Let's discuss: MI-5.
MI-5, or Spooks, is a British spy drama. An addicting British spy drama. I realize that the show's been on awhile, and I'm pretty late to the party, but 'better late than never' right? If you haven't seen it, I really suggest it. Here's my thoughts:
#1: Matthew MacFayden. (plays Tom Quinn). Is great. He always gives a kind of gentleness to all of his parts (that I've seen)-- but still manly at the same time. You just can't help but trust the guy. Good men can be hard to find they say, but not with Tom Quinn around. (Remember when MacFayden played Mr. Darcy a few years back? Great movie).
#2: Harry Pearce. Not much character development time is given to him in the beginning of the series, but by season 9, you know that guy pretty darn well. He's there throughout the entire 10-year life of the show, adding that sense of stability that the entire cast (and audience) needs. He's the moral compass of section D-- tasked with making the toughest calls, and making them correctly. He, too, has a gentleness about him, but tough as nails when it comes to it. Trusting and truly caring, he loves his agents. The ultimate leader.
#3: London. These grand places are always a character within themselves. However, because MI-5 is a British native, it doesn't feel the need to spend annoying amounts of time filming cliche landmarks within the city. Because ultimately, what makes up these places is not the landmarks (that are constantly flung in our faces), but the people. And this show gets that. The show is not just about stopping economic ruin or terrorists, but about the people that do it, and the people they save.
#4: By season 7, the cast has almost completely changed (except Harry Pearce, of course). It's debatable that as the series has gone on, it's lost some of it's original appeal (that people thing i talked about in #3) but season 7 is what drew me in originally (or should I say the introduction of Richard Armitage in Season 7 is what drew me in). I started with seasons 7-9, and then have gone back to the earlier seasons and am still making my way through them. But now that I've brought up Season 9....
#5: Season 9 was ridiculous. Not in a good way. I love this show, but season 9 was not good. There were definitely good parts. But towards the middle, the Lucas North plot completely spirals out of control. It went completely against North's character and against what the show even is. Made me a bit sad, it did.
...but anway. I've rambled on enough about the brilliance of British tv (and occasional lack of). Check out MI-5 on netflix (it's on instant play y'all!).
Time for baked goods!
This weekend I tested a new recipe for lemon cupcakes and lemon swiss meringue frosting. I think I liked the cake (which had hints of vanilla with a softer lemon flavor), however the lemon swiss meringue I wasn't so sure about- I think it would have been better to do a cream cheese frosting (which is what I usually do with lemon cake).
makes about 40 mini cupcakes or 1, 8-inch cake layer
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of one large lemon
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 cups + 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk (skim, 1%, 2%, whole- whatever you have on hand)
1) In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy (2 or 3 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until completely combined in between each addition. Stir in the sour cream, vanilla extract, and lemon zest.
2) In a small bowl, sift together the baking powder, flour, and salt. Add this mixture alternately with the milk, in about 3 additions each (so add 1/3 of the milk, mix, add a third of the flour, mix, another third of the milk, mix, and so on). Mix just until completely combined. Over mixing can result in dry cake and large air pockets.
3) Spoon batter into lined baking cups, filling about 3/4 full. Bake at 325F for 9-12 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean.
Lemon Swiss Meringue Buttercream
2 egg whites
1/2 cup granulated sugar
small pinch salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cups unsalted butter, very slightly softened- should still be cold*, cubed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
juice of one large lemon
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1) In a small bowl set over a pan of simmering water (or in a double boiler), whisk together the egg whites, granulated sugar, salt, and cream of tartar. Whisk continually until sugar dissolves and mixture is warm- dip your finger into the mixture and then rub it between your fingers, if it still feels a little grainy, keep cooking. Should take maybe 3-5 minutes.
2) Pour egg white mixture into the bowl of your stand mixer. Beat using the whisk attachment for about 7-8 minutes, until white peaks form and it has cooled to room temperature (feel the sides of the bowl, when it feels neutral you're there). Switch to your paddle attachment. Gradually add butter, one cube at a time. The mixture will at first start to look runnier and lose volume, but as you keep adding butter and beating, it will eventually get thicker to look like frosting. After the butter has been incorporated, add the vanilla, lemon juice, and powdered sugar. Mix until all ingredients are incorporated and frosting is smooth.
3) Frost cupcakes (completely cooled) using a large open star tip (if desired).
*To get "slightly softened but still cold" butter: cube your cold butter straight from the fridge and spread out on a plate- let it sit out for about 15 minutes at room temperature and it should be ready to go.
Though I used the lemon swiss meringue buttercream on my cupcakes, I think I would have liked the Cream Cheese Frosting from this post better. And maybe if I had filled the cupcakes with a little raspberry pastry filling too...yum