There aren’t many questions I can answer for certain. One of the major questions plaguing me right now is “what are you doing with your life?” Huh, what? Um, I’m 31, married, living in Manhattan, and I spoil a 23 lb French bulldog named Omar. “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” Uhhhh… “Next year?” Oh, um, maybe, yeah, we’ll see…”When are you going to have a baby?” Say what now? But the one question I can answer with the most conviction is “What is your favorite movie?” Stand By Me!!!
A small film made in 1986 had a big impact on me. I was only 5 when the movie hit theaters, but I was around 8 when I got to see it on HBO. I don’t know if your family was the same, but mine recorded almost every movie that premiered on HBO Saturday nights from 1985 – 1991. Now, I just wrote the word “recorded”. For those of you born after 1999 (gulp) I mean that we used to put a VHS cassette into a VCR and press the record–ok never mind I can already feel you rolling your eyes. My family had dozens of VHS tapes containing 3 movies on each, but the one with Stand By Me almost wore out. Subsequently, I purchased the VHS, and then eventually the laser disc, and finally the DVD.
Obviously, the movie made a great impression on me. It’s hard for me to think of another coming of age movie that balances the jovial awkwardness of adolescence with the disheartening dawning of adulthood. As I re-watch the movie over the years each time something new touches me. I’m sure when I was 8 it was the thrill of watching an R rated movie with tons of vomit and cursing. When I reached 12, the age of the characters, I could understand with more clarity the insecurities of Gordie, the innocence of Vern, the joke covering of Teddy, and the peacekeeper of Chris. The scene that stood out to me at a time in my life when having raging acne and the wrong name brand jeans could mean endless ridicule was the “milk money” scene. “I wish I could go some place where no one knows me.” Yes, Chris, I do too. Learning that sometimes adults will let you down may be a valuable lesson but no less heartbreaking to a child. As an adult, I can barely bring myself to watch the last scene with Chris as we hear Richard Dreyfuss narrate his ultimate fate and the visual of River Phoenix fades away. It reminds me of the friends I’ve lost, the dreams I’ve had that never were. And of course, it reminds me of such a beautiful talent in River that was lost to all of us.
If you haven’t seen this movie, then you probably don’t know me or I would’ve made you watch it by now. Please do yourself a favor. Growing up in the ‘80’s in Sugar Land, TX, I may not have had the exact same problems as Gordie and the gang. But I sure was captivated to watch them cross train trestles, pinky swear, and vainly insult each other’s mothers. And I would also like to thank Stephen King (author of the novella) for making me permanently scared of junk yards with only 3 words, “Chopper, sic balls.” (Even though there were no junk yards in Sugar Land and I, being a girl, have no balls.)
“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”
Ok, so now let’s bake a movie…
Blueberry Pie Cupcakes
I may have set the bar a little high for my very first blog post. These cupcakes are probably the best thing I’ve ever baked. Ever. And normally a statement like that is reserved for something with cream cheese icing. (As a baker I’ve noticed people tend to flip out over said icing.)
For those of you who have seen the movie the blueberry pie is an obvious reference. If you haven’t, just click on the “vomit” link above. Or don’t. Then you might not want to eat these cupcakes. ; ) The pez is a shout out to Vern – “If I could only have one food for the rest of my life? That’s easy. Pez. Cherry flavored Pez. No question about it.”
I must admit these cupcakes took a little bit longer to make than normal, only due to the addition of the blueberry pie filling. But you could easily make the pie filling the night before or even simpler, buy premade filling. I would highly recommend making the filling, because it’s super tasty with a nice hint of cinnamon. The cake is a rich and moist white cake with a wonderful note of almond that stands up to the blueberry filling. The Swiss meringue butter cream on top is so creamy that it’s almost like biting into a cloud, a velvety delicious cloud. The addition of the pureed blueberries gives it another nuance of flavor. My frosting ended up being a little tangy because the blueberries are now out of season. But, it was a nice union to the sweet filling. Please try to make these before the fresh blueberries disappear completely from the produce aisle.
For the cupcakes:
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature, divided
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. almond extract
2¾ cups cake flour, sifted
1½ cups sugar
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the filling:
14 oz. frozen blueberries (do not thaw)
3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 cinnamon stick
Juice of 1 small lemon
½ tsp. finely grated lemon zest
For the frosting
8 oz. fresh blueberries, rinsed
4 large egg whites
1¼ cups sugar
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
Preheat oven to 350˚ F.
- For the cupcakes, in a small bowl whisk together the egg whites, ¼ cup of the whole milk, vanilla and almond extracts. Sift cake flour into the bowl of electric mixer. Add sugar, baking powder, and salt to the cake flour and stir on low to combine for 30 seconds. Continue with the mixer on low speed and add in the butter. Mix until the mixture resembles wet sand, then add in the remaining ¾ cup of milk. Increase speed to medium and beat for about 90 seconds more. Add the egg white mixture in three additions with the mixture on low speed. Beat for 20 seconds after each addition, scraping down the sides when necessary. Divide the batter between 2 cupcake pans lined with paper liners. Fill each two-thirds of the way, making sure not go over. Place pans in preheated oven and bake for about 18 minutes. Rotate the pans halfway through and remove when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Leave cupcakes in the pan to cool for about 2 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- For the filling, combine the frozen blueberries, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon stick, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a medium-large saucepan. Stir to blend. The mixture will be clumpy and not seem like a liquid, but as the frozen blueberries begin to defrost and release moisture the juices will thicken. Continue to cook over medium-high heat until the mixture begins to boil, about 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the mixture reaches a boil, continue boiling for 2 minutes more, stirring constantly. Allow the mixture to cool completely before filling the cupcakes. I transferred the filling to a medium bowl and placed in the fridge to speed up the cooling process. You can make the filling the day before and store in a closed container in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before filling cupcakes.
- To fill the cupcakes, use a small paring knife or a fancy cupcake hole cutter to cut a small cone out of the center of the cupcake. (I discarded the bite size pieces. And by “discard” I mean I presented them on a small plate to my husband.) Spoon a tablespoon of the blueberry pie filling into each hole.
- For the frosting, place a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Make sure the bowl is not touching the water. Whisk the egg whites and sugar in the bowl frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved. You should feel no grains of sugar when you rub mixture between your thumb and finger. In a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg mixture on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Allow the bowl to become cool to the touch. This should take about 8-10 minutes. Add the softened butter 2 tablespoons at a time with the mixer speed on medium. Wait until each addition has been incorporated before adding more. If the frosting isn’t thick and smooth after butter additions continue to whip on medium-high speed for 3-5 minutes or longer, until smooth. Puree blueberries in food processor or blender until completely smooth. Add puree to frosting and mix with flat beater on medium speed until completely incorporated.
- To decorate add frosting to a piping bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe big swirls on top of cupcakes covering the pie filling.
- Take a big ol’ bite. Enjoy!!!