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Classic boiled-milk frosting

My go-to frosting is usually Swiss meringue buttercream. (You can find evidence of it here and here.) I dislike American buttercream, which is the typical butter and confectioner’s sugar concoction that you see at most (overpriced) cupcake bakeries.

Cupcakes with boiled milk frosting

Because SMBC (yes, an acronym for buttercream!) doesn’t rely on sugar for structure the way American buttercream does, it allows you to control the sugar as you first create a meringue then add butter.

The only problem with SMBC is that sometimes it’s too, well, buttery-textured. Sometimes this is appropriate, like with a light spongy cake, but with a buttery butter cake, it can actually be too much. I know y’all love your butter, but still.

So I was really pleased to find a recipe for a creamier-tasting frosting that just happens to be a classic. Ever hear of “ermine frosting”? It’s the classic Southern topping to red velvet cake, before that interloper cream cheese frosting took over as the modern standard. Ermine frosting is also what’s known as boiled milk frosting. Sounds appetising, doesn’t it? Actually, all the names of this frosting are highly unappetising. Ermine makes me think of a cake covered with fur coats, boiled milk speaks for itself, and its traditional name of “gravy icing” makes me consider serving it with a roast chicken. No wonder Cooks Country called it “miracle frosting” when they published a recipe for it in 2008.

Names aside, the frosting is basically a starch pudding, a flour and milk-based roux with butter added once it is cooled. It doesn’t require eggs, but its body comes from the initial pudding. Pudding frosting sounds nice, doesn’t it?

It still calls for quite a bit of butter, but somehow resembles more of a sweetened cream frosting rather than a traditional buttercream.

So add this to your frosting arsenal. It’s great with buttery cupcakes (here’s my easiest go-to recipe for vanilla cupcakes) and as a filling for whoopie pies. Or, of course, for red velvet cake.

Classic boiled-milk frosting
makes enough to frost 24 cupcakes, or 1 nine-inch layer cake

Ingredients
1-1/2 cups (300 g) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (35 g) all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons (45 g) cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups (360 ml) whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 ounces (330 g) butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces

  1. Combine the sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk in the milk.
  2. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture boils and thickens. (This takes me about 7 minutes.) It should be the consistency of a very thick pudding. Stir in the vanilla.
  3. Transfer to a clean bown and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours. (It’s important that the mixture is no longer warm when you start adding the butter later.)
  4. With a mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the milk mixture on low speed, adding the butter one piece at a time. When all the butter has been added, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Allow the frosting to sit at room temperature about an hour, until stiff.

Espresso macarons with dark
chocolate ganache

I’m so happy the French bakery in my neighbourhood is open again.

You know you really like a place when you return home from vacation, and the *very same day*, you hit up that bakery. Only to find that it’s closed.

Espresso macarons filled with dark chocolate ganache

For another two weeks.

Then you stand there for five whole minutes in disbelief.

After I collected myself and dragged myself home (the sky suddenly seemed a little darker, the wind a little colder), I continued working on macarons since I would have to be self-sufficient with French baked goods for the next two weeks.

I’ve struggled in the past with macarons, but eventually got “feet” with vanilla-flavored ones. I tried over and over with chocolate ones, but just could not make it happen, no matter how much I pleaded and cajoled the tiny puffs as they sat in the oven, taunting me. I still can’t get the chocolate ones to develop feet, the slippery little things. (If anyone has a magic trick I could try, or a spell I could recite, please message me.)

However, I have been able to make it happen with espresso macarons. This is especially nice because I can sandwich dark chocolate in between and you basically get a nice little mocha fix.

So until I get those chocolate ones worked out, these are my go-to recipe.

Espresso macarons with dark chocolate ganache
Makes about 16 filled cookies
I suggest reading my instructions in my previous post: I have detailed bullet points on what seemed to work well for me. Also, make sure to store the macarons in the fridge overnight before eating; the cookies need to ‘fuse’ with the filling to create that heavenly macaron texture.

For the cookies:
Ingredients

2 tablespoons water
5 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons fine granulated sugar
2 teaspoons espresso powder
3 ounces (85 g) almond flour
5.25 ounces (150 g) powdered sugar
3 large egg whites at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  1. In a large bowl, sift together the almond flour, espresso powder and powdered sugar through a strainer (you won’t want any big pieces of almond in the mixture.)
  2. In a small heavy saucepan, combine the 5 tablespoons granulated sugar with the 2 tablespoons water. Swirl — don’t stir — over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Raise the heat just a bit until the sugar mixture comes to a boil. You will want to use a candy thermometer to make sure it comes to 240 degrees F (soft ball stage). At this point, you will need to take it off the heat and quickly start streaming it into the meringue, so it’s important to get the meringue started as the sugar syrup is boiling.
  3. Meanwhile, start beating the egg whites in a stand mixer with the wire whisk (level 6 on a KitchenAid). When you have reached soft peaks, add the 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. When the sugar syrup is ready, very, very slowly and steadily trickle it into the meringue mixture as the mixer is running. As soon as all the sugar syrup is added, you will now add the almond flour mixture.
  4. Stir in a third of the meringue into the flour mixture with a spatula until it was well combined. Add the rest of the meringue and fold in until all the flour has been combined with the meringue.
  5. The macaronnage: Using a spatula or dough scraper, scoop the entire mixture from the bottom of the bowl and turn it upside down. Do this about 15 times, or until the batter “flows like lava,” or drips slowly from the spatula when lifted.
  6. Fill a piping bag with a 1-cm tip and pipe the cookies into 1-inch (or 2.5-cm) wide circles on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  7. Rap the baking sheet against the counter a few times, set another baking sheet under it, and let the cookies rest while preheating the oven to 350 degrees F (175 C).
  8. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes, turning the baking sheet halfway through the baking time.
  9. Transfer the parchment to a cooling rack while you make the filling.

