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Archive for November, 2009

Cannoli

vanilla bean filling with spiced pear and cranberry

Since I was too busy all month to make these while I was still in Calgary and made these the day before the deadline, they are the dessert that I brought for Thanksgiving. I have to be honest that I wasn’t that excited about making these since I grew up whole life (up until a few years ago that is) in New York and cannoli were common place and not usually the first thing I would grab for from the dessert plate. The filling can be great, but also not so great, so in that sense it is worth it to make your own. Since I don’t own cannoli forms and don’t really want to either, I decided to make it layered instead.I followed the recipe for the shells but still had a hard time getting the “blistered” effect, even after trying different temperatures with the cooking oil. They still tasted great though and I think I prefer the layered look over the traditional shell- it makes for a more elegant presentation. I made two different fillings, a pumpkin one (it is Thanksgiving after all) coating the shell with bittersweet chocolate and chopped pecan pieces, and a vanilla bean filling with spiced pear and cranberry compote. Even if you choose not to bother to make your own shells-in NY every Italian bakery sells them empty- you should at least make your own filling and then stuff them right before serving. These are really rich so one per person is more than enough. Good luck and have fun!

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

 

CANNOLI SHELLS
2 cups (250 grams/16 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons(28 grams/1 ounce) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.06 ounces) unsweetened baking cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (approx. 3 grams/0.11 ounces) salt
3 tablespoons (42 grams/1.5 ounces) vegetable or olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.18 ounces) white wine vinegar
Approximately 1/2 cup (approx. 59 grams/approx. 4 fluid ounces/approx. 125 ml) sweet Marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand
1 large egg, separated (you will need the egg white but not the yolk)
Vegetable or any neutral oil for frying – about 2 quarts (8 cups/approx. 2 litres)
1/2 cup (approx. 62 grams/2 ounces) toasted, chopped pistachio nuts, mini chocolate chips/grated chocolate and/or candied or plain zests, fruits etc.. for garnish
Confectioners’ sugar

Note – If you want a chocolate cannoli dough, substitute a few tablespoons of the flour (about 25%) with a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch process) and a little more wine until you have a workable dough (Thanks to Audax).

BASIC CANNOLI FILLING
2 lbs (approx. 3.5 cups/approx. 1 kg/32 ounces) ricotta cheese, drained
1 2/3 cups cup (160 grams/6 ounces) confectioner’s sugar, (more or less, depending on how sweet you want it), sifted
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon (4 grams/0.15 ounces) pure vanilla extract or the beans from one vanilla bean
3 tablespoons (approx. 28 grams/approx. 1 ounce) finely chopped good quality chocolate of your choice
2 tablespoons (12 grams/0.42 ounces) of finely chopped, candied orange peel, or the grated zest of one small to medium orange
3 tablespoons (23 grams/0.81 ounce) toasted, finely chopped pistachios

PUMPKIN FILLING
1/2 cup (123 grams/4.34 ounces) ricotta cheese, drained
1/2 cup (113 grams/4.04 ounces) mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup (122.5 grams/4.32 ounces) canned pumpkin, drained like ricotta
3/4 cup (75 grams/2.65 ounces) confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1/2 to 1 teaspoon (approx. 1.7 grams/approx. 0.06 ounces) pumpkin pie spice (taste)
1/2 teaspoon (approx. 2 grams/approx. 0.08 ounces) pure vanilla extract
6-8 cannoli shells

1. In a bowl with electric mixer, beat ricotta and mascarpone until smooth and creamy. Beat in confectioner’s sugar, pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla and blend until smooth. Transfer to another bowl, cover and chill until it firms up a bit. (The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior to filling the shells. Just cover and keep refrigerated

 

VANILLA BEAN FILLING
3/4 cup ricotta cheesed, drained
3/4 cup mascarpone cheese
1 vanilla bean, split down the center and the seeds scraped out. Put the seeds in the cheese mixture (add the bean to your sugar bowl for a fragrant sugar)
3/4 cup confectioners sugar, sifted

SPICED PEAR AND CRANBERRY COMPOTE
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup fresh cranberries
3 Tbsp dried cranberries
1 large pear, peeled and diced
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
1 tsp cinnamon

Melt the sugar and butter in a saucepan over medium heat and then add the remaining ingredients. Cook for 10 minutes and then let cool completely. Can be made a day in advance

DIRECTIONS FOR SHELLS:
1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the oil, vinegar, and enough of the wine to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and well blended, about 2 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge from 2 hours to overnight.

