Friday, January 15, 2016

Cooked Buttercream or Ermine Icing

Happy 2016! I have slacked, eaten and slept. I have gained 8 pounds and not brushed my hair. I have stepped on lego pieces, found cookies hidden behind the couch and pine needles in my bra. I HAVE survived the holiday season. Now it is time to lose the hidden pounds, vacuum up the crumbs and share some of the recipes I discovered this past year.

Tasty Kitchen dipped her cupcakes in sprinkles, I was inspired. 
But before that, we need to talk about frosting, indulging, satisfying and yummy frosting. I have never been a fan of buttercream frosting until I realized that the sickly sweet, nasty stuff that I make with confectionary sugar, or gasp even worse from a can is what is called “American Buttercream”. I am not surprised with our cultures obsession with sugar that loading way too much into anything and everything. A more traditional cooked buttercream is done whipping butter till it is light and fluffy, then adding a “pudding” to thicken, sweeten and flavor it. While researching for a recipe that was sweet, but not sickly I stumbled across a blog post on Serious Eats written by Nila Jones. She does a great job at describing the differences between buttercreams and the regional breakdown. Personally I found it very interesting, but to the general baker, perhaps more information than you are looking for. However, I do suggest at least browsing the page.

The following recipe I first stumbled upon on the Tasty Kitchen Blog, but I have since seen it multiple places, including the NYT recipe box. So as to an original author to credit, I am unsure.

I began beating my butter when I began cooking the flour and milk, I wanted to get as much air in it as possible. I stopped for a little bit to give my mixer a break, but it probably beat for a good 15-20 minutes, scraping down every so often to make sure nothing got left out.

Cooked Buttercream or Ermine Icing [print recipe]

5 Tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup butter, softened to room temp
1 cup granulated sugar

In a mixer, beat butter and sugar together until the butter is light and fluffy and the sugar granules are ground up and no longer crunchy.

Meanwhile, on the stove over medium to medium-low heat, whisk flour and milk together. WHISK, WHISK, WHISK. You must whisk the entire time, or you will end up with flour lumps, and all of your materials and effort will be wasted.  As the mixture thickens, keep whisking, don’t give up. The desired thickness is more like creamy peanut butter, anything thinner will not set up right when combined with the butter/sugar. Remember, speed is not the essence here, bringing it together too quickly will result in a floury taste to the frosting, but slowly will give the pudding a chance to cook out the taste. Think of it as when you make gravy with a flour thickener, you must cook out the flour taste.

When thick, remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla. scrape into a shallow bowl and press plastic wrap directly down on top of the mixture, so that a crust does not form as it cools. I was in a hurry the last time I made this, and I kept it in the saucepan, applied my plastic wrap and placed the entire pot in a bowl of ice to cool down. You are only bringing the temp down to room temperature, not any cooler.

Add the cooled pudding to the beaten butter/sugar mixture and beat on high, scraping down the sides of the bowl. If it looks separated, you haven’t beaten it enough. It will have the appearance of whipped cream frosting when you are done.

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