For the ganache:
Ingredients

1/3 cup (80 ml) heavy cream
4 ounces (approx 100 g) dark chocolate
wee pinch of salt

  1. Chop the chocolate and set it aside in a bowl.
  2. Bring the cream and pinch salt to a simmer over low heat. Pour the cream over the chocolate. Wait 5 minutes.
  3. Whisk together the cream and chocolate until well combined. Cool the mixture to room temperature.

Preparing the cookies:
Spoon a bit of the ganache onto a macaron and sandwich with another. Store in an airtight container in the fridge overnight.

Link: Vanilla Macarons (crispywaffle.com)

Salted butter caramel ice cream

The best thing about having a summer birthday?

Barbecue and ice cream.

The best thing about barbecue and ice cream?

Ice cream.

Salted butter caramel ice cream

So besides throwing down on barbecue chicken (pinoy-style, of course), my gift to myself was to actually take the time to make one of my favorite ice cream flavors: salted butter caramel. Back when I started making this, I used David Lebovitz’s excellent recipe (you can find the original here). But because I’m – let’s face it – lazy, I started making the caramel in the water/sugar method, the way I do for leche flan (and I have made dozens of leche flans), and dropping the caramel praline. I figure that if it takes less time, I’m more likely to make it. And if I’m more likely to make it, then more caramel ice cream for everybody. And if you’re lucky, you’ll get some on your birthday.

Lazy Kine Caramel Ice Cream
makes 1 quart / 1 liter

Ingredients
1-1/2 cups (300 g) fine granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup (100 g) salted butter
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
5 egg yolks
1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream
2 cups (500 ml) whole milk

  1. Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl and set aside.
  2. Add the sugar to a medium saucepan and pour the water over it. With the heat on low, swirl the pan around until the sugar has nearly dissolved. Be careful not to let it boil — if it starts getting too hot, remove it from the burner for a few seconds, continuing to swirl.
  3. Once the sugar has mostly dissolved, raise the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover it immediately and leave on boil for 2 minutes.
  4. Uncover and continue swirling the mixture until it becomes dark amber. (Be careful — you want it to be dark, but it can go from dark to burning in seconds.) Take it off the heat immediately, and stir in the butter and salt. It’ll splatter, but just keep stirring it to keep it from splattering. The butter will eventually incorporate. Gradually whisk in the cream until fully incorporated. Stir in the milk.
  5. Whisking constantly, add about a third of the warm caramel mixture to the egg yolks (careful not to curdle the yolks). Place the yolk-caramel mixture back into the saucepan with the rest.
  6. Heat the custard over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens a bit and hits 170F (77C). Remove from heat and pour into a clean bowl through a strainer. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  7. Churn in an ice cream maker as directed.

This is even better sprinkled with a wee bit of sea salt.

Tartelette au chocolat

An advantage to living in a neighborhood with lots of French expats is that you have a patisserie suitable for French expats. If you’re ever in my neighborhood, stop by Philippe Galerne. You won’t be disappointed.

Tartelette au chocolat
A post-anniversary treat!

Seattle siren song

So our friend Carmen is visiting, and the good foodie that she is, she brought us a bounty of Seattle treats. (This always has the effect of amplifying Seattle’s siren song, and making me more homesick than ever. In a good way.) Some of the new things were most impressive: a baker’s dozen of Montreal-style bagels from Eltana Bagels (which we killed in about 30 minutes) and a bag of dark roast from Caffe Umbria. Cape Cleare salmon made me never want to see a slimy piece of cold-smoked salmon ever again. Sigh. I miss you, Seattle, but I’ll see you in a few months.

One annoyance: TSA actually confiscated Skillet Bacon Jam despite Carmen’s pleadings. Hmph. Kyle wondered if bacon jam may just be the perfectly ironic way for an Islamic terrorist to carry dangerous liquids.

Oh, and I hear the Eltana bagels Carmen brought us are the first to make the trip across the Atlantic and touch down in the Netherlands. So we gave them a proper welcome with some local cream cheese.

Bagels from Eltana in Seattle

Bagels from Eltana

Theo chocolate

Theo chocolates. Ballard’s own!

Eltana bagels with Cape Cleare smoked salmon

Eltana + Cape Cleare salmon + a chive cream cheese from around the corner.

Black gold

Beans from Caffe Umbria. Black gold.



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