08 March, 2014

A Triple Threat....

Lately a recipe has been making the rounds on Facebook called "Lemon Meringue Cupcakes".  As much as I love lemon, I have never really been a fan of meringue WITH my lemon.  Thing is, a couple of weeks ago I spotted another recipe that I was going to try called Apple Amber.  It sounded quite interesting...apple custard type pie filling baked into a pie and covered with meringue.  I've never tried meringue with apples however.  Couldn't quite rule out that it could be an awesome combination.  The Irish always have a good recipe up their sleeves...

So, what do you think I did?  I took the lemon meringue cupcake recipe and fiddled with it quite a bit to finagle my way into a trio of cupcakes that I knew would please everyone in the house.  My sister is here visiting with my niece from Alberta so I went through a list of different ideas for filled cupcakes...  Boston Cream, Apple Amber, Lemon Meringue, Strawberry Shortacake, Black Forest, or Key Lime Coconut...  When I ran the choices by the crowd we came up with Apple Amber, Strawberry Shortcake, and Key Lime Coconut.  All of those were extremely easy to turn into a filled cupcake.  My sister called it "a triple threat".  She is right! 

If you don't have a cupcake corer, it is time to get one.  They are fairly easy to find these days and inexpensive as baking tools go.  There are several different ones on the market.  I like the ones that get out a generous portion of cupcake center because then, of course, you can put more filling it in and the cupcake to filling ratio is more pleasing to everyone.

Let's get to it!

Apple Amber Filling
1 granny smith apple, peeled and grated
2 T. lemon juice
1/2 c. organic cane sugar
2 T. cornstarch
4 T. organic unsalted butter
2 organic brown egg yolks, beaten  (save the whites!!)
pinch of salt

Peel and grate your apple and immediately stir the lemon juice into the apple before it oxidizes and the apples turn brown.  In a medium saucepan on medium heat, toss in your butter and allow it to start melting.  Mix the egg yolks, the salt, and half of the sugar (1/4 c.) into the bowl with the apples and lemon juice.  Pour the apple mixture into the pan with the melted butter and stir until everything is mixed together well.  In a small bowl mix the remaining 1/4 c. of sugar with the cornstarch.  Add the cornstarch mixture to the pan of apples.  Stir well, and allow to come to a boil and thicken.  Stir constantly to make sure the egg yolks don't curdle.  (That SHOULDN'T happen because they were mixed with a sugar source first, but...can't say "never".)  When it is the consistency of apple pie filling, remove from the pan to cool in a bowl.  Set aside until you're ready to filling the cupcakes.

Key Lime Filling
4 organic brown egg yolks, beaten (save the whites!!)
4 T. key lime juice
1/2 tsp. lime oil
pinch of salt
3/4 c. + 1 T. organic cane sugar
1 T. grated key lime zest
1/2 c. oven toasted unsweetened coconut

Curd can be fickle and temperamental to make.  Most people use a double boiler but...I just go for broke and cook it on direct, low heat.  I always make sure I put my curd through a strainer out of habit anyhow.  If eggs curdled, it never makes it into the final product, don't worry.

Mix all of your ingredients together and stir constantly, until it comes to a low boil.  It will thicken up quickly.  Pour the curd through a strainer into a bowl and set aside to cool completely.

Strawberry Filling
5 large organic strawberries, sliced
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 c. organic cane sugar
2 T. cornstarch
pinch of salt
3 T. organic unsalted, butter

Mix the sliced strawberries, lemon juice, salt, and 1/4 c. of the sugar together in a bowl.  In a medium saucepan begin melting the butter and add the strawberry mixture to the pan.  Mix the cornstarch and remaining 1/4 c. sugar together in a small bowl, then add the mixture to the pan with the strawberries.  Stir until the mixture no longer appears cloudy and the mixture has thickened into the consistency of pie filling.  Set it aside to cool completely before filling the cupcakes.
Filled Cupcakes
1 c. organic unsalted butter, room temperature
2 c. organic cane sugar
4 organic brown eggs
1/2 c. organic milk 
4 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. salt
3 c. cake flour (all purpose flour is okay if that is what you have!)

