Just when you thought she couldn’t produce another great recipe, she pulls one out just to prove you wrong. I’m referring to the OG Deb Perelman and a recipe from her new book, Smitten Kitchen Every Day. She calls them strawberry cloud cookies – they are essentially meringues flavored with a unique ingredient – strawberry powder, rather than the traditional vanilla extract. She dollops the meringue onto cookie sheets before baking for 30-35 min. I piped mine with an open star tip into heart shapes (it is February after all) and baked them for a shorter time, since they are flatter meringues.
Swiss meringue buttercream is a cake decorator’s dream. If you’ve ever tried to get a really smooth looking cake from a traditional American buttercream, you’ve probably noticed it’s very very difficult to do so. Mainly because of air bubbles. American buttercream relies on the aerating of butter and sugar to achieve the desired volume and consistency. So between the air bubbles and stickiness from the sugar, it’s hard to get it super smooth!
Swiss meringue buttercream, however, is light years beyond in terms of texture. There is a bit of a learning curve the first couple of times you make it, but once you have it down right, it is so smooth, tints so well, it really takes your cakes from home style to bakery quality.
To start, you combine egg whites and sugar, and heat it over a double boiler until it’s hot to the touch (160 degrees on a candy thermometer to get the egg whites to a safe temperature). You whisk the whole time, until the mixture reaches a milky appearance. Once that’s done, you move on over to a stand mixer where you beat beat beat the egg whites until you get a beautiful, glossy meringue.
When the meringue is thick, glossy and ROOM TEMPERATURE, add the room temperature butter, one pad at a time. At this point, it might look like a gloopy mess, but stick with it and keep beating until the buttercream comes together. It should look like stiff whipped cream at this point.
Add the vanilla, then melted and cooled chocolate. This is one of the few points of departure from my beloved Ina Garten. She has a recipe for chocolate swiss meringue buttercream but there’s SO much liquid in it (vanilla, kahlua, rum, more chocolate), that it broke when I tried to make it. I’m sure it tastes wonderful, but mine does too, while still holding up to piping =)Use a spatula to wipe down the sides and bottom to ensure all the chocolate and buttercream are fully incorporated. Final step is to try to not eat it all out of the bowl. It is delicious and the added sugar from the chocolate makes it the perfect sweetness – whereas plain vanilla buttercreams are barely sweet. Enjoy!!
Recipe adapted from smitten kitchen.
- 4 egg whites
- 1 cup sugar
- 26 tbsp (3 sticks plus 2 tbsp) unsalted room temperature butter
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 lb plus 8 oz* semi sweet chocolate, chopped small**
- Melt chocolate in the microwave in a heat proof, non metal bowl at 30 second intervals, stirring in between intervals, OR over a double boiler (in a bowl set over simmering water, ensuring the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl). Set aside to cool.
- Whisk together the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of the stand mixer. Place over double boiler, ensuring the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Keep whisking until the sugar is dissolved AND the water is hot to the touch (if you dip your finger in, should be too uncomfortable to keep there). Or you can insert a candy thermometer and whisk until the temperature registers 160 degrees F. Then remove from double boiler, wipe the water that has condensed on the bottom of the bowl and place in the stand mixer. Insert the whisk attachment and set the speed on medium to whip up the egg whites.
- When the egg whites have thickened, and the temperature has cooled to room temperature, add the butter, one pad at a time (1-2 tbsps) until all the butter is incorporated. The mixture might look soupy at this point. Turn the mixer on high and keep whisking until thick. This can take 3 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of your batch. Reduce the speed to low and add vanilla and melted chocolate. Mix until thoroughly combined.***
*One pound plus 4 oz of chocolate makes a luscious, chocolately buttercream. If I need to pipe something like ruffles, I would leave it at 1 pound chocolate. If I’m just filling/frosting, I would go the full 1lb 4 oz.
**I wouldn’t recommend using chocolate chips in lieu of chopped baking chocolate or chocolate bars. The waxy coating or whatever is on them keeps them from blending in uniformly with the buttercream.
***Enough to frost, fill and decorate an 8 inch 2 layer cake. Enough to frost and fill a 9 in 2 layer cake.
This is for my friend Aaisha of BakingPartTime. Last time she was over for a brunch party at our place, I made two pavlovas – one classic and one chocolate. I’ve posted the classic recipe before, but this time around I’m serving up the chocolate version. By the way, can you tell we are crazy about pavlovas around here? If you haven’t had one – it’s high time to try. They hail from New Zealand, where my husband spent a good part of his teenage years. I love this man more than anything, but I love him a wee bit more for introducing me to this dessert. A welcome change of pace from cakes or cookies. Much easier to prepare than a pie. They are just the most perfect dessert to have in your arsenal. They are a winner presentation wise, as well. They just have the wow factor, but are deceptively easy to assemble, kind of like a trifle. You just whip up some egg whites with sugar. Bake it low and slow for 45 min to 1 hour. Once cooled, top with whipped cream and fruit (or chocolate). The original recipe suggests topping it with strawberries and chocolate sauce. I didn’t have strawberries on hand, or the time to assemble the chocolate sauce, so I just have the bare bones version here. If you haven’t worked with whipped egg whites before, you needn’t worry. Just have patience. They take a while to whip up to the right consistency, unlike whipped cream (which I’ve turned into butter many times just by looking away for a minute).