2 Cut the dough into two pieces. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Lightly flour a large cutting or pastry board and roll the dough until super thin, about 1/16 to 1/8” thick (An area of about 13 inches by 18 inches should give you that). Cut out 3 to 5-inch circles (3-inch – small/medium; 4-inch – medium/large; 5-inch;- large. Your choice). Roll the cut out circle into an oval, rolling it larger and thinner if it’s shrunk a little.

3 Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes (You only have to do this once, as the oil from the deep fry will keep them well, uhh, oiled..lol). Roll a dough oval from the long side (If square, position like a diamond, and place tube/form on the corner closest to you, then roll) around each tube/form and dab a little egg white on the dough where the edges overlap. (Avoid getting egg white on the tube, or the pastry will stick to it.) Press well to seal. Set aside to let the egg white seal dry a little.

4. In a deep heavy saucepan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 3 inches, or if using an electric deep-fryer, follow the manufacturer’s directions. Heat the oil to 375°F (190 °C) on a deep fry thermometer, or until a small piece of the dough or bread cube placed in the oil sizzles and browns in 1 minute. Have ready a tray or sheet pan lined with paper towels or paper bags.

5. Carefully lower a few of the cannoli tubes into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about 2 minutes, turning them so that they brown evenly.

8. Lift a cannoli tube with a wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, out of the oil. Using tongs, grasp the cannoli tube at one end. Very carefully remove the cannoli tube with the open sides straight up and down so that the oil flows back into the pan. Place the tube on paper towels or bags to drain. Repeat with the remaining tubes. While they are still hot, grasp the tubes with a potholder and pull the cannoli shells off the tubes with a pair of tongs, or with your hand protected by an oven mitt or towel. Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.

9. Repeat making and frying the shells with the remaining dough. If you are reusing the cannoli tubes, let them cool before wrapping them in the dough.

Pasta Machine method:
1. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Starting at the middle setting, run one of the pieces of dough through the rollers of a pasta machine. Lightly dust the dough with flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Pass the dough through the machine repeatedly, until you reach the highest or second highest setting. The dough should be about 4 inches wide and thin enough to see your hand through

2. Continue rolling out the remaining dough. If you do not have enough cannoli tubes for all of the dough, lay the pieces of dough on sheets of plastic wrap and keep them covered until you are ready to use them.

3, Roll, cut out and fry the cannoli shells as according to the directions above.

For stacked cannoli:
1. Heat 2-inches of oil in a saucepan or deep sauté pan, to 350-375°F (176 – 190 °C).

2. Cut out desired shapes with cutters or a sharp knife. Deep fry until golden brown and blistered on each side, about 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from oil with wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, then place on paper towels or bags until dry and grease free. If they balloon up in the hot oil, dock them lightly prior to frying. Place on cooling rack until ready to stack with filling.

roll it out as thin as possible

DIRECTIONS FOR FILLING:
1. Line a strainer with cheesecloth. Place the ricotta in the strainer over a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Weight it down with a heavy can, and let the ricotta drain in the refrigerator for several hours to overnight.

2. In a bowl with electric mixer, beat ricotta until smooth and creamy. Beat in confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and blend until smooth. Transfer to another bowl and stir in chocolate, zest and nuts. Chill until firm.(The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior to filling the shells. Just cover and keep refrigerated).

ASSEMBLE THE CANNOLI:
1. When ready to serve..fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain or star tip, or a ziplock bag, with the ricotta cream. If using a ziplock bag, cut about 1/2 inch off one corner. Insert the tip in the cannoli shell and squeeze gently until the shell is half filled. Turn the shell and fill the other side. You can also use a teaspoon to do this, although it’s messier and will take longer.

