Posts Tagged ‘icing’

The 96th episode of Good Eats originally aired in December, hence the Christmas cookie theme. I say, however, that Christmas cookies deserve to be eaten at any time of the year, and March seemed like a perfect time to crank some cookies out of my kitchen. First up?

Sugar Cookies

This is a recipe that I actually made years ago (maybe in 2005?) for Christmas at my parents’ house. It was the first Christmas Ted spent with my family and I remember decorating the cookies on Christmas Eve prior to Ted’s arrival. My brother and I were going to head to Christmas Eve mass with our parents, and we somehow ended up with two martinis in our systems prior to church. Let me just say that mass was a little more entertaining than usual, and I ended up with very brightly (and abstractly) decorated cookies. The cookies were a hit then, so I knew they would be good when I made them this time around. This recipe begins by sifting together 3 C flour, 1/4 t salt, and 3/4 t baking powder.

Also, in a small bowl, combine 1 egg and 1 T milk.

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Wet ingredients – egg and milk.

Oh, and place a sheet pan in the freezer. Next, in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together 1 C butter and 1 C sugar until light and fluffy.

Slowly add the wet ingredients to the mixer until mixed in.

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Wet ingredients added to mixing bowl.

Then, slowly add the sifted dry ingredients on low, mixing until the dry ingredients are incorporated and the dough forms a ball.

Divide the dough in half, patting each half into a flat slab. Wrap the dough in plastic or wax paper and place it in the refrigerator for two hours.

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Dough, divided into two equal slabs, and ready to head into refrigerator.

When you are ready to cut out your cookies, sprinkle your work surface with powdered sugar (Alton prefers sugar to flour because flour causes the dough to develop more gluten). Roll the dough to 1/4″ thick, lifting the dough every so often to be sure it isn’t sticking; I found that I needed quite a lot of powdered sugar to keep the dough from sticking to my counter.

Remember that frozen sheet pan from earlier? Place it on your rolled dough for 10 minutes to re-chill the dough before cutting.

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Cold sheet pan placed on top of rolled dough.

Use cookie cutters (FYI Alton likes plastic ones) to cut cookies from your dough, transferring them to parchment-lined baking sheets.

Bake the cookies for four minutes at 375, rotate the pans, and bake them for four to five more minutes. I found that my cookies needed a little more time than this. Let them cool completely on racks before frosting.

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Cookies, after baking.

This sugar cookie recipe is fantastic. The dough comes together super quickly and is very easy to work with. The resulting cookies are crispy on the outside and slightly tender on the inside, and they have a rich, buttery flavor. I highly recommend this one! Oh, and how should you decorate said cookies? With Alton’s recipe for royal icing, of course! See below.

Royal Icing

If you are looking for a way to decorate your sugar cookies, look no further than Alton’s royal icing recipe. To make his icing, beat four egg whites or three ounces of pasteurized egg whites (I used pasteurized egg whites) with 1 t vanilla, using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer.

Gradually add 4 C of sifted powdered sugar until you have a smooth, lump-free icing.

Divide the icing among small bowls, adding coloring as you desire. As far as coloring goes, Alton prefers powdered food coloring because it lasts the longest and has no additives. I only had liquid food coloring, so that is what I went with.

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Royal icing, divided and colored.

Frost your cookies and let them sit until the frosting has set up. Oh, and if you end up with a bad color, Alton recommends adding cocoa powder until you have covered it up.

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My decorated sugar cookies.

This icing could not be easier to make and it sets up beautifully. Since royal icing is thin, it can be a bit messy to deal with, but it looks and tastes great. This is a fool-proof royal icing recipe that pairs perfectly with Alton’s sugar cookies. I threw a bunch of my frosted cookies in the freezer for later enjoyment, so you can always make these ahead.

Chocolate Peppermint Pinwheel Cookies

Last in this episode was Alton’s recipe for chocolate peppermint pinwheel cookies. I actually made this recipe years ago also, but for a cookie exchange when I was in graduate school. I remembered liking these cookies then. These cookies start with a batch of Alton’s sugar cookies.

