Pistachio Cardamom Cupcakes with Rice Pudding Filling
1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup of sugar
1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract (optional)
1/2 cup of whole milk
3/4 cup of unsalted, unroasted pistachios
1 cup of flour
2 teaspoons of ground cardamom
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3/4 cup of long grain rice
1 bay leaf
5-6 cups of whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 cup of sugar
large pinch of salt
Cream the butter and sugar until soft and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time until well incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure complete mixture.
Place pistachios in a food processor and chop until finely ground. All the flour, cardamom, salt, and baking powder until pulse once or twice to mix.
Add the milk and vanilla extract if using it to the butter mixture. Mix well. Add the flour-pistachio mixture and mix until blended.
Place into cupcake papers, and bake for 16-20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean (no crumbs) in a 350 degree oven. Let cool on a wire rack.
Rice Pudding: Place rice in a small sauce pan with the bay leaf and two cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat and then drain. Transfer rice and bay leaf to a heavy 3 quart pot.
Add 4 cups of milk, the sugar, vanilla bean, and the salt. Place over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until milk has been absorbed by rice, about an hour. Rice should be tender and rice should be creamy. Add another 1 or 2 cups of milk and continue cooking for another 20-30 minutes. Stir often to prevent the bottom from burning. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
Pairs Well With
I don't really know where the original idea for this cupcake came from, it had just been stirring around for a while. I know I have been wanting to do something featuring some Middle Eastern flavors, and this seemed about as close as I could get without wandering into cheese pastry or baklava territory. Plus, this cupcake was something rich and luscious. Formal and elegant. Beloved.
I do admit that this one is highly time consuming and somewhat labor intensive. It's a recipe to save for a day off or when it's cloudy and icky outside. Turn on a Norah Jones CD, dress comfy, and relax with your thoughts while you shell pistachios, or stir the rice pudding. In the end the whispering oohs and aahs escaping from your friends and family after their first bite are all worth it.
The rice pudding is a recipe from The Wednesday Chef, who got it from the book Mastering Simplicity. It involved a vanilla bean, which as you know by now means I am all over it as I loves the vanilla. (Note: This recipe asks for pistachios, cardamom, and vanilla beans. Go to World Market for the spices, and a farmers market for the pistachios. Total cost I paid... $8.) The bay leaf added a nice floral, slightly woodsy quality in the faint background. I suggest that for the last 15 minutes of cooking you stir constantly. This will keep the bottom from being burned, which necessarily isn't a bad thing as it caramelizes a bit making a slight flan kinda taste but for purity's sake avoid that this time.
The rice plumps up well, and becomes creamy and oh-so-delish! This one is a keeper, as in print it out now and file it in your recipe box keeper. It's also very easy to make, with ingredients I usually have on hand, so I can see myself making this a few more times on rainy and lazy days.
The cupcake was an interesting recipe. I was wondering if it would be a it sketchy, and the batter looked a tad bit odd, but it all worked out wonderfully. I cut out the vanilla extract, and by cut out I mean forgot, but never mind that it was tasty anyways and wouldn't add it anyways if I did it again as enough vanilla flavor comes in from the rice pudding. The cake is delicate and fragrant. Honestly, I haven't tasted anything like it. The oils from the pistachios and the spice of the cardamom are phenomenal, they became perfectly woven with the rice pudding. The first thing I thought of was enjoying these with a copy of Arabian Nights. Scheherazade's stories are the auricular equivalent to these cupcakes and their rich tapestry of aromas and flavors! Overall, one of the best cupcakes I think I've ever turned out.
(For your reading benefit, and to allow you to better love these cupcakes, here is a link to an online text of Arabian Nights.)