Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Italian or Swiss or French?

Italian Meringues

Italian meringues are made with a sugar syrup. Sugar and water are boiled to the soft-ball stage (240 degrees F/115 degrees C) and carefully poured in a thin stream into a mixer bowl of whipped egg whites. The mixture is whipped until cool. Because of the constant whipping, the bowl cools quickly, and the egg whites may not reach pasteurization temperature; you can use an instant read thermometer to check the meringue's temperature after the first minute or so of whipping. Individuals with compromised immune systems should take care not to consume undercooked egg whites.

Swiss Meringues

Swiss meringues are made by combining sugar and egg whites and heating them over a double boiler.

  • To prepare a Swiss meringue, whisk the sugar and egg whites enough to break up the whites, but not so vigorously that they form an airy foam.
  • The sugar will melt and act as a protective shield against coagulation of the egg whites; heat and whisk constantly until the temperature of the whites reaches 145 degrees F or hotter.
  • Remove the bowl from the heat, and beat the warm egg whites until they form stiff, glossy peaks.
Italian Buttercream or American?

Italian meringue tastes like a fluffy marshmallow to me. I find regular buttercream too sweet but italian meringue buttercream doesn't have much substance. It's sweeter than most whipped cream that I make and I prefer whipped cream frosting (just a personal thing). I wouldn't use it to pipe and decorate. This might be helpful as comparisons:

You can use IMBC to pipe and decorate, but it's fussier than an american buttercream (particularly if you're used to working with the crisco version). Italian Buttercream tastes like a stick of lightly sweetened butter when it's cold (blech). Remember the Food Network wedding cake special? Mrs. Italian cook herself Giada DeLaurentiis thought the Italian buttercream made by one of the bakers tasted "just like a stick of butter." But, consider Italian buttercream when it's warmed up and softer... then it's divine. Just don't let it get *too* warm or the piping won't hold.

More details:

The Differences–In Detail

American buttercream: This is the most basic type and usually involves creaming a fat and powdered sugared until light and fluffy. Small amounts of liquids are usually added, such as milk and extracts. This is the only type of buttercream that does not need refrigeration, due to its high fat and sugar content. It only needs to be refrigerated in warmer conditions or else it will melt.

Swiss buttercream (also called a “meringue” buttercream): This involves heating egg whites and sugar (sometimes with an acid, like cream of tartar) over a bain-marie while whisking constantly until the mixture reaches 160º F. It is then removed from the heat and transferred to a mixer, where it’s whipped to medium peaks. Softened butter is added to the meringue while whipping. Flavorings are added at the end of the process. This type of buttercream should be refrigerated if it is not being used or eaten within a couple of hours.

Italian buttercream: This is similar to Swiss buttercream, except that the egg whites are not cooked. Rather, a sugar syrup is made until it has reached soft-ball stage (240ºF) and the egg whites are whipped to medium peaks in a mixer. The sugar syrup is then slowly added into the beaten egg whites with the mixer running. Once the meringue has cooled down, softened butter is added and the mixture is whipped until smooth, fluffy, and glossy. Any flavorings are added after the addition of butter. Storage is same as Swiss buttercream.

French buttercream: This is one of the favorite buttercreams of all time. It is made exactly like Italian buttercream, except it uses whole eggs instead of only egg whites. This results in a richer, creamier buttercream and if you don’t color the buttercream, it will be more yellowish in color. This is the least stable of buttercreams and should always be refrigerated if not being used right away.

These seem to be the major four buttercreams being made out there, but I’ve learned of several others while finding information. There is decorator’s buttercream (used for making decorations such as flowers), fondant buttercream (combination of equal parts fondant and butter and used the same as rolled fondant), mousseline or neoclassic buttercream, and German buttercream (a combination of pastry cream and butter).

Monday, June 26, 2006

Aunt Dolly's Biscotti Recipe

Aunt Dolly's Biscotti Recipe

Tasting Comments:
So, so... but am comparing this to a commercially made biscotti
Second Opinion: "this reminds me of a donut taste or something... cinnamon"
Third Opinion: Waiting for the verdict

"Aunt" Dolly is a wonderful lady about 98 years old. Very old world Italian, and proud of it. She is an extended family Aunt to one of my best friends. She carries the name "aunt" with affection. One night, we were up until 2:30 am just trying to find this recipe because it is suppose to be the best biscotti recipe she has. Now, the ony biscotti I have ever had is a Nonni biscotti. They are pretty firm, crisp, and there isn't anything close to be brown on it... even the famou chocolate biscotti. Yet, when I cooked these little gems, they came out soft. And when they came out hard, it was a little too done... not dried out, but burnt out sort of. Some of this COULD be attributed to the lack of detailed instruction. What temperature and how long are they baked? Cooled? Twice baked at what temperature? Therefore, I'm going to take the cookies to Aunt Dolly and ask her about her recipe.

