Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Today is a very exciting day for me. Not only is it Valentine's Day (which means wearing lots of red, my heart socks, going out to dinner), but today is the day I am laid off.

That's right, I'm unemployed. This is the big life change I've been alluding to for a while.

I have decided to call my unemployment "extended vacation." I am taking time for myself, to rest, to recuperate, to regain my confidence and feelings of self-worth that have been destroyed by my job. I have tried to keep it secret and only tell my very closest friends and my parents, but dear god, I hated my job.

And the economic mess our country is in actually turned things in my favor and caused my lab to lose funding, forcing me out.

Now that I'm to be unemployed, our finances will be tricky, but I think I'll be happy. We've agreed that scrimping and saving is worth getting me out of my misery. I expect to cook more budget meals over the next few months. I also stocked up on yarn while I still had a paycheck, to tide me over the next few months. :)

To celebrate such an exciting and long-awaited day (I've been counting down the days since before Christmas), I wanted to make a dessert. Of course, there are so many lovely recipes floating around in the ether, so I made Clint tell me what he wanted. We're going out to dinner, so I wanted something simple but tasty, to snack on over the next few days. He said either nutella blondies or something with berries.

Lemon Raspberry Cupcakes
(you'll hear about those chocolate cookies later this week)
These cupcakes are more of an assembly/flavor combination suggestion than a new recipe. I've mentioned the frosting and cake recipes before, and I continue to use them often because they're so good!

Vanilla Cupcakes,
Magnolia Bakery's recipe, via Martha Stewart

2 sticks of butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1t vanilla
1cup milk
2-3/4 cups AP flour
2-1/4t baking powder
1/4t salt

Cream the butter and sugar (beat a few minutes), add eggs and beat after each, until it's well-combined. Whisk the dry ingredients together and then add about 1/3 of that to the mixture, then about half the milk. Add more flour, the rest of the milk, the rest of the flour. After each addition, beat only until just barely combined, don't overbeat.

Preheat oven to 350F, and fill cupcake tins with liners or mini cupcake tins with liners about 2/3 full with batter (minis get about 1T). Bake about 20 min for regular cupcakes, 15 min for minis.

Makes 1 dozen regular + 3 dozen mini cupcakes.

Raspberry Filling

Some frozen raspberries (3/4 cup or so)

In a small saucepan, cook the raspberries for a few minutes, until they're saucy. Cool. (I didn't bother straining, but if the seeds bother you, strain).

Boiled Lemon Frosting
from coconut&lime

I recommend making a half batch. I only wish I could remember that before I start!

For a full batch:
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
4 egg whites
pinch of salt

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, lemon juice and zest. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until it reaches soft ball stage (about 230F).

Meanwhile, starting beating the egg whites and salt in a stand mixer on high. Beat until soft peaks form.

Pour the hot sugar in a steady stream into the egg whites while the mixer is on low. Once the sugar is all in, turn it up to medium-high and beat for 5-6 minutes. Frost cool cupcakes (I used an offset spatula, not a piping bag or anything)

Normally when I fill cupcakes, I use a piping bag with a medium-sized round tip and inject the cupcakes. With a fruit filling, I thought that might not work, so I went with the other method, cutting out a cone of cupcakes and replacing it. This method is tedious and annoying and I do not prefer it. However, it worked well with the raspberry filling.

Once the cupcakes are cool, cut a cone out of the top of the cupcake with a sharp knife, so there's a well- don't get rid of the cone, though. Spoon about 1t raspberry filling into the well, and place the cone back on top. Don't add so much filling that it squirts out everywhere when you push the cupcake cone back in. Then frost as normal- the frosting will hide the ugly gash in the cupcake.

It just adds an extra step, compared to the injection method, but it works well for this.

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