Trying to find something good on TV last night – ended up watching “Ghost” for the sixth time - I caught a few minutes of this movie, which got me thinking of how underestimated Jeff Bridges is. I find him a fine, talented and versatile actor but don’t think he has received the deserved attention/acclamation. He also lets the other actors he works with shine.
My vanilla cupcakes do the same here: they are delicious – made with real vanilla – but are humble enough to let the frosting and pistachio praline shine.
Vanilla cupcakes with pistachio praline whipped icing
slightly adapted from Donna Hay magazine
½ cup + 1 tablespoon (127g) unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup + 1 tablespoon (162g) caster sugar
½ vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1 ¼ cups + 1 tablespoon (185g) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup (120ml) milk
75g unsalted pistachio nuts
½ cup (100g) caster sugar
¼ cup (60ml) water
2/3 cup + 1 tablespoon (145g) caster sugar
3 tablespoons water
generous pinch of cream of tartar
2 egg whites
pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºC. Place the butter, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light and creamy. Gradually add the eggs and beat well. Sift over the flour and baking powder and beat until combined. Add the milk and mix.
Spoon the mixture into eleven 1/3-cup capacity muffin pans lined with paper cases. Bake for 15-17 minutes or until cooked through when tested with a skewer. Remove from the pans and cool on a wire rack.
Make the praline: line a baking sheet with a piece of foil, butter it and place the pistachio nuts on top. Set aside.
Place the sugar and water in a saucepan over low heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat and bring to the boil, brushing the sugar crystals from the inside of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until dark golden. Remove from the heat and pour toffee over the nuts. Allow to cool completely.
Break up the pistachio praline into large pieces and then chop them with a knife to small bits. Set aside.
To make the whipped icing, place the sugar, water and cream of tartar in a small saucepan over high heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 3 minutes. Meanwhile, place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until soft peaks form. While the motor is still running, gradually add the sugar mixture and beat until thick and glossy.
Spread the icing over the cupcakes with a palette knife and top with the pistachio praline.
Makes 11 (using 1/3-cup capacity pans)