Monday, August 25, 2014

On Frosting

After thinking about it, I realize I post a lot of recipes for frosted (or filled) cakes, cupcakes and macarons, but have yet to share the frosting recipes I use. Instead I just say "use your favorite frosting." I am so helpful and specific.

So let's talk frosting. For the most part, if I am making a recipe that calls for frosting I am going to top it with one of three things: American buttercream, Italian meringue buttercream, or ganache.

1. American buttercream

This recipe is easy and buttery. Win-win. American buttercream is made by mixing together butter and sifted confectioners (powdered) sugar. Add in a bit of vanilla, a pinch of salt and milk. The end result is a creamy and spreadable frosting, perfect for cupcakes. This frosting is on the sweeter side and pairs well with a rich (less sweet) cake.

American Buttercream 
from the Joy the Baker Cookbook

1 # unsalted butter, softened (4 sticks)
8-10 c confectioners (powdered) sugar; sifted
1/4 c whole milk
2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract (or other flavoring, to taste)
pinch salt
- - -
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment mix butter on medium speed for two minutes until completely smooth
2. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl down; add 3 c of the sugar and mix on low to combine (the sugar will go EVERYWHERE if you mix it at too high a speed)
3. Stop mixer and scrape bowl again; add 3 c sugar and mix on low to combine
4. Stop mixer and scrape bowl; add milk, vanilla (or other extract) and salt; mix on high for 1 minute
5. Stop mixer and scrape bowl; add 2 c sugar
6. Mix on medium speed until light and fluffy; for a thicker frosting add 1-2 c more sugar, mixing well after each addition
7. Use buttercream immediatly or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week

Tip: When using buttercream that has been stored in the refrigerartor, allow the frosting to come to room temperature in the airtight container. One it is room temperature, re-whip it in your mixer before using!

2. Italian meringue buttercream

This frosting is made by combining a cooked sugar syrup, egg whites and softened butter. The finished buttercream is super smooth and not as sweet as your typical confectioners sugar buttercream. It is perfect for flavoring and filling macarons with. I use the recipe from this website and I highly recommend it because of the attention to detail in the instructions. This recipe can be a bit tricky simply because of the sugar cooking process. Additionally, I have found the book Sugar Baby to be helpful.

Just a word of warning- this recipe will test your faith the first time you make it. After you add the butter, it will look broken. You will think it is ruined and contemplate tossing it out and buying a can of Funfetti Frosting. DON'T (unless you have Teddy Grahams in which case DO and dip them into it.) But back to this recipe, just keep mixing it! Eventually it will come together into a luxurious buttercream worthy of filling macarons with.

This buttercream is wonderful, but can be a little tricky because of potential variables (in temperature of ingredients mostly.) This website is a good one for troubleshooting common IMB mishaps. Odds are, with a little tweaking, a batch of botched Italian buttercream can be saved!

Italian Meringue Buttercream

2 c granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
6 ounces egg whites
1 1/2# unsalted butter, softened (6 sticks)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- - -

1. Put the sugar and water into a small saucepan and place on a stove top, stir slightly to combine
2. Heat on high until the mixture comes to a boil; using a candy thermometer heat until the sugar syrup reaches 235 degrees F
3. Place the egg whites into the clean/dry bowl of a stand mixer; with a whisk attachment, beat the egg white on high until stiff peaks form
4. Once the sugar syrup reached 240 degrees, remove from heat; while the mixer is still on high, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites
5. Continue mixing on high until the meringue comes to room temperature
6. Reduce the mixer speed to medium
7. Gradually add the butter, a few tablespoons at a time; add vanilla extract
**at this point, the mixture might look soupy or separated... keep mixing!
8. Continue to mix buttercream on medium-high until the mixture comes together and is completely smooth (this may take a few minutes)
9.  Use buttercream immediately, flavor, or store in an air tight container in the refrigerator

3. Ganache

Ganache has my heart. It is equal parts heavy cream and chopped bittersweet chocolate. Heat the cream, pour over chocolate, stir until smooth. You can pour warm ganache over a cooled cake, dip cupcakes in it or wait until it sets up to pipe. It is versatile and should be a part of your life.

4 oz heavy cream
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
extract/flavoring (if desired)**
- - -
1. In  a small saucepan bring cream to a simmer over high heat
2. Place chocolate  in a medium mixing bowl; pour simmering cream over chocolate and allow it to sit for a few minutes
3. Whisk until smooth
4. Pour ganache over a cooled cake, dip cupcakes in it or allow it to cool at room temperature until set and pipe-able (a good technique for frosting cupcakes or filling macarons)
5. Wrap leftover ganache in plastic wrap and refrigerate; melt when desired over a double boiler
**If you want to flavor your ganache, add your extract after step 4, whisking well to distribute the flavor

So there you go, my three go-to frosting recipes! Tomorrow: macarons (with a lot of bourbon.)

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