Thursday, November 17, 2011

italian meringue buttercream: lonely boy

I'm not really sure where the sun has been hiding lately but I think it's time that it came out to play. Although the days are getting shorter, there are still some things that make it seem brighter.

For one, this song has been pretty much at the top of my playlist lately. I just can't help but blast it whenever it's on. Also, my new purse, the maple salmon that will be dinner, the thought of amazing friends coming home soon and my boyfriend keep me happy.

What makes you happy?

I'll tell you another thing that puts a smile on my face. Beautifully piped cupcakes with buttercream. I can't believe I've gone on this long without posting a recipe for buttercream. I know it must seem like I don't really use it, but I actually make it quite often, especially for specialty cakes. Birthday cakes just wouldn't be the same without buttercream! Also, any cake that is going to be covered with rolled fondant should be masked (crumb coated) with buttercream first, otherwise the fondant will have nothing to stick onto.

If you're wondering what the difference is between all the different types of buttercream, then take a look at this list.

American buttercream: creamed butter with icing sugar and sometimes a bit of milk or whipping cream, and flavouring. Quite easy to make but very "buttery".

Swiss Meringue buttercream: a meringue of egg whites and sugar warmed up to body temperature over a water bath, then whisked on high speed and butter added once meringue has cooled completely. The egg whites should not be hot, just warm enough to break the cold. This is a very easy and good method.

Italian Meringue buttercream: sugar syrup heated to 121 C poured slowly into egg whites that have been whisked to soft peaks. Syrup is added while whisking on low speed then increased to high and butter added once meringue has cooled completely. Italian meringue is very similar to Swiss method but I find it holds a little better.

Italian Meringue Buttercream


8 (250g) egg whites
2 ½ cups (500g) sugar
200 ml water
4 sticks (1 lb or 450g) butter
1 tsp vanilla


Make a syrup with the water and sugar by placing them in a small pot over medium-high heat until you reach a temperature of 121oC (250oF) on a candy thermometer. Do NOT stir the water and sugar once the syrup starts to boil! This is extremely important. Just let the sugar cook.

Meanwhile, place egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and start whisking on medium speed when the syrup reaches around 115oC. If you feel as though the temperature is going up quickly, you can start whisking before. Just make sure that your egg whites are at soft peaks and have risen a bit before adding the syrup.

When syrup is ready, lower mixer speed and pour sugar slowly into egg whites. Increase speed (medium-high) and whisk until meringue is shiny and cool (feel the bottom of the bowl to check - this can take about 10 minutes). Start adding butter a little bit at a time with the mixer on medium speed only when the meringue has cooled down. Add vanilla and mix until you have a nice, smooth consistency and the buttercream doesn’t slide off your spatula too easily when picked up. (Don’t worry if it looks all separated and scary when you start adding the butter, once it’s all in it will come together).


Use to decorate cakes and cupcakes!

Buttercream keeps well at room temperature but should be refrigerated if more than three days. Can also be frozen in an airtight container. When ready to use, thaw in refrigerator the night before and whip again for a couple of minutes in case the butter has separated. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

fig muffins with sweet apple sauce: when darkness falls

Daylight saving pros and cons:

Pro: not depressingly dark when I wake up in the morning.
Con: depressingly dark when I get back home from work.

WINTER IS COMING. If you are lucky enough to live in a country where everything does not freeze over for 3-4 months...I hate you. Sure winter has its fun moments. Like the 30 seconds before the beautiful white snow turns into brown slush. But I gotta tell you, I don't love winter. I'm not exactly going to run away from it, but I wouldn't mind extending autumn.

This year however, November has been quite warm, so I'm a little scared that winter will be dead cold. But fear not! I have a new pair of awesome boots. So maybe I should change my attitude and tell winter to bring it on! 

Winter pro: snuggling and drinking heaps of chai tea and dark hot chocolate.
Oh yeah, and Christmas!

How could I forget that wonderful holiday when all the trees on the streets twinkle with lights and candy canes are made in abundance? I love Christmas for many reasons: decorating the family Christmas tree (and my own little one this year), making gingerbread cookies, eating my mum's delicious Christmas feast, buying gifts, making gifts, eating a huge breakfast before opening gifts and most of all, those couple of days where I lounge around the house and do nothing but watch movies, play games and eat with my family.
That's Christmas for me. I get excited for it every year and I secretly don't mind listening to Christmas music all day during the weeks leading up to it (alright maybe not all day). But before December hits, I've got a few more apple and pumpkins to use up.

So what does Christmas mean (or not mean) to you?

After making the apple-fig galette, I still had some figs to use up so I baked this recipe for the muffins, but instead of apples I used about 18-20 figs, cut into quarters and mixed into the batter. A tasty breakfast treat along with some sweet apple sauce,

Apple Sauce

Adapted from Sarah's Applesauce

4 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
3/4 cup water
1/8 cup granulated sugar
1/8 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cardamom 


Place the apples, water, sugars and spices in a large sauce pan and cook over medium heat, 15 - 20 minutes or until apples are soft and stirring occasionally. Leave to cool and mash with a potato masher or blender. Place in a large jar once completely cooled. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or freeze. 

Enjoy it with muffins, scones, ice cream, pies or even mix into some oatmeal!

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