2. Press or dip cannoli in chopped pistachios, grated chocolate/mini chocolate chips, candied fruit or zest into the cream at each end. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and/or drizzles of melted chocolate if desired.

pumpkin filling drizzled with caramel sauce

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Torte Rustica

wow...

I brought this to my Aunts house for Thanksgiving.  This is from an old  magazine that I took out from the library last month. It was so gorgeous when I pulled it out of the oven- I still get such a thrill from making puff pastry. What’s great about this is that you serve it warm or at room temperature, so it’s perfect for bringing over to someones house. It was really tasty too! I am definitely making this one again and again….

TORTE RUSTICA
1 small butternut squash, peeled,seeded and cut into 1/4 inch slices
2 eggs
3 cups ricotta cheese
1 tsp sage
1 medium onion, chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 packages frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 pkg frozen puff pastry, thawed ( I made my own– it’s easy and tastes better)

egg wash: 1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tsp. water

Bake squash slices on a baking tray, lightly coated with PAM, for 15 minutes or until tender, at 400 F degrees.

Combine 2 eggs, cheese and sage. Saute the onion in oil until tender. Stir in spinach, garlic, nutmeg. Cook another 2 minutes; set aside
Roll pastry sheet into a 14 inch square. Press onto the bottom and up the sides of a greased 9 in springform pan, allowing the excess pastry to drape over the sides. Brush with some of the egg wash. Layer with half of the squash,cheese,and spinach. Repeat layers. Roll out the remaining pastry into a 10 inch square; place over filling.To trim the edges- fold the bottom pastry over the  top pastry and   press the edges to seal. Reroll any trimmings and cut out small patterns,if desired, and  place onto Torte.

brushing it with an egg wash makes it golden brown

Brush with egg wash. This ensures a beautiful color on the outside.
Bake at 400 F degrees for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire rack to cool 45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temp.

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Holiday Bundt Cake

Let the baking begin! I flew into New York Saturday night to spend the next 7 weeks with my mom for the holidays. I was super busy last week packing, trying to finish up errands, baking brownies as thank you gifts and banana bread for the freezer so my husband would have some treats while we were gone. Now that we are finally here I can start some serious holiday baking. I have made a cake already that is in the freezer (I will post later this week) and today made this holiday bundt cake from Baking from my Home to Yours. I made it 2 weeks ago and it was so well received I decided to make it again. It is a moist cake that can be made a few days ahead and not lose anything. I put on a maple glaze but it is just as good without it…

All- In One Holiday Bundt Cake
2 C All-purpose flour
2 tsp Baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger (or 1 tsp ground ginger)
1 1/4 sticks (10 tbsp)unsalted butter, room temp
1 C Sugar
1/2 c packed dark brown sugar (or light- I prefer dark)
2 large eggs, room temp
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 C canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 Large apple, peeled and finely chopped
1 C fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
1 C pecans, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees. Butter a 12 cup Bundt pan.
Whisk together the dry ingredients.
Beat the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for 1 minute after each addition. Add the vanilla. Reduce the mixer to low and add the puree, chopped apple, grated ginger. Add the dry ingredients, mixing only until incorporated. With a rubber spatula, stir in the cranberries and pecans. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top with the spatula.
Bake for 60 to 70 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before unmolding and then cool on a wire rack to room temp.

Optional:
Maple Glaze: 6 Tblsp confectioners sugar to 2 Tblsp maple syryp

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Butternut Squash Yeast Bread

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If you have never made yeast bread before then I implore you to go to the market and buy some active dry yeast today and try this recipe! It is such a delicious, moist bread  excellent not only for sandwiches, but great for french toast.  Oh, and it also sneaks some veggies into your day. This recipe makes 2 loaves and freezes really well. I use a Kitchenaid standing mixer but by all means you don’t need one, just some arm power (this is great excercise for killer arms).

