apple pie thanksgiving fork to belly
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It’s that time of year again… time for pie! With my pie in the oven, I’ve spent all day watching Superstore on Hulu, shopping online for Christmas gifts, and taking out the holiday decorations. Roy promised he’d let me put them up the day after Thanksgiving. There are few things I love more than enjoying a kitchen filled with the smell of apple pie.

apple pie thanksgiving fork to belly

I took a note from last year and split the process into a few days, which is perfect for busy cooks or if you have an entire Thanksgiving meal to prep and want one less thing to worry about. Day one, I made the pie crust, portioned it out, and wrapped it up to rest in the fridge. Day two, I prepped the filling and left it to sit overnight in the fridge so all the apple slices could release their juices. These two steps could easily be combined into one day. The next day, I cooked down the liquid from the apples, assembled, and baked the pie with hours to spare. By this point, I’ve made enough pies to feel comfortable enough with the process. But I promise splitting your pie into two stages helps so much with avoiding any holiday baking stress.

apple pie thanksgiving fork to belly

Every year I worry that I’ll run out of things to adjust with my pie recipe. But again, every year it’s somehow so easy to find new tips and tricks that always result in a better pie than the year before. This year, I changed this recipe up quite a bit and am quite sure I’ll be keeping them for next year’s pie too.

1. Use a variety of apples. Like chocolate chip cookies, everyone has their own preference for apple pie. Some love their apple pies tarter or the slices less cooked. But generally, using several different types of apples gives the pie a much better flavor and depth of texture. But make sure you’re picking baking apples! Look for ones like granny smith, honeycrisp, braeburn, pink lady, jonagold, winesap, and mutsu. I can usually find granny smith and honeycrisp apples all year long, so if you can’t find any other apples those are probably your best bet. But the fall season gives us so many apples to choose from, why not take advantage of them when you can.

2. Pre-cooking the liquid, not the apples. In past years, I’ve always pre-cooked the apples and the filling on the stove to prevent a soggy pie crust. This year, I took a note from Pies ‘n’ Thighs and let the apples sit with the rest of the filling ingredients overnight. The sugar draws out the liquid from the apples, which is later reduced. This way, you can prevent a soggy pie crust without cooking the apples too much.

3. Back to all butter. This year, I went back to the all butter pie crust from Four & Twenty Blackbirds. I’d had some trouble with it in the past (probably from the dough being too warm when rolling out). But after rereading this post on Food52, I decided to give it another go and loved the results.

4. Turn up the heat! Baking initially at 450°F is what really sears the top of the crust. Turning the heat down to 350°F evens out the browning on the crust and cooks the pie all the way through. Additionally, if the pie could use a darker crust or looks slightly underbaked, you can turn the heat back up to 450°F and bake for another 10 minutes to really ensure a crispy crust.

5. Saying goodbye to the caramel. The caramel sauce is a step I found tedious at times, especially when having to reheat in the microwave every time it needed to be used. I left out the caramel sauce this year and went for the OG American apple pie instead. Next year I might go back to the caramel sauce, but for now this pie was just as delicious without it.

6. Dark pans over ceramic. Dark pans are always best for getting a crispy crunchy texture. Pairing this step with the three-stage bake is sure to kill any possibility of a soggy crust.

apple pie thanksgiving fork to belly

apple pie thanksgiving fork to belly

apple pie thanksgiving fork to belly

Here’s links to my apple pies from three years prior: three years ago, two, and one.

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday, long weekend, and designated fat pants day! If there’s one thing to be thankful for, it’s getting a day to push aside any problems or worries and spend your time focusing on all the things you’ve been blessed with instead. I am thankful for my family, my friends, and feeling safe, healthy, and happy today. Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends!

