Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lemon, Blueberry and White Chocolate Cupcakes

If you haven't noticed, I'll just throw it out there--I'm on a lemon kick, people. Maybe it's because we're nearing "summer" here in San Francisco, which really means we're just around the corner from an endless June Gloom and I'm trying to inject as much sunshine into my life as possible. Or maybe it's because I've been so on another planet lately that I keep buying lemons every time I go to the store, thinking I don't have any, and really, I already have, like, 11 rolling around in the refrigerator door. I'll let you decide.

Anyway, in addition to the overabundance of lemons over here, I also recently scored an exorbitant amount of organic blueberries at a nearly criminal price. I also am perennially in love with white chocolate, because I've got a thing for the underdog. And so it came to be on a recent afternoon--Lemon, Blueberry and White Chocolate Cupcakes.

Looking back on Ye Olde Piece of Cake archives, I am shockingly low on blueberry recipes around here. It's a shame, really. When you get them at just the right time of year, they are little juicy orbs from heaven. And thankfully, a quick rinse is all they require before consumption. I am grateful for such simplicity, since Little C recently has decided to develop a sort of Life Rider which rivals J-Lo's backstage version. The child has serious fruit preferences. If I have to drop everything to hull and quarter another strawberry, I might scream. Blueberries, I Love You.

But getting back to the cupcakes, I suppose the only difference between a blueberry muffin and a blueberry cupcake is the time of day at which one eats it. Also, frosting. But I decided to push this particular morsel decidedly into the category of cupcake by adding richness, sweetness, a tiny of bit of chew to the crumb and crispness to the edges. All good things, I assure you. Especially when all of that comes from melted white chocolate in the batter and whipped egg whites. It's all so dreamy.

I've loved the interplay of lemon and white chocolate forever--it's just a magical balance. The acidity and brightness of the lemon tempers the richness and sweetness of the white chocolate in a way that can only be found in nature. Lemon and white chocolate together is Mother Nature's greatest gift. What do you mean, white chocolate isn't found in nature? I choose to believe it is so. Lie to me.

Combine that heavenly combination with the aforementioned glorious blueberries that are everywhere right about now, and ohhhh, man.

If you're the popular type of person who gets invited to summer gatherings of all sorts, I can't think of another dessert that would be quite so perfect for bringing along. Bursts of sunshine in cupcake form, I'm telling you.

Lemon, Blueberry and White Chocolate Cupcakes

I'd recommend going organic for your lemons and your blueberries here--you'll get a flavor and color boost, and avoid zesting and folding a bunch of pesticides into the mix. Just my two cents.

Makes 18 frosted cupcakes

For the cakes:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
Zest of 1 large lemon
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
8 ounces high-quality white chocolate, chopped bar or chips
1/2 cup half and half (whole milk works, too)
6 ounces blueberries
5 large egg whites

For the frosting:

2 sticks butter
6 ounces cream cheese
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1 large lemon)
4 ounces white chocolate, melted and cooled
Yellow food coloring, optional

Position an oven rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners, 12 in one and 6 in the other.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla until very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler. When it's just warm to the touch, stir it into the butter mixture on low speed, just until combined--it may separate a bit, but it will come back together. With the mixer on low, alternate adding the flour mixture and the half and half in three batches until well-blended.

Toss the blueberries with about a teaspoon of all-purpose flour in a small bowl, just to coat the berries with a light dusting of flour. Set aside.

With a handheld mixer and a medium bowl or in a clean stand mixer bowl with the whip attachment, whip the egg whites on medium high speed until they reach firm peaks, 2-3 minutes. Stir about a third of the whites into the batter to lighten it, then gently fold in the remainder of the whites. When the egg whites are almost incorporated, fold in the blueberries.

Fill the muffin cups no more than 3/4 of the way full with the batter. Bake one tin at a time until a toothpick just comes out clean, about 22-25 minutes. Invert the cupcakes onto a cooling rack, then turn them right side up and let them cool completely.

For the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer beat together the butter and cream cheese just until smooth. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and lemon juice. Finally, beat in the melted white chocolate, just to combine. Beat in a few drops of food coloring for a creamy yellow hue, if you wish. When the cupcakes have cooled completely, frost them generously.

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