Divide the sugar cookie dough in half (it is best to do this by weight), and place the dough in two bowls.

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Dividing sugar cookie dough in half by weight.

One half of the dough will become peppermint dough, while the other half will become chocolate dough. Add 1 t vanilla to one of the bowls of dough, and add 1 t peppermint extract to the other.

To the peppermint dough, add 1/2 C crushed candy cane (or peppermint candy).

To the dough with vanilla extract, add 3 ounces of melted unsweetened chocolate (you can melt it in the microwave, stirring until melted).

Use gloved hands to mix the peppermint and chocolate into the two doughs. Additionally, add 1 egg yolk to the peppermint dough, mixing it in by hand.

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Crushed peppermint and egg yolk added to dough with peppermint extract.

Chill the two doughs for five minutes. Roll out the two doughs to 1/3-1/4″ thick rectangles, using powdered sugar to keep the dough from sticking. You want your chocolate rectangle to be slightly longer and thinner than your peppermint rectangle. Place the chocolate dough on a non-stick mat or a pliable cutting board (I rolled my dough out on a non-stick mat, so I wouldn’t have to transfer it).

Place the peppermint dough on top of the chocolate dough, pressing the doughs together.

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Peppermint dough placed on top of chocolate dough and the two are pressed together.

Use the edge of the non-stick mat or cutting board to roll the doughs into a log. Wrap the log in wax paper and refrigerate it for at least two hours.

When ready to bake, slice the log into 1/2″ slices, placing them on parchment-lined sheets.

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Dough sliced into rounds.

Bake the cookies for 12-13 minutes at 375-degrees, rotating the pans once during baking. Cool the cookies for two minutes on the baking sheets before transferring them to racks.

These cookies are chewy and dense, and have little pockets of crunchy peppermint. They are pretty and fun to make, and they definitely have a seasonal feeling to them. That being said, though, why is peppermint only popular at the holidays? Peppermint ice cream is one of my very favorite flavors, but you can only find it for a couple months each year. Anyway, these cookies are worth a bake, and, yes, you can freeze these too!

 

If last episode of Good Eats was all about cake, I suppose it is only fitting that this episode dealt with icing. Alton made the point that store-bought cake mixes are generally quite good, and, in fact, they are sometimes better than the cakes we can make at home. For this reason, a cake mix was used in this episode, and Alton used it to make two round layers. Once his cakes were baked, it was onto the icing.

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One of my two cake mix layers.

Buttercream

First up, Alton made his version of buttercream. To make this recipe, you will need to have 10 ounces of softened butter, so you will need to set your butter out in advance. In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 C sugar and 1/2 C dark corn syrup, bringing this mixture to a boil over high heat. When your sugar syrup has large bubbles, turn off the heat and set the syrup aside for a few minutes.

While the syrup cools, beat 4 eggs with a whisk attachment until they are thick and have lightened in color.

It is ideal to use a metal turkey baster to add the hot syrup to the eggs, as you can drizzle the syrup into the edge of the mixing bowl, avoiding the whisk (the syrup will solidify upon hitting the whisk). You will, however, want to oil your baster first by drawing vegetable oil into the baster, and then pushing it out again. Using your lubed baster, and with the mixer running on low speed, drizzle the hot syrup into the eggs, trying to get it in the space between the bowl and the whisk.

Continue this process until all of the syrup has been added. When all of the syrup is in, increase the speed to high and beat until the side of the bowl is warm, but not hot, to the touch; this should take about two minutes.

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Buttercream after adding all of the syrup.

Next, piece by piece, slowly add your softened butter, only adding a new piece of butter when the previous piece has been completely mixed in. Your resulting buttercream should be smooth, creamy, and thick enough to frost a cake. The key word here is “should.” Mine was not. My buttercream had turned into sort of a broken soup at this point.

I attempted to save my buttercream by first heating it on the stove to get the tiny lumps of butter incorporated.

I then tried beating it again, and it was smoother, but it still was not thickening properly.

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Beating the buttercream again.

I decided to try chilling it and beating it again, which resulted in a slightly thicker consistency, but it still was inadequate. My last hope was to try chilling it even longer, but this still did not solve the problem.