Apple Pie #04
Pie crust from Four & Twenty Blackbirds. Recipe makes one double crusted 9-inch pie.

all butter pie crust
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp white granulated sugar
2 sticks (16 tbsp) cold unsalted butter, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup cold water
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 cup ice

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar.
2. Add the butter to the bowl. Use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour mixture, working quickly until the mixture looks like cornmeal with a few larger pieces.
3. In a large cup, mix together the water, cider vinegar, and ice. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of the liquid mixture on top of the flour mixture and combine with a spatula. Continue to add liquid, 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough holds its shape when pressed together with your hand. I used about 6 tablespoons in total.
4. Dump the dough out onto a work surface and knead very gently and briefly into a short log. Cut the log in half and shape each portion into a disc. Wrap in plastic and let rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight. The dough can be left for up to 3 days in the refrigerator or frozen for 1 month.

apple filling
9-10 assorted apples (I used braeburn, grannysmith, honeycrisp, and pink lady)
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 tbsp unsalted butter

5. Peel and core each apple. Cut in to uniform slices and place in a large bowl. Add the sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon juice to the bowl. Fold with the apples and let sit for a few minutes until the sugar extracts some of the liquid from the apples. Add the flour and fold with the apples until it has dissolved into the liquid as well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit in the fridge overnight or at least for an hour.
6. Remove the filling from the fridge and separate the liquid from the apples. Transfer the liquid to a small saucepan. Add the butter and reduce over medium heat. The liquid will thicken up quite a bit. Once it has thickened, remove from the heat and let cool slightly before adding it back to the apples.

finishing
egg wash (1 egg, beaten well)
demerara sugar for sprinkling

7. Preheat your oven to 450°F.
8. Roll out one disc of dough to about 1/8 inch thickness and wide enough to cover the bottom of the pie dish. Line the pie dish with the crust. Trip excess dough leaving a 1/2 inch overhand.
9. Transfer the apples into the pie dish, making sure they fit snuggly and there are no large gaps or holes.
10. Roll out the second disc of dough and cut into about 3-inch strips. Place the strips over the apples in a lattice pattern. Trim any excess dough again. Press the edges of the two layers of dough together and fold them over to seal. Use your thumb and forefingers to crimp the edge of the crust.
11. Brush the pie generously with egg wash and sprinkle with the demerara sugar.
12. Bake for 15 minutes at 450°F. Turn down the oven to 350°F and bake for another 40-50 minutes until golden brown all over. Make sure to place a baking sheet below the pie just in case of drips.

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halloween oreo cookies fork to belly

I love oreos so much. Not so much the filling but those crunchy chocolatey cookies. We don’t usually have a lot of snacks at home but oreos and goldfish are always welcome. So when October neared and I saw Trader Joe’s chocolate sandwich cookies with festive jack-o-lanterns, I was super excited to take them with us on our road trip to the bay area to visit Roy’s family. But – and I don’t know how I wasn’t expecting this – off brand oreos are never ever as good as the real thing and I was so sad when the cute cookies just tasted so “meh”. I spent a good chunk of the drive searching for copy-cat oreo recipes and as soon as I had time to bake again back at home, I tested the only recipe I trusted. Plus, I can never turn down an opportunity to use cookie cutters 🙂

I’ve loved every one of Stella’s recipes I’ve tried and knew these cookies wouldn’t be anything but amazing and they were that and so much more! The secret to the color of these cookies is the dutch-process cocoa powder. I’d always thought oreos had to be made with black cocoa powder to get that deep dark, almost black color. Turns out, you can use dutch-process cocoa powder instead. Its reaction with the alkalinity of the dough is what makes it darken in color so the cookies look more like proper oreo copy-cats when baked. I promise you’ll love these cookies, and the best part is the recipe makes enough dough to store half of in the freezer for making a second batch whenever you’re craving it next!

halloween oreo cookies fork to belly halloween oreo cookies fork to belly

halloween oreo cookies fork to belly

halloween oreo cookies fork to belly

halloween oreo cookies fork to belly

Skellington Bear Oreo Cookies
Recipe adapted from BraveTart.

