Sunday, January 16, 2011

What's Baking: Swiss Meringue Buttercream

It's that time again! There was another What's Baking? challenge. This one was "try something new for the new year." When I read that, I immediately thought of egg whites. I've never made a meringue before. But then, I remembered that I don't really like meringue pies or meringue cookies much. And a better idea struck. On my message board, everyone RAVES about a specific kind of frosting. One that I've been meaning to try for a while and haven't gotten around to. One that works with egg whites. Specifically, Swiss meringue buttercream.

Conveniently, it was my friend's birthday, so I wanted to make cupcakes for him. Because, you know, I never bake for birthdays. Ever. /sarcasm. I wasn't sure as to his exact flavor preferences, but his wife assured me he liked everything. That's easy enough. I settled on vanilla bean cupcakes filled with homemade lemon curd and frosted with vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream (of course).

These turned out really well! They were a hit with everyone who tried them. And the Swiss meringue buttercream was actually fairly forgiving. I was making a small batch, and I don't think my thermometer was immersed quite enough to get an accurate reading, so I'm pretty sure I cooked my egg whites pretty well past 160 degrees. In spite of this (and in spite of smelling disturbingly like scrambled eggs), the frosting came together fine and tasted alright. Now, personally, I don't like the taste of butter (*gasp*). And the difference between this frosting and the normal American buttercream that I usually make is that the Swiss meringue buttercream has a lot less sugar and a lot more butter. So, it wasn't my personal favorite in terms of flavor. I also found it very difficult to pipe. I never quite got to stiff peaks like the recipe calls for, as my egg white/sugar mixture was more like a marshmallow fluff consistency after cooking and whipping than light and airy peaks, so this is probably my own fault, and probably wouldn't have happened had I not overcooked the egg whites. I think the Swiss meringue buttercream is also a LOT more time-consuming than an American buttercream. So, while I'm not a convert, it was good to try something new!

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes (from Annie's Eats)

  • 2 sticks of butter, softened
  • 2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 c. flour (the original recipe calls for cake flour, but I used AP)
  • 1 Tbl. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/4 c. buttermilk
  • 1 Tbl. vanilla extract

Cream together the butter and sugar. Split open the vanilla bean, scrape out all the seeds, and add the seeds to the butter and sugar. Then, beat in the eggs, one at a time. Sift together the dry ingredients, and add them to the butter/sugar mixture in two additions, alternating with the buttermilk and vanilla extract. Mix just until combined.

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop the batter into well-greased muffin tins. This will make about 27 or 28 cupcakes. Bake at 350 degrees F for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Orange Curd (from Food and Wine)

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. orange juice
  • 2 Tbl. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. orange zest
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 stick of butter, softened, cut into small pieces

Whisk together eggs, egg yolks, and sugar in a small-to-medium saucepan. Whisk in the orange juice, lemon juice, and zests. Add butter. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens. Strain it through a fine-meshed sieve to remove any lumps and the zest. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic directly against the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate overnight or up to one week.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream (from Annie's Eats)

  • 5 egg whites
  • 1 c. plus 2 Tbl. granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 sticks of butter, softened, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix together the egg whites, sugar, and salt in a heatproof bowl (I used my mixer's metal bowl). Set it over a pot of simmering water, and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture reaches 160 degrees F. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer (if needed), and whip on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature. Now, add the butter, about 2 Tbl. at a time, making sure to completely beat in each piece before adding the next. Note: the original recipe says that the recipe may look soupy or curdled at this point--mine didn't, but mine was also bordering on scrambled eggs. So, if that happens to you, don't panic. It means you're doing it right. Just keep mixing, and it will eventually come together. Once it does, mix in the vanilla extract. The frosting can be refrigerated for a couple days--just whip it up a little before you use it.