Preheat oven to 350 F

Cream your butter and sugar together and beat in your eggs one at a time, making sure each egg is completely blended in before adding the next.  In a separate bowl mix together the dry ingredients and add it to the butter mixture alternating with the milk until both are completely incorporated into the batter.  

Portion out 24 one tablespoon portions of batter (I used my Pampered Chef large scoop...it was the perfect amount!) into cupcake liners and bake for 20-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove cupcakes from the baking tin and set on cooling rack to cool for at least 1 hour before removing the centers.

When you're ready to core out the cupcakes make sure that you have a bowl at your side to toss the cores into.  (The Sprout made short work of those middles after we ate Korma and Garlic Naan for dinner last night; he ate every single one.  24 cores!)  Once you've cored out the centers you're ready to fill them with the completely cooled fillings you made previously.

6 reserved egg whites
1/4 c. organic powdered cane sugar
pinch of salt

Pour the whites and salt into your stand mixer and let it rip!  Put it as close to high as you can stand hearing.  Add the powdered sugar in 1 tablespoon at a time, waiting until each addition is completely whipped into the whites.  Whip the whites until they are no longer clear and have formed nice peaks.  Tip the mixing bowl upside down to make sure the whites are ready to be used.

Spoon your meringue onto each Apple Amber filled cupcake, as close to the edge of the liner paper as you can WITHOUT touching the lining.  It will be a mess to get out of the paper if you do!  When you feel like you have a good amount of coverage over the filling with the meringue, touch the spoon to the top middle of the meringue and pull up.  It will make a loverly little curl at the top of the cupcake.  It will make people *think* you are one fancy, shmancy baker.

Put them under the broiler on a pan and leave them there until the meringue begins to gently brown.  It took mine about 2-2.5 minutes.  It happens very quickly.  Remove from the oven and off the pan onto a cooling rack.

After filling the Strawberry and the Key Lime into the cupcakes, top them with whipped cream.  You can whip it yourself or buy it from the store.  I recommend organic TruWhip if your store sells it.  Top the Strawberry filled cupcakes with the whipped cream and a slice of strawberry.  Top the Key Lime cupcakes with whipped cream and coconut that you gently toasted in the oven under your broiler.   

With this recipe I was able to make 8 of each filling flavor.  I tried to coordinate the colors with the fillings.  The Key Lime Coconut cupcakes had a white and green checkered liner, the Strawberry Shortcake cupcakes were red and white, and the Apple Amber liners were flowery like apple blossoms on a tree.

Apple Amber Cupcakes

Center of Apple Amber Cupcakes
Key Lime Coconut Cupcakes

Center of Key Lime Coconut Cupcakes

Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes

Center of Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes

My sister enjoyed the Key Lime Coconut the most, saying it was a good combination of texture and flavor.  The Mister ate his Strawberry Shortcake Cupcake in three bites, that is a good enough review without words.  I was surprised to find that I enjoyed meringue with apple.  I don't care for it with lemon, but apple really compliments it, according to my tongue anyhow.  Unfortunately for the Sprout, once they were filled the cupcakes were "ruined" in his mind.  But he thoroughly endorsed and loved the flavor of the cake as was evidenced by the empty bowl he handed back to me that was filled with cupcake cores.  All in all, quite a success with a solid cupcake recipe for my base.  What a success!  And...what fun to be having in the kitchen while my sister was visiting. 

***To make these "Black Forest" you'd need to add a high quality cocoa powder to the cake batter (I use Callebaut cocoa powder), make a nice cherry filling out of fresh or canned in water cherries (NEVER use canned in syrup cherries UNLESS you drain and rinse them VERY well), and then top it with whipped cream and garnish with a fresh cherry sliced in half.  To make these cupcakes Boston Cream make the cupcakes as directed above, filled with homemade Bavarian Cream, and top with melted milk chocolate that has a bit of shortening melted into it.  Let it solidify before eating the cupcakes.

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