another saucepan and, when it is simmering, use it to blanch the asparagus for exactly 2 minutes. remove the asparagus and set it aside. Keep the stock simmering.

At the same time, heat the butter and oil in a large wide saucepan or pot. Add the leek and cook until it's soft, stirring often. Mix in the rice and stir until it is well coated with oil and butter.

Toast the rice until it begins to turn translucent, then pour a ladleful of the vegetable stock into the rice and keep stirring until the stock is absorbed. Then add another ladleful and stir again. Continue doing this until the rice is al dente. You may not need all of the vegetable stock.

Stir the lemon zest and rosemary into the risotto and in a small bowl beat the egg yolk, lemon juice, grated cheese, cream and pepper. When the risotto is ready (when the rice is no longer chalky, but still has some bite) take it off the heat and add the asparagus and the bowl of eggy, lemony mixture. Salt to taste and serve with more grated cheese on top. Garnish with lemon zest if you wish.

Our asparagus came from Monica Bongue at Muddy Fork Farm. Monica was born in Cali, Colombia, came to the U.S. to earn a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from U.C., Davis and now runs a farm in Wooster, Ohio. Her asparagus is wonderful and she sells at the Shaker Square Farmers' Market.

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