You never know what you're going to hear on the radio, but anytime food is mentioned my ears prick right up. I was driving home from work one evening and heard a story about a particular kind of pie that was news to me. It hails from the North Carolina coast, and the story is that this lemon pie is served at seafood restaurants everywhere. There's an old wives' tale that you will get sick eating any kind of dessert after having seafood, but not, apparently, this pie.
I don't know anything about that, because I'm allergic to shellfish anyhow and I've never been to North Carolina (seems to me people on the Alabama coast have dessert after seafood all the time, but perhaps our stomachs are tougher). I did think that a lemon pie with a saltine crust topped with whipped cream sounded lovely, so I went straight home and made it. And it was, too! Then I forgot all about it.
Until, just recently, NPR decided to re-air the story (really, NPR?), and this time my mother was listening and mentioned it to me. I remembered making the pie and how much I'd liked it, but now...what if I turned it into a cupcake? What if I took the very simplicity of the pie and overcomplicated it? Fantastic!
Actually, it is. The components of the Atlantic Beach Pie work just swimmingly (heh) in a cupcake. Tart, sweet, creamy, salty, crunchy - it's all there, but it also manages not to be too heavy. So I think it would go well after a seafood dinner (not that I'd know. Do you know what a bummer it is being allergic to seafood, growing up on the Gulf Coast?), or a nice summer cookout, or heck, my kids had these for breakfast this morning.
And if you want to hear the original story on the pie, go ahead and click here
Atlantic Beach Cupcake~For saltine crust~
1 sleeve saltine crackers
1/2 cup salted butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners.
Pulse the crackers in a food processor until they are mostly broken up (but not finely so). Add in the sugar and butter and pulse until the mixture is starting to resemble a dough (you can do this with your hands, too; it will just take longer).
Divide the mixture evenly among the cupcake liners and press down to form a bottom crust in each. Bake the crusts for 13 - 15 minutes or until they are decidedly golden (don't be a chicken about the coloring here). Let the crusts cool completely before filling with the batter.
|See how dark that crust is? Totally fine.|
~ For lemon cupcakes ~
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons lemon zest
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
In a large saucepan, melt the butter with the lemon juice and water on medium high heat. When the butter is melted remove from heat. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the sour cream (or yogurt), eggs, vanilla extract and lemon zest and whisk together. Let this mixture cool completely. In a separate bowl combine the flour, salt and baking soda together, then whisk the dry ingredients into the batter. It will foam up - don't panic. Once you've got the dry ingredients mixed in, the batter will be on the thin side. Again, don't panic.
Fill the prepared cupcake tins 3/4 full with the batter (this is an important step - I know this is more full than usually you'd go but please just listen to me). Bake, one pan at a time, at 350 for 15 - 18 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Do not open the oven door while the cupcakes are baking.
Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for five minutes, then remove to a wire rack to let them cool completely before filling and frosting.
~For the lemon filling~
1 can sweetened, condensed milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine all the ingredients in a heavy saucepan and cook, stirring, over medium heat until the mixture starts to boil. Be careful to keep stirring because this will scorch in a heartbeat! Continue cooking until the mixture is starting to thicken, about five minutes. Remove from heat and let cool before filling the cupcakes.
To fill the cupcakes, using a sharp knife (honestly, I use a steak knife for this), cut a cone-shaped section from the top of each cupcake. Trim off the extra cake from each cone, just leaving a flat cap to cover the cavity you've made in the cupcake. Fill each cupcake with about a tablespoon or so of the lemon filling (this all depends on how big a hollow you've carved into the cupcake, and really, that is entirely up to you) and replace the cap on each one. There. All you've left is the frosting, and that's easy.
~Whipped Cream Frosting (stabilized)~
1 1/2 cups chilled whipping cream
1 packet dry gelatin powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Whisk the gelatin into 1/4 cup of the cream and let stand for about 10 minutes. Then add in the rest of the cream and the vanilla, with your electric mixer on low, beat until the cream is starting to thicken. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, and continue mixing, increasing the speed as you go, until the cream is forming stiff peaks (but don't overbeat because you'll end up with sweetened, gelatinized butter).
To frost the cupcakes, use a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe the whipped cream on top of each one. I finished mine with a grind of pink sea salt and edible yellow glitter. I like the crunch of the salt contrasting with the creamy sweetness of the frosting.
The gelatin will keep the whipped cream from weeping but these cupcakes still have to be stored in the refrigerator. Makes 24 cupcakes - enjoy!
|Cupcake Army of Darkness!|
|Cupcake on a brick!|