Butternut Squash Yeast Bread

3 1/2 tsp Active dry yeast
1/4 warm water (100 F degrees or very warm to the touch)
1 Tbsp sugar
1 1/4 C mashed, cooked butternut squash
1 C milk
1/3 C packed dark brown sugar
1/3 C unsalted butter, softened
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 tsp salt
6-7 C all-purpose flour

Place the warm water,yeast and 1 Tbsp sugar in your mixing bowl, give a stir and let it sit for 10 minutes. If you are not using a standing mixer for this just use a very large mixing bowl. After 10 minutes it should look very foamy- that means your yeast is active. If it doesn’t look like this, throw it out and but new yeast to start over again

Add the squash,milk,brown sugar,egg,and salt: mix well. Using your bread hook attachment,add 6 cups of flour. Beat on medium speed (or by hand) for 3 minutes. Add in enough additional flour to make a soft dough that doesn’t stick to the sides of your bowl. You might need any more flour- it all depends on your climate.after kneading for 10 minutes

Knead the dough in the mixer for 10 minutes or turn your dough onto a floured surface and knead by hand for 10 minutes. It should be smooth and elastic. Place it into a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on how warm your house is.

this is how it looks after the 1st rise
Punch down the dough and divide it into 2 portions. Shape them into loaves: I do this by rolling it into a rectangle then folding into three, like a letter. I then pinch together the bottom seam and the ends.
Place them into 2 greased loaf pans.Cover again and let rise again, about 45 minutes.

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before rising...

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after rising

After about 20 minutes of rising time, turn the oven on to 350 F degrees. this gives the oven time to get to the proper temperature before putting the bread in there. Bake the loaves for 35-40 minutes, rotating the pans once halfway through baking. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pans- cool completely on wire racks.

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IMG_4217

I haven’t baked all week so when my friend asked me to bake a cake for her Dads 80th birthday my mind started going (and going and going). My first thought was trying the Salty and Sweet Chocolate Cake recipe from Baked  which I have been dying to try out but then thought that older people might not really like a cake with a salty caramel filling that soaks into the cake and sea salt sprinkled on top (what with sodium count and all) – maybe too over the top. My friend thought of my Red Velvet cake with Cream Cheese filling (I’ll post at a later date) but I just made that so I wasn’t really into that either. She said that her Dad really liked banana -no nuts though- so I have come up with a cake that is a combination of all 3 cakes. I used the salted caramel filling from the Sweet and Salty cake but also add cream cheese to it. That mixture will get mixed with Italian meringue buttercream for the filling.I found the cake recipe over at Recipezaarr but changed it where I thought it needed it. I have substituted 1 cup of Demerra sugar for some of the granulated. I love the depth that it adds to baked goods. I also replaced 1 cup of all-purpose flour with cake flour to lighten it up a little and give it a tender crumb. If you don’t have cake flour handy by all means just use all all- purpose. This recipe is quite interesting as it bakes the cake at a low temperature for a longer time and then you pop the cake directly into the freezer to cool. It makes the final result nice and moist. I did this entire cake in stages, first baking the cake 2 days ahead of time. Not only does this save me time but it lets the flavors develop which I think is really important with Banana cake. After they were in the freezer for 45 minutes I split the cakes,wrapped them well in plastic wrap and put them back in the freezer overnight. I also made the caramel cream cheese which I put in the fridge overnight until I was ready to mix it with the buttercream.

I used two 9 inch cake rounds but you could use one 9×13 cake pan instead. Spray your tins with PAM and line with parchment paper. I knew I wanted 3 layers for my cake so I put more batter in one pan than the other and split one layer but if you are not used to doing this I would recommend filling the 2 cake pans evenly and having just 2 thicker layers for your cake. (Or just make the 9×13 and save yourself the work). This cake is great on it’s own-don’t feel you need to make the caramel or the buttercream to enjoy this.

 Banana Cake  – preheat the oven to 275 F
1 1/2 cups bananas,(about 3) pureed with juice of one lemon ( I like to do this in my mini food processor so there are no chunks left at all)
2 C all purpose flour
1 C cake flour (not self rising)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 C Demerra sugar (if you can’t find it use dark brown sugar instead)
1 C granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Sift the flours,baking soda and salt together- set aside

Beat the butter in a standing mixer for at least 3 minutes on medium speed to get it light and fluffy and then add the sugars- beat another 3 minutes. With the mixer on low add the eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated then add the vanilla.