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Beating the buttercream after chilling.

After working on this buttercream for a couple hours, I finally pulled the plug. My buttercream tasted fantastic – rich, buttery, and sweet, but it just was too runny. I did use it for a pseudo crumb coat on my cake, but it just did not work well. Oh, and did I mention that while I was having my buttercream fiasco, my dog decided to sample my cake? Yep, he took a bite right out of the side.

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Using the buttercream for a crumb coat.

I have successfully made buttercream in the past, using a sugar syrup. The recipes I have had success with in the past have all used a candy thermometer and specific temperatures for the syrup. I wonder if my syrup was not hot enough, or if I did not add it quickly enough. I also wonder if my butter was too soft. After reading the online reviews of this recipe, I see that I was not the only person to struggle with this particular recipe. Honestly, I wouldn’t bother with this recipe again, as I know that there are other buttercream recipes out there that work, while this one did not for me. When all was said and done, I wound up frosting my cake with store-bought buttercream, which is just not the same.

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Giving in and frosting my cake with store-bought buttercream.

Oh, but if you choose to make this buttercream and it works for you, you do also have the option of adding flavor. For chocolate buttercream, melt 4 ounces of chopped dark chocolate, letting it cool for a few minutes. Add the melted chocolate to the finished buttercream. For coffee buttercream, dissolve 1 t of instant espresso in 2 t coffee liqueur. Or, you can add any extract or food coloring of your choosing. Store buttercream in an airtight container with an additional layer of plastic wrap. If you make the buttercream in advance, bring it to room temperature and re-whip it before frosting your cake.

Ganache

For his cake, Alton opted to make a ganache to use as a filling between cake layers. To make the ganache, heat 6 ounces of heavy cream with 3 T corn syrup in a small saucepan.

Add 12 ounces of chopped dark chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

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Chopped dark chocolate.

Remove the pan from the heat and add 1/2 t vanilla extract.

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Ganache after chocolate was melted and smooth. Adding vanilla off the heat.

Let the ganache cool before using. Spread the ganache between cake layers, using a spatula to spread it almost to the cake edge.

Unlike the buttercream, this ganache recipe was super fast and easy, and it tasted great. I typically use a regular frosting between cake layers, rather than a filling, but I really liked the contrast of dark chocolate between layers. And, if you refrigerate your cake, the ganache becomes fudge-like and dense, adding a level of richness. Oh, and my suggestion if you happen to have leftover ganache is to refrigerate it until set. You can form balls with the firm ganache, rolling them in cocoa powder or powdered sugar to form truffles. Or, you can just eat it with a spoon like I did.

Writing Chocolate

A recipe for writing chocolate was last in this episode. For this one, combine 1 C chocolate chips and 2 t canola oil in a microwave-safe container, stirring to coat the chips with the oil.

Microwave the chocolate for one minute on high. Stir the chocolate until it is completely smooth. For decorating, transfer the chocolate to a piping bag or a plastic bottle.

This recipe also worked very well and was super easy. It is certainly an easy way to add some writing to a cake. It tastes much better than the artificial writing icing you can buy in the store too.

Cake Assembly

Though not a recipe per se, Alton did go over some of his cake assembly/decorating basics.

  1. He opts for a lazy susan for cake decorating, placing it on top of an upturned cake pan.
  2. To level his cakes, Alton uses two wooden yard pickets, placed on their sides in a V-shape. He places his cake inside the V and slices along the top of the pickets with a bow saw blade.
  3. He also uses the pickets for splitting cake layers, turning them onto their shorter sides. Again, using a bow saw blade, he slices across the top of the pickets, slicing the cake into two layers.
  4. When frosting a cake, place the layers in the following order from base to top:  bottom of cake 1, top of cake 1, top of cake 2, and bottom of cake 2.
  5. When you have the filling between your layers, first frost the cake with a thin crumb coat of icing (about 1/4 of your icing) and refrigerate. This crumb coat will make it easier to apply a smooth layer of icing.
  6. When frosting a cake, apply more icing than you think you need to the top of the cake. Spread the icing, working out to the edges and down the sides. It is always better to remove excess icing than to add more.