for the cookies
8 tbsp (115g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (100g) white granulated sugar
3 tbsp (55g) golden syrup, I used Lyle’s
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp coconut extract (optional but enhances that oreo flavor!)
1 1/4 cups (165g) all purpose flour
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp (35g) dutch-process cocoa powder

for the royal icing
1 tbsp meringue powder
2 tbsp warm water
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the butter, sugar, golden syrup, baking soda, salt, and coconut extract. Start on a low speed and then increase the mixture to medium. Beat for about 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Halfway through, scrape down the sides of the bowl.
2. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and cocoa powder. With the stand mixer running on low, spoon the dry ingredients in a little at a time. The dough may seem dry and mealy at first but will transform into a smooth dough as you continue to mix.
3. Transfer the dough to a work surface. Split the dough in half and wrap each portion in plastic wrap. Use the dough immediately or store the dough in the refrigerator for up to a week.
4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. If at this point the dough is too soft to handle, let it firm up in the fridge for about 15 minutes. Roll the dough out to 1/8 in. of thickness between two pieces of parchment paper. Use a bear shaped cookie cutter to cut out as many cookies as possible. Re-roll the dough until you’ve made them all into cookies. Transfer to the freezer for about 15 minutes then bake for 12-15 minutes. The cookies will feel slightly soft to the touch right out of the oven but will crisp up as they cool. For softer cookies or to avoid burning, bake for closer to 12 minutes and check them closely as they’re baking just in case.
5. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, mix together the meringue powder and warm water. Let it sit together for a few minutes to activate and foam up. Start the mixer on a low speed and add the sifted powdered sugar to the bowl one spoonful at a time. Once all the powdered sugar has been added, mix on high speed for about 5 minutes until the icing is thick and glossy. Add a teaspoon more of water at a time if the icing is too thick to pipe. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a small round tip.
6. Once the cookies have cooled, use the royal icing to pipe out little skeletons. Let dry completely for a few hours. Cookies will keep in an airtight container stored at room temperature for about 1 week.

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fork to belly rilakkuma halloween bread
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I’m not the biggest on costumes when it comes to Halloween. I usually throw something together the night before and curse myself for not doing it sooner. But what I really love Halloween for are the snacks. I absolutely love Halloween themed goodies. Store-bought and homemade treats with cute and a lil’ creepy written all over it – that’s my jam!

I’m going to be honest in saying that this Halloween Rilakkuma Bread might be kind of annoying to make… especially if you’re not the most patient person and/or haven’t worked with bread before. Coloring bread is always rough, especially when you’re working with different colors. You knead for ages and ages and get food coloring all over your hands! But but but if you’re willing to give it a shot, this bread is very very cute and so much fun to put together. It’ll make the cutest snack to bring to work, share with your friends, or as a perfect grab-and-go snack if you’re one of those people who’s always running late in the mornings. It’ll put a smile on your face every time!

fork to belly rilakkuma halloween bread

fork to belly rilakkuma halloween bread

Here’s a quick sketch I made to help me out before putting everything together!

fork to belly rilakkuma halloween bread

fork to belly rilakkuma halloween bread

fork to belly rilakkuma halloween bread

This month I haven’t been able to stop myself from buying loads and loads of adorable Halloween snacks. My little collection comes from Whole Foods and Marukai, my local Japanese market.

Umaibo – Big cylindrical corn puffs. Basically like a giant cheeto. These ones are corn flavored and a little bit sweet and make really fun snacks to pop in your bag or wack people with.

Pakkun Cho – These are little chocolate filled cookies and I love them so so much. They’re probably my favorite out of all of these snacks. These come in chocolate and strawberry and are in perfect little snack packs to give out too!

Tirol Halloween Chocolates – I love Tirol chocolates because they come in several different varieties like cookies and cream, biscuit, and jelly filled. I found these in a cup and also in the most wonderful witch, frankenstein.
Umaibo – Big cylindrical corn puffs. Basically like a giant cheeto. These ones are corn flavored and a little bit sweet and make really fun snacks to pop in your bag or wack people with.

Halloween Themed Pocky – I don’t think this needs much of an explanation. It’s just regular ol’ OG chocolate pocky but in Halloween packaging. Also convenient for giving out to trick-or-treaters.

Boo Chips – Whole Foods is brimming with these, set up in the front of the store next to the pumpkins and indian corn. If there’s one thing on this list you’re sure to find it’s probably these adorable potato chips.