To assemble:

Take the cooled cupcakes, and cut a plug approximately 1 inch in diameter out of the center of each cupcake. The plug should NOT go all the way through the cupcake. Dispose of these plugs in any manner you like (personally, I ate them). Fill each cupcake with orange curd. Then, frost each cupcake with the Swiss meringue buttercream, trying not to disturb the orange curd. Devour.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Butterscotch Pie

Anyone who doesn't like pies quite as much as me is probably getting sick of pie posts. But I don't cater to crazy people who don't like pie. And this pie is right up there on my list of favorite pies. I'm combining my friend Paula's grandmother's filling recipe (you know it's got to be good if it's a grandmother's recipe!) with my friend Andrew's crust recipe...with a little bit of tweaking to both recipes. His crust is just a touch on the salty side, which is the PERFECT counterpoint to the sweet, rich butterscotch custard filling.

Butterscotch Pie (from Paula's grandmother and Andrew)


  • 1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • Rounded 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 c. shortening
  • 1 Tbl. cold vodka
  • 2-4 Tbl. cold water

Pulse together flour and salt in a food processor. Add shortening, and pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Add vodka and 2 Tbl. of water. Pulse until mixture begins to come together. Add more water--a little at a time--if necessary, just until dough comes together.

Form dough into a disk. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Roll out dough, and transfer to a 9-in. pie plate, trimming the excess dough from the edges. Prick the bottom and sides with a fork. Bake at 450 degrees F until golden brown, about 12-14 minutes. Cool completely.


  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c. cornstarch
  • 1/4 c. dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 c. light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 c. milk
  • 1 stick of butter, cut into small pieces and softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 Tbl. butterscotch Schnapps

In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks and egg together until well-beaten. Mix in the cornstarch until thoroughly incorporated.

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugars, salt, and milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, just until bubbles appear. Temper the egg mixture by slowly stirring in 1 c. of the hot milk mixture, whisking constantly. Once the eggs have been tempered, add them back into the saucepan of milk, again stirring constantly. Cook over medium heat until mixture thickens considerably.

Remove the saucepan from the heat, and stir in the butter, one piece at a time. Once all the butter has been incorporated, mix in the vanilla and butterscotch Schnapps. Strain the custard through a fine-meshed sieve into the cooled pie crust, and spread evenly. Lay a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the pie to keep out air, and refrigerate overnight. To serve, top with whipped cream, if desired (or if your pie has big, gaping cracks in it that need disguising!).

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Spiked Eggnog Cream Pie

Eggnog is one of my most absolute favorite things about Christmas. I also love pie. And cream pies happen to be my favorite kind of pie. Naturally, I felt the need to make an eggnog cream pie for Christmas dinner. And of course, being me, I had to spike it. Yummmmm. I can't recommend this recipe highly enough if you're an eggnog fan, like me! I used Martha Stewart's Rum-Vanilla Cream Pie as a starting point/inspiration, but adapted both the method and the ingredients very heavily, so I'm comfortable calling it an original recipe.

Spiked Eggnog Cream Pie (a Brownies and Blondies original)

  • 1 9-in. pie crust, baked and cooled
  • 1/4 c. cornstarch
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 c. eggnog
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Several dashes of nutmeg
  • 1/4 c. butter, cut into small pieces and softened
  • 1/4 c. white rum

Mix together egg yolks and cornstarch in a small bowl. It will be a pretty paste-like consistency.

Combine the sugar, eggnog, salt, and about 3 dashes of nutmeg in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat just until bubbles appear, stirring constantly.

Temper the egg yolks by slowly mixing in about 1 c. of the hot eggnog. Make sure to add it only a little bit at a time, so as not to scramble the eggs. Once you've added 1 c. of the eggnog to the yolks, pour them slowly back into the remaining eggnog in the pan, stirring constantly. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens considerably. Remove from heat and mix in the butter, one piece at a time. Once the butter has all been incorporated, mix in the rum.

Strain the custard through a fine-meshed sieve into the cooled pie crust, and spread it evenly. Put a piece of cling wrap on the surface of the pie to keep out air, and refrigerate overnight. To serve, sprinkle with additional nutmeg, and top with a dollop of whipped cream, if desired.