For Those Who Think Big

This morning, Lucila was (presumably) researching recipes to post here.

I presume this on the basis of several “mmm” noises she was making. There are other explanations, of varying plausibility. But I digress.

One such “mmm” was followed by a murmured reference to spaetzle. As in, “mmm, herb spaetzle in brown butter.” Mmm, indeed.

She then asked out loud if anyone would make spaetzle.

“I,” I said, “will not be making spaetzle.”

The explanation, which she pressed me for, is that I don’t enjoy cooking for its own sake. I like the conflux between botany and nutrition, and learning the best way to parlay that into the human body’s economy, for reasons of health and, ultimately, pleasure. (Nothing further, your honor.)

But the marathon cooking session that results in self-congratulatory (not to say onanistic) blogging, denoted by words such as “mouthfeel” and “velvety”, is emphatically not my bag. And I can neither confirm nor deny a certain degree of disdain for those whose bag it is.

However, those who live to feed those they love, and set themselves to ingenious evolution of their loved ones’ beloved favorites, inspire deepest awe and respect. And ingenuity, to paraphrase Michelangelo, takes a long freakin’ time to work out. Ergo, while I’m not making spaetzle anytime soon, I would extend my humblest gratitude and admiration to anyone who makes it for me. Or for anybody, really. Anything done in love is a work of art, being as love itself is rather ingenious.

So for those of you who think big, please make us some of these cupcakes. We will supply the key ingredients, and we will shower you with praise.

Pumpkin-Sage Cupcakes with Double Brown Buttercream

First, Make Those Cakes!
1 1/4 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cup white sugar
3-4 Tbsp torn-up sage leaves (depending on how sagey you like it)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups pumpkin puree (from 1 medium-size pumpkin or 5-6 Wee B Littles)
3 cups AP flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350F. Cream the butter and sugars with the sage until light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between additions and incorporating thoroughly. Add the vanilla and the pumpkin and beat until incorporated. If it looks a little grainy don’t worry; the dry ingredients will bring it back together. Combine all the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk to combine and aerate (sift if you have clumps of anything). Add the dry mixture to the rest of the batter and incorporate on a low speed, stopping to scrape down the bowl a couple of times. Don’t overmix. Scoop into lined muffin tins and bake 20-25 minutes for full-sized cupcakes, 10-15 for minis. Cool completely before frosting.

Now Make That Frosting!
4 eggs yolks, room temperature
1 pinch salt
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp water
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 1/3 cup brown butter (start with at least 1 1/2 cups of butter before browning, as you’ll lose some volume in cooking it), solidified and softened

Place the yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer and start beating them on a low speed with the whisk attachment. Add the salt and turn up the speed to high. Whip until pale, thick and noticeably increased in volume. Place the sugars and water in a saucepan and cook over high heat until it reaches the soft ball stage (248F). Pour the sugar down the side of the mixing bowl into the eggs and continue whipping until only slightly warm. Switch to the paddle attachment and turn it on to a medium-low speed. Add the brown butter gradually in small chunks. If the buttercream begins to get soupy or break in some way, stop adding the butter and turn up the mixer until it comes back together, then turn down the mixer and resume adding the butter until it is all incorporated. It will probably be fairly soft, so refrigerate it to firm it up a bit before piping.

And Now to Put It All Together!
Cupcakes, cooled completely
Buttercream, in a piping bag fitted with a large round tip
Large green confetti sprinkles (also known as quins)
Orange sanding sugar
Fresh sage leaves

Pipe blobs that look like slightly flattened spheres onto each cupcake, directly in the center. Don’t cover the whole surface of the cupcake – about half the diameter is all you need. Once they’re all frosted, apply the green sprinkles to the dead center of each frosting blob, using tweezers if necessary (I wish I’d had some but my almost freakishly tiny fingers did the trick just fine). Carefully sprinkle the frosting on each cupcake with the orange sugar, being careful to not spill too many on the cake itself (they’ll stick). Decorate with fresh sage leaves. Keep refrigerated and serve slightly cool (or else the frosting will be too melty and buttery).


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