Tuesday, August 11

Another Successful Culinary Creation...

I just got home from a wonderful evening with two amazing people - a dear friend from high school and her husband. I am so excited to spend more time with them in the future and get to know their cute little family better (and possibly kidnap their ridiculously adorable babies, but that's neither here nor there).

For my contribution to dinner I provided the dessert, and it turned out rather well, if I do say so myself. For those who know me well, I'm a bit of a spazz in the kitchen (just the other night I flipped my grilled cheese sandwich onto the floor). So when I actually make something that turns out like it's supposed to, it's a small victory and there is reason to celebrate.

Tonight's culinary masterpiece came from a recipe I found in the August issue of Shape magazine. So for all of you who like to get creative in the kitchen, this is a great recipe to try. Enjoy!

(This is for you, Erin!)

Lemon-Lavender Cupcakes
(Serves 12; Prep time: 30 minutes; Total time: 1 hour)

For the cupcakes:
1 cup white whole-wheat or all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons dried lavender buds, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and brought to room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 cup lowfat buttermilk

For the icing:
1 cup loosely packed confectioner's sugar
5 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Fresh lavender buds to garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place cupcake liners in a 12-cup muffin pan. To make batter, whisk together flour, lavender, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed for 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, lemon juice, and zest. Beat in one-third of the flour mixture until just combined. Beat in half the buttermilk, followed by another third of the flour, then the remaining buttermilk and flour.

Fill cupcake liners about two-thirds of the way up and bake 24 to 26 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove and cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the icing, stir together confectioner's sugar and lemon juice until smooth. Stir in zest. Drizzle over cupcakes and garnish with lavender. (Let frosting set for 30 minutes before packing or serving.) Serve right away or store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

(JULIE O'HARA is a writer and recipe developer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.)

*Some comments: 1) I used just plain all-purpose flour and it was fine; 2) I found the dried lavender buds at Central Market in their bulk foods area. You don't want the green herb, but rather the purple bud part of the plant. Just ask someone to help you (believe me, it saves a lot of time); 3) When zesting the lemons, be really careful not to "zest" the skin off of your fingers. It is extremely painful and I'm pretty sure the recipe does not call for that particular ingredient; 5) I only baked the cupcakes for about 23 minutes and they turned out great - I think any longer in the oven would have overcooked them; 6) Once drizzled over the cupcakes, the icing sets pretty quickly, so it is important to garnish with the lavender right away so that it actually sticks to the icing.

**If I were more skilled in the art of photography, I would have taken really cool pictures of the whole baking process, maybe a couple of angled shots of the lemons and lavender on top of the counter, and then shots of the final products all lined up on a pretty plate.... but sadly I am not that talented. Maybe next time.

***Ummm, seriously, these were really good cupcakes. You should make them. And then share them with someone you love!

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