Gold Cake

Cake is one of my very favorite desserts, and I would probably choose it over pie most of the time. The star of this episode is a gold cake, which is a relative of the classic pound cake. This recipe uses cake flour because of its low protein content, which results in a cake that is more tender. Alton also explained that he often prefers to use butter-flavored shortening when baking, as he thinks it gives more of a buttery flavor to baked goods than does actual butter. You can swap shortening for butter in any baking recipe, but you will need to make a couple of modifications because shortening is 100% fat, while butter is 20% water. This means that you will need to use 20% less shortening than the amount of butter called for, and you will need to increase the liquid in your recipe by 20%. Now, on to the cake.

Before starting this recipe, weigh the empty bowl of your stand mixer, noting the weight for later. In the stand mixer bowl, beat 140 g of butter-flavored shortening on low for about a minute.

To the beaten shortening, add 300 g sugar and a pinch of Kosher salt, and beat this mixture on medium for at least four or five minutes.

Next, with the mixer running, slowly add 130 g of egg yolks (about 8 yolks).

Once the yolks are incorporated, prepare your remaining wet and dry ingredients. In one vessel, combine 180 g of milk with 1 t vanilla extract.

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180 g of milk with 1 t vanilla.

In a separate bowl, sift together 350 g of cake flour and 14 g of baking powder.

Alternate adding the flour and milk mixtures to the batter by adding half of the flour, half of the milk, the remaining half of the flour, and the last of the milk.

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The final cake batter.

Once you have a smooth batter, again weigh your mixing bowl. Subtract the empty bowl weight you took earlier from the weight of the bowl+batter, and divide this number in half; you now have the weight of batter you should have in each cake pan for baking. Using this number, divide the batter evenly between two greased/floured 9-inch cake pans (my batter weighed 1070 g, so I allotted ~535 g per pan).

Bake the cakes in the top third of a 350-degree oven.

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Cakes in the top 1/3 of a 350-degree oven.

Check the cakes after 12 minutes of baking, rotating them if one cake is browning more than the other. The cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, which took about 30 minutes for my cakes. Let the cakes cool in their pans (on racks) for 10-15 minutes.

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Cakes after baking until a toothpick came out clean – about 30 minutes.

Remove the cakes from their pans and let them cool completely.

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Cake removed from pan.

Now, you could eat these cakes plain, or with whipped cream and fruit, but I did what Alton did and frosted them with his cocoa whipped cream (recipe below).

Cocoa Whipped Cream

To go with his gold cake, Alton made this cocoa whipped cream. You will want to make the cream once your cakes are completely cool. While your cakes finish cooling, chill the mixing bowl and whisk attachment of your stand mixer by placing them in the refrigerator. When the cakes have sufficiently cooled, place 2 T of cold water in a small saucepan and sprinkle 1 t gelatin over the water’s surface; set aside for 5 minutes.

Place the saucepan over low heat, just until the gelatin has melted.

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Gelatin, heated until just melted.

Meanwhile, in your cold mixing bowl, beat on low 2 C whipping cream, 1 t vanilla, and 1/2 C cocoa mix (you could probably use any cocoa mix, but Alton used his Good Eats mix, of which I still had some).

Slowly drizzle the melted gelatin into the cocoa/cream mixture and increase the speed.

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Cocoa mixture after all of the gelatin was added.

Beat the cream until it forms medium peaks.

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The final cocoa cream, beaten until it had medium peaks.

Use the whipped cream to frost Alton’s gold cake, or any other two-layer cake.

We thought Alton’s gold cake and cocoa whipped cream paired nicely together. The cake is a bit of a dry, crumbly cake, but has nice buttery flavor.IMG_6269 The cocoa whipped cream is a nice alternative to traditional frosting, having a light, airy texture and being less sweet than many frostings, but it also necessitates refrigerating your cake.

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A slice of Alton’s gold cake with cocoa whipped cream.

All in all, I would be more likely to make the cocoa whipped cream again over the cake. The cake had good flavor, but was just a bit too dry.