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Forget April; August is surely the cruelest month. Sartorially speaking, of course. Irish weather has been having an indecisive moment of late, and it’s wreaking havoc with wardrobe choices and causing all kinds of mood swings.
And what to eat amid all of this confusion? It’s too grey and overcast to really enjoy ice-cream, too warm and humid to indulge in wintery desserts, try though we may. This is where the cupcake comes in, namely a cupcake that is both sweet and salty, a cupcake that is the perfect antidote for a summer that barely arrived before it was already gone.
This week I baked vanilla cupcakes wth a rhubarb compote filling, topped with vanilla icing and salted pistachios. Rhubarb, like last week’s raspberries, is in season at the moment and is one of my favourite things to eat during the summer months. The compote filling can be eaten alone or with ice-cream, and can be made and stored in the fridge for a few days. As it’s so sweet it is a perfect accompaniment to the salty pistachios atop the cupcakes, sort of like mixing your popcorn and chocolate at the cinema but far, far, classier.
Ingredients: Makes 6 big cupcakes:
- 250g Rhubarb, cut into 5mm pieces
- 75g Caster Sugar
- 1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
- 1 Vanilla Pod
- 1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
- 125g Butter
- 125g Caster Sugar
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 150g Plain Flour
- ¼ tsp Baking Powder
- 50g Butter
- 100g Icing Sugar
- 2 Tablespoons Cream
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 1 Vanilla Pod
- Shelled salted pistachio nuts
1)Put the rhubarb, sugar and vanilla extract in a saucepan to boil. Stir to help dissolve the sugar.
2)Cover the pan and simmer for four minutes. Uncover and heat until the fruit is just soft, but not falling apart.
3)Allow to cool, and place in the refrigerator until needed.
1)Preheat your oven to 180˚C and line a muffin tray with cases
2)Cream the butter in a large bowl until soft. Add the sugar and vanilla pod scrapings and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy TIP: If you’re not a big fan of vanilla or feel like something different you can add the grated zest of half a lemon here for lemon cupcakes.
3)Gradually add the beaten eggs then sift in the flour and baking powder and fold into the mixture.
4)Divide your batter among the paper cases and place into the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until risen and golden and a fork inserted into them comes out clean.
1)Cream the butter until soft
2)Add the icing sugar gradually and beat into butter
3)Add the vanilla extract (or zest of half a lemon if you want lemon favoured icing) and blend into the icing along with the cream.
4)If you find the consistency of the icing is off add more icing sugar or cream, depending on whether it’s not soft or too hard.
5)You can substitute the cream for crème fraiche for a slightly different, but still delicious, taste.
To construct the cupcakes:
1)Wait until the cupcakes have cooled and using a sharp knife cut a hole in the top of them that leaves enough space to insert the compote. Use the instructions on this website to guide you.
2)After replacing the top of the cupcake cover with a layer of icing and sprinkle over the salted pistachios.
3)Eat and enjoy!
If you’re not a big rhubarb fan you can change the filling to whatever you like or not use a filling at all. The toppings can change too, I used Cadbury’s Crunchie here instead of nuts.
Thanks to programmes like ‘Come Dine With Me’ and because of the R-word that dare not speak its name, entertaining at home has rarely been more popular. Stellar know that impressing your friends with delicious food, or being the Suzie Homemaker who brings home-baked goods to the office, is currently en vogue and have decided to offer you a weekly food item, with easy recipes and tips on how to make quick, delicious and impressive food.
This week’s recipe is for Chocolate and Raspberry Brownies with Chocolate Glaze. Raspberries are in season in Ireland at the moment, supermarkets are selling them rather cheaply and in abundance. This brownie recipe is so, so simple. It requires little in the way of kitchen equipment (apartment kitchenettes are difficult places to store the gadgetry many recipes require) and the ingredients are easy to source. If you don’t like raspberries or prefer another fruit, just leave them out. These brownies are so versatile; you can experiment to your heart’s, and stomach’s, content.
140g butter, cut into pieces – divided into 120g and 20g lots
220g dark chocolate (preferably 70% or higher) – divided into one lot of 120g and one of 90g
250g white sugar
1 teaspooon Vanilla Extract
2 large eggs
70g Plain flour
120g (approx) Raspberries, dusted in fine layer of sugar
1) Preheat your oven to 180°C and line your baking tray (I used an 8 inch square tin) with greaseproof paper or greased foil.
2) Place 120g butter and 120g of the chocolate into a heatproof bowl over hot water and melt together
3) When the chocolate mix has melted add the sugar and vanilla extract and mix thoroughly
4) Add the eggs one at a time, beating the mixture with a wooden spoon.
5) Add the flour to the mix and beat until the batter is smooth and pulling away from the sides of the mixing bowl.
6) Pour half of the batter into the baking tin and carefully place your raspberries over the batter in one layer
7)Pour the remaining batter over the raspberries and place in the hot oven for 35-40 mins. They are done when moving away from the edge of the tin and a knife or toothpick stuck into them comes out clean
8 ) Remove when cooled slightly from tin and place on wire rack to cool.
9) To make your glaze place the remaining chocolate and butter into a heatproof bowl over hot water until they melt. Remove from heat, allow to cool slightly, pour over brownies and place in the fridge until the chocolate dulls slightly.
10) Use a sharp knife to cut the brownie into small pieces, eat and enjoy!