Rustic Bakery’s Spooky Ghost Cookies – Rustic Bakery’s crackers are always an easy go to for me but for some reason I can’t seem to find them anymore at my nearest Whole Foods. But these cookies were there! If it wasn’t for Roy pointing them out, I wouldn’t have even noticed them but aren’t they just the cutest?

fork to belly rilakkuma halloween bread

Happy Friday the 13th! Hope you’re all enjoying this month and enjoying all the Halloween treats. I’ll be back a few more times to share some more fun recipes 🙂

Halloween Rilakkuma Bread
Adapted from Bonobos25 on YouTube.
260g bread flour
3g dry yeast
4 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
10g honey
120g milk
56g water
10g butter

1. Line an 8×8 square baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of a standmixer, whisk together the bread flour, yeast, sugar, and salt. Add in the honey, milk, and water. Use the dough hook attachment to knead until a ball forms. Add in the butter and knead until smooth.
3. Split the dough into different portions to be colored. The ratios are 21% orange, 21% white, 18% yellow, 18% black, 12% dark brown, 10% light brown. I used gel food coloring. Knead until the dough is uniformly colored. You may want to use food grade gloves if you don’t want to get your hands stained.
4. Place each colored piece of dough into a separate bowl. Let the dough rise in a warm place for about an hour until it doubles in size. Once done rising, deflate the dough and portion according to the drawing posted earlier. Place snuggly in the baking pan and make sure to use a toothpick to stick the ears to the faces of each character.
5. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let rise for another hour. Bake at 350°F for about 15-20 minutes. Once the dough has cooled, remove from the baking tray and use white, brown, orange, purple, and green colored chocolate to create the details on the bread.

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meatless manapua fork to belly
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I’ve been playing around with ways to make my favorite local Hawaii foods vegan/vegetarian/meat-free. It’s tough and I haven’t been as successful as I originally imagined, but man oh man have we got a winner! This recipe delicious… and yes it’s also unbelievably meatless (I fooled my fellow Hawaii born & raised friend Peter). You wouldn’t even know it.

In Hawaii, manapua is the local version of the Chinese char siu bao. Many Chinese migrated to the islands in the mid 1800s, which explains why the cuisine has become so integrated into local dishes. They began opening up shops and restaurants and started selling delicious steamed buns filled with sweet pork. The name manapua comes from the Hawaiian phrase “mea ono puaa” which translates to “pork pastry” or “mauna puaa” which means “mountain of pork”. Both accurate descriptions. Today manapua is most commonly known for that iconic char siu filling, but can also be made filled with kalua pig or even curry chicken.

Local foods are challenging to turn vegan with so many important ingredients being seafood/pork/chicken based. This recipe is considered meatless though there’s a bit of oyster sauce in it. If you’re a stickler you can definitely omit the oyster sauce and the taste shouldn’t change too much. However, if you’re not… add the oyster sauce because like hoisin, it’s kind of in every Chinese dish for a reason.

meatless manapua fork to belly

meatless manapua fork to belly

meatless manapua fork to belly

PS – here’s a little gif of how I make each manapua for those of you who like a more visual aid!

meatless manapua fork to belly meatless manapua fork to belly

meatless manapua fork to belly

meatless manapua fork to belly

Meatless Manapua
Recipe adapted from the Woks of Life.

for the dough
1 tsp active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water (104-110°F)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup cornstarch
5 tbsp white granulated sugar
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, add the warm water and yeast. Wait for about 5 minutes to let the yeast activate. In the meantime, whisk together the flour and cornstarch. Add the flour mixture to the activated yeast along with the sugar and the oil. Turn the mixer on its lowest setting and knead until a smooth dough ball is formed.
2. Transfer the dough to a clean oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Let rest in a warm place for 2 hours until the dough has doubled in size.

for the filling (pt. 1)
1 pkg pork meat substitute (I like Gardein’s porkless bites, sauce package discarded), chopped
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp five spice powder
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 tbsp sherry or Chinese plum wine
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp hoisin sauce
1 tsp tomato paste
2 tsp molasses
1 tbsp oil
3 cloves minced garlic

3. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
4. Add the porkless bites to a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk the other ingredients together. Add the sauce to the porkless bites and toss well. Transfer the mixture to the baking sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes until the filling is crispy on the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool.

for the filling (pt. 2)
5-6 fresh shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped
1 tbsp oil
1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce (omit to keep this dish vegetarian)
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp dark soy sauce
1/2 cup vegetarian chicken-less broth or vegetable stock
2 tbsp flour

5. Heat a tablespoon of flavorless oil in a saucepan. Add the shallots and cook on medium heat until translucent. Turn down the heat to medium-low and add in the sugar, soy sauce, oyster sauce (if using), sesame oil, and dark soy sauce. Stir together until the mixture begins to bubble. Add in the chicken stock along with the flour and stir for a few minutes until the mixture has thickened. Remove the pan from the heat and add in the crispy porkless bites. Combine well and set aside in a bowl.
6. Once the dough has finished rising, push out all the air bubbles. Knead the baking powder until the dough until smooth again. You can add a few teaspoons of water as needed if the dough is too dry to handle. Once the dough is smooth, divide it into 10-12 equal pieces. I like using a kitchen scale to be as accurate as possible. Roll each portion of dough into a ball and set aside covered with a damp towel to proof for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, start boiling a few inches of water in a large pot that your steamer basket can sit over snugly.
7. Once finished proofing, use a rolling pin to flatten the dough ball into a disc. Add about a tablespoon of filling to the center of the disc and pinch the ends closed. Shape into a ball and set on a bamboo steamer. Repeat this process with the rest of the dough balls. You can also use a bit of food coloring and the back of a chopstick to add the red dot to each manapua. Steam for about 12 minutes. Let the buns cool for a few minutes before consuming. They taste better when they’ve had a little chance to rest.

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strawberry vanilla cake fork to belly

For my birthday this year, I asked Roy to bake me a cake. This is what happened.

Roy doesn’t like baking and doesn’t usually like to cook things that take too much effort. Simple meals are his favorite to prepare at home. But last week, when I was recipe testing for a meatless Manapua/Char Siu Bao (yes, posting this soon!) our friend Peter came over. I was in the middle of cooking, the dough balls portioned, the filling prepped, and the steamer basket set up over a pot of boiling water, when Peter noticed and asked if he could make a few manapua himself. It turned into him and Roy making most of them and trying to see how much filling they could fit into each ball of dough. At some point, Peter said, “I hate prepping all the food but the fun part is putting it together.” It made me realize this is probably why people love(d) those pick-it-and-paint pottery places. Is that still a thing? The plate or the picture frame has already been made and now all they have to do is the fun part – the painting! I figured, if I could make the cake batter and the frosting, and give Roy all the tools he’d need for a cake, then maybe Roy wouldn’t mind putting a whole cake together for the first time.

strawberry vanilla cake fork to belly strawberry vanilla cake fork to belly

strawberry vanilla cake fork to belly

strawberry vanilla cake fork to belly

strawberry vanilla cake fork to belly

For some reason, people don’t usually think to make a cake for someone who makes cakes a lot themselves. And as someone who’s made a cake or two for birthdays or special occasions, I had the best time watching Roy put some time and effort into making me a birthday cake this year.

He showed me photos he had found on the internet of what he wanted to make, requesting a vanilla cake and demanded that it have lots of strawberries and a little Korilakkuma eating a strawberry on top. I loved watching how careful and precise he was trying to be and laughed endearingly as he struggled with placing mandolin-thin slices of strawberries with his bear paw hands. There were times I noticed he took great care with putting the cake together that I would have rushed through *cough* slicing the cake layers *cough*.