Alternate adding the dry mix and the buttermilk in 3 stages, starting with the dry ingredients first. Stop the mixer and add the banana puree with a rubber spatula, stirring until well combined.

Pour into your prepared cake tins, bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. immediately put the cake (in the tin) into your freezer and leave it there for 45 minutes.  After that you can take it out of the pan and either fill and frost right away, simply dust with powdered sugar, or wrap it well in plastic wrap and put it back in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.

Caramel Cream Cheese Filling

You can use this as a frosting as well. I bet it would be great with an apple cake, spice cake, or carrot cake. This recipe calls for a candy thermometer, which I really recommend everyone owning. You don’t need an expensive one- one of mine is from the dollar bin and it works just as well as my $20 one

1 C sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
1/4 cup sour cream
1 C cream cheese, softened and cut in cubes (I used one pkg of Philly cc)

Combine 1/4 cup water, sugar, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan; stir to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until the mixture reaches 350 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in another small saucepan, mix together cream and salt. Bring cream to a boil and cook until salt has dissolved, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. If you don’t have fleur de sel, just omit the salt and heat the cream

When the caramel mixture has reached 350 degrees, remove from heat and allow to cool for 1 minute.IMG_4200 Carefully add the hot cream to the caramel; stir to combine. Whisk in sour cream.

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stirring in the cream cheese

Drop the cream cheese into the hot mixture and keep stirring until it is fully incorporated. Place in the fridge for at least 2 hours to chill and firm up.Store in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to 3 days.

Now— when I made this cake I added 1 cup of this filling to 1 cup of italian meringue buttercream to make a crazy good filling but this is really good just as it is.

Maple Buttercream

I love real buttercream, so don’t be scared to make it. The taste and texture is surely worth it. This recipe makes 4 cups.

This recipe is from The Wedding Cake Book, one of my all time favorite books

1/2 C Pure Maple Syrup (you could also use honey instead)
4  Large egg whites
1 lb unsalted butter

Place the maple syrup in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile, place your egg whites in a clean, grease-free (this is very important) mixing bowl. Using the whisk attachment, whip the whites at medium speed until soft peaks form. Turn the mixer up to high and beat until stiff, but not dry, peaks form. While doing this, turn the heat up on the syrup and bring to a boil for 2 minutes. When the egg whites are stiff and the syrup boiling, remove the syrup from the heat, turn off the mixer and add some of the syrup. Immediately turn the mixer back on and continue to pour in the syrup in a steady stream, avoiding the beaters.

Whisk on high until cool, about 10 minutes. Touch the bottom of the bowl to feel the temperature. When the bowl is cool, stop the machine and test the surface of the meringue. It should be cool to the touch. Then turn the mixer back on (at medium) and add the softened butter, just 2 or 3 tbsp at a time until it is all in. Do not worry if it looks curdled- keep beating. After about 5 minutes it will all of a sudden it will come together into a beautiful light mass. Use immediately to frost your cake or put it into an airtight container for the fridge (up to 1 week) or in the freezer (up to 1 month). If you chill it or freeze it before frosting your cake you must bring it back to room temperature and re-whip it for a few minutes before using.

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Roses made out of chocolate

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A lesson in Buttercream

There is much debate on buttercream. Italian, Swiss,French or American? Let me start by explaining the differences between them. Italian meringue buttercream is made with a cooked sugar syrup that is poured into meringue then beaten with butter. Swiss meringue is made with egg whites and sugar cooked over a double boiler then whipped into a meringue, then beaten with butter. French is made with egg yolks, and American is the confectioners sugar, milk and butter mixture that everyone seems to be the most familiar with. As far as I’m concerned, the American version is only good for a cupcake (if even that), as it is sooo sweet. This is usually the one that little kids love. There is also decorators buttercream, which is swiss meringue based but has equal amounts shortening to butter – so if you like to eat Crisco out the can this ones for you. The cakes in the bakery dept. at the supermarket use this version- I hate it, my husband loves it. I am giving instructions for both Italian and Swiss meringue buttercream.  The Swiss is easier to make than the Italian, but I feel the Italian is more stable in warmer weather. Neither one is good in the hot, hazy days of summer – though I did a wedding cake filled and crumbcoated with IMB and covered in with fondant and it was just fine after 4 hours in 90 F degree heat. If you make it in really a really hot climate just keep your cake  in the air conditioning until shortly before serving.

