Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Transforming a classic pie into a cupcake...

March does not strike me as being spring-like even though the "official" start happens then. April feels much more like it as the weather is warming up and it just seems brighter outside with everything coming back to life after the dark winter. So, to celebrate the new season, we thought it was a perfect time to make these Lemon Meringue Pie Cupcakes as the next Wednesday Treat Day treat that Jeff will bring into the office tomorrow.

With the windows wide open and the fresh spring air flowing through the house, I got started early this morning as this recipe has quite a few steps. A buttery and tangy lemon curd is first up - this is a pretty straight forward recipe with fresh lemon juice, eggs, sugar and butter being cooked over a double boiler until it has thickened. To ensure an extra luscious curd, this mixture is pressed through a fine sieve - then fresh lemon zest is stirred in for an extra punch. It now has to go into the refrigerator to chill out until it firms up.

While waiting on the curd, I went ahead with the cupcake portion. The original recipe called for regular "pastry flour", but I used a combination of all-purpose flour and cake flour as I didn't have the former on hand. This is just a basic plain cupcake recipe spiked with a healthy dose of lemon zest. I did use the technique that I first gathered from those Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins and rubbed the lemon zest into the sugar before creaming the butter.

Once baked and completely cooled, we cut out little "plugs" from the center of each cupcake so we could stuff them with the homemade lemon curd. Since we want these cupcakes to fit in with the pie theme, they are topped with swirls of light meringue and then placed in the oven for a few minutes to achieve those classic brown peaks. If you have one of those handy kitchen torches, this would be a great time to bust it out!

You may want to think about doing this recipe in stages over a day or two, but at least there is some downtime when you need to wait for things to cool. Was it worth the effort? Absolutely - especially if you are a lemon fan! The lemon-scented cupcakes, with a tart surprise in the center, were bright, refreshing and moist - the meringue added some pizazz and was the perfect replacement to a heavier buttercream frosting. My only complaint is that they are kind of small - I should have probably just made these into 16 or 18 cupcakes instead of 24. While the muffins did rise up nicely, they only come up to the rim of the paper cup.

Since we are working on a spring theme, one vegetable that we have really grown to love this time of the year is fresh snappy asparagus. Asparagus and lemon go quite well together we think and because I had to zest and juice a bunch of lemons for the cupcakes above, I wanted to make sure tonight's dinner included them. This Creamy Asparagus Pasta dish was quick to come together (especially after those tedious cupcakes!), fresh tasting and quite satisfying from using whole wheat penne pasta. While you wait for the pasta to cook, the creamy sauce begins with browning a bit of garlic in olive oil with milk, grainy mustard, flour and seasonings being whisked in once the garlic starts to turn a light brown. After a few minutes the sauce has thickened and it is given a fresh boost with the addition of tarragon, lemon zest and lemon juice. The tangy sauce is then tossed with the tender asparagus and pasta and a shower of nutty Parmesan is stirred in before serving to add another sharp creamy layer. Finished with a light sprinkling of Parmesan, this light meal will have to be made at least a couple more times while we still have access to decent asparagus!

If you're on the prowl for other pasta recipes, be sure to check out Ruth's round-up of Presto Pasta Night this Friday!

17 comments:

  1. I am not the biggest lemon pie fan, but your cupcakes look so pretty!
    Oohh, I just had an idea... maybe it would work too with CL's berry curd (remember it from last year?). Maybe I should try making this sometime, omitting the lemon zest from the cupcake batter and using the berry curd... humm, this might be good too, and hopefully as good looking as yours are Joe!
    Ana

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  2. My dad's favorite pie is lemon icebox. I think these would be fun but I'm not sure how much HE would like time. Is he a cupcake guy...I don't know. I love changing large desserts into a cupcake. So much fun.

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  3. Very cool cupcakes! And the pasta dish looks wonderful. And how convenient, I happen to have all the ingredients to make it....

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  4. I can't wait to share the Lemon Meringue Cupcakes to my co-workers. We had been eating lemon desserts and I have a lemon tree that I just don't know what to do with them other than "pahs" and curds. Thank you much for the inspiration.

    Cheers
    JD

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  5. What a delicious Spring feast. Creamy pasta and asparagus make a great combo.

    The cupcakes are gorgeous. I really want to know how you cut them in half for the picture without turning the darling meringue top into mush!

    Thanks for joining in Presto Pasta Night fun. Hope to see you there again.

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  6. Those cupcakes are seriously punk rock, dude! ;)

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  7. I want to come live at your house! Certainly beats the tuna I had for lunch!

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  8. Beautiful! Nice work, Joe!

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  9. Those are sooo wonderful! I came home last night after a long day but just had to run to the store to get ingredients to make them. I sent them to work with my boyfriend today (on a white platter with fake grass), and his coworkers were estatic. He was ordered to marry me tonight so they can ensure the cupcakes will continue. :)

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  10. These look amazing! I never have much luck with meringue, but I am thinking I may be okay with small cupcakes. Hmmm.... Thanks! :)

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  11. These are the most awesome looking cupcakes EVAR. I love the spikey meringue - kind of like an anime character's hair! Love it.

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  12. Thanks! These were such a blast to make and it sounds like they were thoroughly enjoyed! I have to remember and make these again! I like the idea of using different curds as well!

    LCBO stands for the Liquor Control Board of Ontario!

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  13. A novel way to present lemon meringue - as a cupcake! Will definitely make this treat more appealing.

    Will give this a go once our summer sets in (sometime around mid-August...).

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  14. Those cupcakes are way cool! Beautiful!

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  15. Lemon is one of my favorite flavors... this might have to be the next filled cupcake on the list!

    They remind me of the Boston Cream Pie cupcakes I made for the cupcake bakeoff a couple months ago... althugh your meringue is just sooo much more gorgeous than chocolate glaze :)

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