Once again, comparing this biscotti to Noni.. Noni wins hands down. But then again, when I compare 100% fresh mashed potatoes to a recipe made of fresh potatoes mixed with boxed potatoes... I prefer the half real/half boxed concoction. Perhaps it is because I have a skewed palatte.   Having been raised on too many commercial products that is the taste profile from which I compare.  My father, however, who was raised on real potatoes, never boxed, prefers real potatoes.  So let's give Aunt Dolly, a world class Italian, the benefit of the doubt.  Will work on these biscotti more.

These were good cookies, don't get me wrong. Even better if I had melted chocolate on them. But at 12:51 in the morning...they're just okay.

Bowl 1
3 cups flour
3 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 TABLEspoons of aniseed
1 3/4 cup of sugar

Bowl 2
6 eggs
1 1/2 stick butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups walnuts or pecans
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

Mix together bowl 1 and 2. Bake in a greased 15x9 pan.
When done, cool and cut slices and bake again.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Sunday June 11, 2006

Well today I made a lemon cream cheese frosting. The choice was made because I had a spare lemon, extra confectioners sugar I wanted to discard, and a few chips of white chocolate that were unwrapped.

Tasting Comments:

Just right. I needed lots of lemon flavor.
Second Opinion: "What did you put in here?"
Third Opinion: Makes your mouth pucker.
Fourth Opinion: "This is good."

I used the following recipe which normally will yield about 4 1/2 cups

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Special Equipment and Pan Sizes
Electric Mixer
Large Bowl
Towel to cover Mixer
Lemon/carrot peeler


Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in sifted powdered sugar. Beat in lemon peel and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate until just firm enough to spread, about 30 minutes.

Made in about 35 minutes.

What I did different was half the recipe. Added the juice of one lemon, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Created a white chocolate ganache from some white chocolate pieces that needed wrapping. The ganache turned out excellent. Texture was rich and creamy. Using the ganache in the cream cheese frosting worked out fine. It covered a white cake.



Tasting Comments:

Too moist, this is like fudge. It is squished and thick.
Too dense. But later I loved it. About day 7 it was fantastic. (But
I like dark, decadent chocolate.)
Third Opinion: Too chocolately
Fourth Opinion: Very very chocolatey (She was from Guademalla)
Fifth Opinion: Too Rich (He was from Mexico)

I have made this cake on 2 occasions. The first time, I must
have added an extra yolk because the cake turned out very
moist, almost as dense as fudge, and stayed fresh for over 7days.

The first time I used Santander Chocolate, (http://www.chocolat.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWPROD&ProdID=677), Ghirardelli cocoa powder, hazelnut oil, and MAYBE, but not sure, cake flour. I baked in an 8 inch pan, 350 degrees.

The second time I used exact amount of eggs, Dark bitter chocolate, hersheys cocoa - dutch process, vegetable oil, and a 300 degree oven. Turned out rather dry and fluffy. Completely different. Also increased the Coffee strength.

I am going to attempt yet a third try, and see the results.

Third Try...
Rave Reviews... moist, fluffy, just the right consistency. This time I used semi-sweet chocolate
and for the Ganache... I cheated for those who don't like strong chocolate... I used half milk chocolate and half semi-sweet chocolate and a little bit of Bittersweet just to add some kick.

Me, personally? I love the bittersweet. But combine that with the coffee and it is just too much for some folks... but I like it.

For cake layers
3 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut

1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

For ganache frosting
1 pound fine-quality semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

Special Equipment and Pan Sizes
two 10- by 2-inch round cake pans


Make cake layers:
Preheat oven to 300°F. and grease pans. Line bottoms with rounds of wax paper and grease paper.

Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well. Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Cool layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove wax paper and cool layers completely. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.

Make frosting:
Finely chop chocolate. In a 1 1/2- to 2-quart saucepan bring cream, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil over moderately low heat, whisking until sugar is dissolved. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted. Cut butter into pieces and add to frosting, whisking until smooth.

Transfer frosting to a bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, until spreadable (depending on chocolate used, it may be necessary to chill frosting to spreadable consistency).

Spread frosting between cake layers and over top and sides. Cake keeps, covered and chilled, 3 days. Bring cake to room temperature before serving.

Serves 12 to 14.
March 1999
Engine Co. No. 28, Los Angeles CA