Both of these recipes can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to a week, or frozen for up to 2 months. Because of the high butter content, it becomes really firm when chilled. To reconstitute your cold buttercream take in out of the fridge (or the freezer) and leave it out on the counter overnight to bring it back to room temperature. Using the balloon whisk on your mixer, beat at medium speed until it is smooth and creamy again. This may take as long as 5 minutes.

Italian Meringue Buttercream
Read the entire recipe before making it. It will seem overwhelming the first time you make this but after that it is a breeze and I rarely even use a candy thermometer anymore for it. This is from The Wedding Cake Book, one of my favorites!
1/2 cup water
1 1/4 C plus 1/3 c sugar
8 large egg whites, at room temp
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 1/2 lbs (6 sticks)UNSALTED butter, at room temperature

Place the water and 1 1/4 C sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir to moisten all of the sugar but do not stir again during the boiling since this causes sugar crystals to form. Bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, place the egg whites in a clean, grease-free mixing bowl, and with the balloon whisk attachment beat the whites on low until frothy. Add the cream of Tartar and increase the speed to medium-high. When soft peaks form, gradually add the remaining 1/3 c of sugar. Continue beating until shiny, stiff, but not dry, peaks form.
Raise the heat under the sugar syrup and bring it to a rapid boil. It must cook for at least 5 minutes to reach the desired temperature, between 248 and 250 F. Try to have the syrup ready at the same time as the meringue. If the meringue is done first, turn the mixer down to low so that the whites move continuously, but slowly. If the syrup is done first, add a small quantity of hot water (not cold) to lower the temperature and continue cooking until the meringue catches up.

When the syrup is ready, turn off the mixer briefly and quickly pour about 1/2 c syrup into the meringue. immediately turn the mixer on to high-speed and continue to pour the syrup in a steady stream. Be careful not to let the syrup get onto the beaters or it will spray  off and not only make a mess but make crystalized sugar strands mix into your meringue. Alternatively, you can turn off the mixer and add more syrup. Do no let the meringue sie motionless for more than a few seconds.

Whip the meringue until it cool, about 15 minutes. Feel the bottom of the bowl to check the temperature. When the bowl is no longer warm, stop the mixer and check the temp. with your fingertip to make sure it is cool. If you start adding the butter when it is too warm you will just melt the butter and ruin it. With the mixer on medium-low add the butter, a few tablespoons at a time. The butter will immediately become incorporated. Continue whipping the mixture while slowly adding the butter. Do not panic if it looks like cottage cheese- just keep on mixing and it will magically smooth out. Add flavoring at this point, making sure to beat well to fully incorporate,such  as:

Vanilla – 1 tsp for every 2 cups of buttercream
Coffee/espresso – dissolve 1 tbsp instant coffee in 2 teaspoons hot water or kalua. Add to 2 cups buttercream
Coconut – 2 tbsp cream of coconut to every 2 cups buttercream
Chocolate – add 4 ounces melted, cooled chocolate to 2 cups buttercream
Raspberry or Lemon – add 1/3 cup raspberry puree or lemon curd to 2 cups buttercream

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

5 egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ lbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp Vanilla

Place  egg whites and sugar in a bowl, over a pan of simmering water.Whisk gently by hand until egg whites are very warm to touch, or 140  F degrees on a thermometer.Pour hot egg whites into a large mixing bowl and with the balloon whisk attachment on, whip on medium high until stiff peaks form and the meringue cools to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Use the same techniques as above to test the temperature.Meanwhile, cut upthe  butter into small pieces while the meringue is beating.Remove the whip from the mixer and change to a paddle.Add half of the butter to the meringue  mixture and mix on low to medium until combined.Add the other half of the butter and mix on low to medium until combined. Once again, do not panic if it looks like curdled cottage cheese-continue beating until mixture is light and fluffy. Stop mixer and scrape down the sides, add vanilla or other flavorings and beat until combined.

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