Saturday, April 4, 2015

Buttery Buttercream

Every month, the local YWCA holds a Cupcake Awards event. Residents and staff can nominate one someone who's done something kind or extraordinary in the past month. Since I joined the board of the organization, I've been baking cupcakes for the event at home. It seemed like a worthwhile kind of event that deserved better than store-bought cupcakes. The thing I could never get down was the frosting, though.

When the owner of a local sweets shop, Sue of Sweet Sue's, joined the board, I had to ask: what was I doing wrong? I beat the heck out of the frosting like my mother taught me, but it always separates.

She gave me three key tips: 1. Use quality butter; 2. Don't use a metal mixer, better to use paddles; and 3. Make sure the butter is warmer than room temperature. I was super pleased with the results. I told someone: this might be too buttery for some people's tastes, and that person said: what kind of person would that be?

Buttery Buttercream

1 lb butter, a bit warmer than room temperature
1 tsp salt
3 egg whites
1 cup sugar
8 oz whipping cream

Heat the egg whites and 1 cup of sugar in a dish set in boiling water. Whisk constantly so that the eggs do not cook. If any part of the egg solidifies, strain it into a clean dish. Cool it in the fridge while you whip the butter.

Whip the butter with salt in a mixer with paddles until fluffy. Do not skimp on the mixing time.

When the egg mixture is cooled, add gradually to the whipping butter, then pour in the whipping cream slowly. Beat until you get the consistency that you want.

You can add all kinds of flavoring with the whipping cream; for vanilla buttercream, add vanilla extract.

Dainty Carnivores

Roast beef & rocket sandwiches
Every month or so, I get together with a group of women who do policy-related work with the state government in Albany. The woman who hosts the gathering and I usually handle a basic menu, and then others bring a dish if they can. It's not really a potluck because these are busy women, and we want to encourage them -- with some tasty treats -- to come; instead of deterring them because they didn't have time to stop for a bottle of wine or some cheese and crackers.

red and white endive leaves with Trader Joe's spinach & kale greek yogurt dip 

One time I made dainty little egg-salad sandwiches when a deviled egg experiment went awry. They were just as you might imagine--fluffy egg salad on white bread quarters with the crust cut off, pimento, and watercress. They were the perfect finger food. This time I was feeling carniverous, so I made 6 roast beef sandwiches on whole wheat bread. I spread a bit of mayonnaise on one side and then spread with horseradish, a bit of whole-grain mustard on the other, and then layered rocket greens and roast beef in between. Then I cut the crusts off and quartered them. I served them with a side of super-hot horseradish sauce, which I thought they would use sparingly if at all. But it was a hit.

For Saturday breakfast, I took all of the crusts and separated them from the bits of roast beef and greens. I made an omelet with the roast beef and greens, and fed the crusts to the birds. Everyone was happy!

mini chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting and caramel sauce