Monday, May 16, 2011
A Chocolate Pistachio Birthday Dream
Raise me a dais of silk and down;
Hang it with vair and purple dyes;
Carve it in doves and pomegranates,
And peacocks with a hundred eyes;
Work it in gold and silver grapes,
In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys;
Because the birthday of my life Is come,
my love is come to me.
-Christina Rossetti ("A Birthday")
I am now officially 28 years old. If one itsy bitsy little day can be a precursor of the things to come, then I'd say we're off to a good start. Looking at those cupcakes, how can you possibly disagree with me?
On a more serious note, it was a lovely, lovely birthday. It doesn't hurt that I have generous and thoughtful friends; both my tea collection and my list of books that must be read during the ultimately short three months of summer (Freedom! The Little Prince! Comfort Me with Apples!) have increased, tempting me away from work.....which, frankly, is just as it should be.
It started with a pre-party that a dear friend had kindly offered to host and then sloooowly (time crawls when you have yet to meet your self-imposed deadlines. Perhaps that's half the glory of a self-imposed deadline) turned into the real deal. The day passed by in a blur of hiking in the redwoods, some wine tasting at a cute bar-cafe in Sonoma and then a yummy Italian dinner at Estate. Cured meat has never tasted so good.
But really, it was all about the company, all about the food and, most definitely, all about these cupcakes. Ever since Joy the Baker wrote about pistachio pudding, I'd been thinking about it, dreaming about the perfect moment to make it. Pudding, however, is not a very travel-friendly food. And cupcakes, while themselves not always easy to transport, are both incredibly tasty and the perfect food for one (how, after all, do you make pudding for 20+ people? I simply don't have enough ramekins for such an endeavor).
The problem was that I didn't quite want pistachio cupcakes. I wanted chocolate--delicious, dark, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate--cupcakes. But I still wanted pistachio and I also wanted texture. Thus, pistachio buttercream frosting was clearly the only way to go.
Just call it an inspired choice. A girl doesn't live to be 28 and not have learned a few things along the way. As they say, with age comes great wisdom! And wisdom has never tasted so good.
Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cupcakes with Pistachio Buttercream Frosting
For the cupcakes:
Adapted slightly from Chockylit, my favorite cupcake blog
Yields 24 portions of happiness
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cocoa powdered
1-1/2 cups milk (I used 1% and, despite warnings that this would bring disaster upon me, was more than ok)
2 teaspoons vanilla
-Preheat oven to 350.
-Beat butter until softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
-Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
-Measure the flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder into a medium sized bowl and whisk to combine.
-Measure the milk and vanilla into a measuring cup.
-Add about a third of the dry ingredients to the butter-sugar mixture and beat to combine.
-Then, add about a half of the milk and vanilla mixture and beat to combine.
-Continue adding, alternating between dry and wet and finishing with the dry.
-Spoon batter into cupcake cups about 3/4 of the way full.
-Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
-Ice them with frosting (hopefully the recipe for pistachio buttercream below) and I dare you not to eat at least 2...if not more.
For the frosting:
Yields enough frosting for 24 cupcakes
1/2 cup pistachios
1 Tbsp. sugar
a few teaspoons of water
1 1/2 sticks butter
1/4 cup milk (again 1%)
about 1 cup powdered sugar (adjust according to how sweet you like your frosting)
-In a food processor, grind the pistachios until fine.
-Add in 1 Tablespoon of sugar and pulse a few more times to blend.
-Add in a few teaspoons of water, making sure that the mixture remains thick. **It should be the consistency of a paste.
-In a small bowl, cream the butter with an electric mixer.
-Add in the pistachio paste and blend.
-Add in the milk and the powdered sugar and blend until combined.
-Spoon onto cupcakes, if slightly obsessive like me, top them with an extra pistachio for decoration and enjoy!