Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Of Swiss meringue buttercream, date-almond cake and a bright, red scooter

This image. It's significant. Not because it's been sitting on my desktop, strangely calling me out for not writing a line or two about it...YET.  But that it comes from the recesses of an overactive, over optimistic mind; set in a recurring scene that flashes off and on...given the condition of the week I may be facing. Me. Zipping through quaint roads of the Mediterranean coastline. On cobblestoned pavements. With who-ville hair. Steering a red Vespa. I believe I should be doing this one day. Until then, it excites me that I could have some of this vision manifest itself via edible clay...fashioned by my own hands... and placed on cake. While the landscape and backdrops, of how/when/where can be left as the imagination deems. Yes, people,  I dream vivid. It helps me transport to experiences my physical self one day surely will. That said, it makes updating this gig all the more compelling. In addition to reminding some that, of course, I do still have a blogging gig.

So, I' ll begin by confessing the urgency to have you informed, a need as strong as the one that makes me want to stock up on eggs for the rest of my life and wax lyrical on how fine those eggs foam up to build the smoothest of confection. 

Manufacturing Swiss meringue buttercream is not for the fainthearted, nor is it that easy of a task. It requires diligence and purpose. Together with sufficient patience, perseverance and prayer, frosting comes full circle and ultimately, we can all see light at the end of the icing tunnel. For real.

Cake fails are a part of life. Frosting fails; not quite so. At least not the mere comingling of butter and sugar, aka, American buttercream,  and the easiest way to stack and beautify cake. It's Swiss counterpart requires those 4 more steps, along with slight more ambition. 

Living through my few flop attempts had me actually question two things: the desire to continue and whether all combinations of butter and sugar were truly a gift from Heaven. Yes, to the former and of course, they are(!!), in case you doubt, to the latter.

It was at the 3rd practice batch (phew) of Swiss buttercream, things finally fell into place:
The egg whites stayed white. 
The butter creamed and blended. 
The sugar dissolved and ceased being sand.

Fifteen to twenty five minutes is, in the least, mandatory frame to whisk, cool, beat and blend. What you will end up with is an ethereally smooth and well structured cream. Luxe Swiss is padded with enough butter that gives it the appearance of silk and pipes extremely well. I should know, after having produced a weekend's worth of buttercream florals for a double layer cake.

It's an event, this stove-whisked frosting. A manifold step endeavor to create icing that is light yet tastes as rich as a cake accessory should honestly be. Suddenly, the gushing reviews and jubilant taster comments of SMB become as clear as the noon day.  Just as many other things in life shall one day be.

It is so worth it. Even when it means fashioning bright red scooters out of sugar dough to prove your point.

For the buttercream~
(Adapted from Epicurious.com)

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ cup , unsalted butter, softened (but not too soft)and cut into cubes
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • a slight pinch salt
  • In a wide medium bowl (big enough to hold your mixer bowl as it double boils), bring about 2 inches of water to a simmering boil.
  • Place egg whites and sugar in steel mixing bowl of your stand mixer and place this over the bowl of simmering water, but not touching the water.
  • Whisk intermittently until sugar grains are fully dissolved and the mxixture is smooth and comes to 160 °F .
  • Immediately place mixer bowl on mixer stand and whip with whisk attachment until frosting becomes thick, glossy and increases in volume-about 10 minutes). If not yet cool, allow mixture to come to room temperature.
  • Once bowl is cool to the touch, change to paddle attachment, reduce to medium speed and add butter one tablespoon at a time, allowing it to absorb into meringue after each addition.
  • Once all butter is in, scrape down the bowl and continue beating until buttercream has reached a thick, whipped consistency. Continue beating if it appears lumpy or runny.
  • Add vanilla and salt. Mix another minute on medium-high until incorporated.
Notes~ Butter should be cool to the touch and not left at room temp for more than 45 minutes.
If too soft, refrigerate for about 7-10 minutes.
If using a hand mixer, it will take longer to beat to form buttercream. 

Mid-beat, before adding butter.

 For the date almond-cake~ I used my fruit cake recipe( halved it- use a scale for accuracy), omitted all the other fruits, except for the chopped dates, to which I added 100 gms more. Sliced almonds replaced the crushed cashews. Caramelized sugar syrup stayed the same as did most of the spices, but in lesser volume.
For the oddest reason, these pictures were compressed to a lower resolution and size by my camera, so this was the best I could glean from the sd card. I will update with a brilliantly whipped Swiss soon up.
"Don't try to be like those who shoulder their way through life. Why be a bully? "Why not?" you say. Because God can't stand twisted souls. It's the straightforward who get his respect. God's curse blights the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous.  He gives proud skeptics a cold shoulder, but if you're down on your luck, he's right there to help. Wise living gets rewarded with honor; stupid living gets the booby prize." Proverbs 3:31-35 (Message)