If you’ve had plain meringues, then you might not think this dessert would amount to anything. Meringues have a tendency to be cloyingly sweet. But with the topping of just slightly sweetened cream, and the complexity of the chocolate (or in most cases a fruit topping), the combination of textures and flavors is just divine. The outside of the meringue is crisp. The inner part melts in your mouth, kind of like a marshmallow. The cream eases the sweetness and ties all the flavors together. The original recipe calls for superfine sugar – something I never have on hand – and for the chocolate in the meringue to be grated – something for which I have no patience. So, I swapped out superfine sugar for granulated sugar and was not in the least bit disappointed. I also finely chopped instead of grated the chocolate, which I think is for the best really. If you’re grating chocolate by hand, it’s going to melt all over your hands (which is probably not the worst problem to have). Don’t worry about the crackly appearance. I’ve tried every trick in the book for keeping it from cracking and nothing’s worked. Take comfort in the fact that it gets smothered and mostly concealed by the toppings. Feel free to top it with chopped strawberries, raspberries or even blackberries.
Adapted from Easy Desserts: Deliciously Indulgent Treats
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 cup granulated sugar plus 1 tbsp
- a pinch of salt
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp white wine vinegar (or lemon juice)
- 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 1/4 cup heavy cream
- semi sweet chocolate bar, for grating
- Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Draw a 9 in circle on a piece of parchment paper. Place it pencil side down on a baking sheet and sprinkle on some cornstarch. Spread the cornstarch over the area of the circle.
- Whisk the egg whites and salt (preferably with your stand mixer or with a hand held electric mixer) until soft peaks form. Gradually add in 1 cup of the sugar. Whisk in the cornstarch, cocoa, vanilla and vinegar.
- Add the chopped chocolate and fold carefully. That is – take a rubber spatula, cut through the eggs whites down the middle, moving to the left, lift spatula from the bottom to the top. Rotate bowl, and repeat until chocolate is incorporated. See demonstration here.
- Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes. Allow to cool.
- Whip cream until soft peaks form. Add sugar and continue beating, just shy of firm peaks. Top cooled pavlova with whipped cream, and garnish with grated semi sweet chocolate, if desired.
By now, you must be thoroughly confused. Traditional Bengali food. All American desserts. Mediterranean musings. Korean restaurant review. And now an Aussie/New Zealander dessert? What kind of blog is this? In short, it’s a reflection of me. My south asian roots. My growing up in the most ethnically diverse place in the world. My brief, but glorious time in Italy. My marriage to a guy whose life is even more of a hodgepodge than mine (think, Bangladesh, Libya, New Zealand, New York).
I consider myself blessed for having the exposure I’ve had. Even if that meant that I was viewed as an outsider as much in the States as I was in Bangladesh. Because it’s led me here, to this blog, where I can share a little bit of my delicious albeit widely varied culinary experiences. Right now, it’s just a lowly food blog. But my plan for tomorrow night? TAKE OVER THE FOOD BLOGOSPHERE.
Back to the pavlova. I was intrigued when my husband first told me about it. It’s essentially a giant meringue, but coupled with the creamy, fatty goodness of whipped cream, and the freshness of fruit. Kind of like Eton Mess, but without the hassle of individual servings. Kiwi is the New Zealander’s fruit of choice, but feel free to use whatever’s in season. It’s fairly simple to make. It just requires a bit of patience as you whip the egg whites. And don’t feel badly if it cracks – I haven’t seen one that doesn’t.
A few tips:
1. Dust the parchment paper with cornstarch to avoid sticking.
2. Top with whipped cream and fresh fruit JUST before serving.
3. Leave it in the oven (heat turned off, overnight if possible) to minimize cracking.
Recipe from Allrecipes.com
- 4 egg whites
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- 1 pint heavy cream
- 6 kiwi, peeled and diced
- Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Draw a 9 inch circle on the parchment paper with pencil.
- In a large bowl, beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gradually add in the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until thick and glossy. Overbeaten egg whites lose volume and deflate when folded into other ingredients. Be absolutely sure not a particle of grease or egg yolk gets into the whites. Gently fold in vanilla extract, lemon juice and cornstarch.
- (Flip the parchment paper over so you don’t get any of the graphite on your pavlova!) Spoon mixture inside the circle drawn on the parchment paper. Working from the center, spread mixture toward the outside edge, building edge slightly. This should leave a slight depression in the center.
- Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a wire rack.
- In a small bowl beat heavy cream until stiff peaks form; set aside. Remove the paper, and place meringue on a flat serving plate. Fill the center of the meringue with whipped cream, sweetened if desired. Top whipped cream with kiwifruit slices.