strawberry vanilla cake fork to belly strawberry vanilla cake fork to belly

strawberry vanilla cake fork to belly

strawberry vanilla cake fork to belly

strawberry vanilla cake fork to belly strawberry vanilla cake fork to belly

The experience was also a lesson in patience. I had to remind myself to step back and let Roy do things exactly how he wanted – which was very hard because I am a bit of a control freak and especially when it comes to making something like a layer cake. Originally, I had planned on relinquishing all cake making to just Roy but he wanted to work with a smaller cake and I had made enough batter for a 3-layered 8 inch cake. We decided that I’d make a cake along with Roy as he made his. The funny thing was that when choosing between the two cakes we made, Roy’s was much tastier. The layers were thinner so didn’t take as long to bake and were therefore moister. With mine, it was a bit off-putting to eat a forkful of cake followed by a big glob of frosting with every bite. The cake recipe itself is on the richer side, a bit closer to being dense like a pound cake, and going lighter on the frosting was a good idea.

A little went a long way here. This was one of the sweetest gifts and I’m hoping that this can become a thing that we do together every year for my birthday! Who knows. Maybe Roy’ll be a pro cake decorator in a few years 🙂

strawberry vanilla cake fork to belly

strawberry vanilla cake fork to belly

strawberry vanilla cake fork to belly

Strawberry and Vanilla Birthday Cake
Recipe from BraveTart.

*toasted sugar*
Preheat oven to 350°F. Pour up to 4 lbs of white granulated sugar in a 9×13 inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Toast for about 1 hour until the sugar turns ivory. Stir and continue to roast for another 2-4 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. The sugar will darken in color and deepen in flavor. Keeping it in the oven any longer will cause the sugar to liquify.
The sugar will be very hot out of the oven so make sure to let it cool for at least 2 hours. Transfer any excess sugar to an airtight container.

for the vanilla butter cake:
2 1/4 cups or 455g toasted or plain sugar
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp kosher salt
16 tbsp or 255g softened unsalted butter
3 large eggs, brought to about 65°F
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 cups or 455g whole milk
3 1/2 cups or 455g all purpose flour, spooned

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line three 8-inch pans. Alternatively, we made two 2-layered 5 inch and 6 inch cakes by splitting the batter four ways.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Start the mixer on a low speed until the ingredients are roughly incorporated, then increase the speed to medium. Beat till light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Halfway through, make sure to stop the mixer and scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spatula.
3. With the mixer running, add each egg one at a time making sure to beat well between each addition. Add the vanilla and beat for a few more seconds. Turn the mixer down to its lowest setting and add 1/3 of the flour and 1/3 of the milk, continue to beat till combined. Repeat in thirds with the rest of the flour and milk.
4. Scrape the bottom of the bowl again to make sure everything is incorporated. The batter should be thick and creamy. Stella recommends the batter be between 65 and 68°F for the best baking texture.
5. Transfer the cake batter evenly between the cake pans. Bake for 32 minutes until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cakes cool completely before removing from their pans.

for the swiss meringue buttercream:
3 large egg whites (about 85g)
155g lightly toasted or plain sugar
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
scraped seeds from 1 split vanilla bean (optional)
2 1/2 sticks, 282g softened unsalted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp almond extract (optional)

6. In a pot smaller than the bowl of the stand mixer, bring about an inch of water to a simmer. Add the egg whites, sugar, salt, and cream of tartar to the metal stand mixer bowl. Make sure the bowl is not touching the water. Whisk the egg white mixture until it has warmed to around 185°F and the sugar has been completely dissolved. This should take about 10-12 minutes. Immediately after, transfer the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip on high speed until the meringue forms stiff and glossy peaks and has cooled to around 90°F. This should take about 10 minutes.
7. With the mixer running, add the butter about 1 tablespoon at a time. The mixture may become soupy but will thicken as the temperature of the butter cools the rest of the meringue. The buttercream should be thick, creamy, and soft but not runny. It should sit at about 72°F. Add in the vanilla and almond extract. If not using the buttercream immediately, transfer to an airtight container. It can be stored in the fridge for 2 weeks and in the freezer for a few months. To use, it must be warmed again to 72°F and re-whiped.

We made our cakes with strawberries, blueberries, chamomile flowers, and a little Korilakkuma bear made out of fondant.

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