The Buttercream Nemesis on

On Thursday I posted a new article on about making Italian and Swiss buttercream. If you have trouble making traditional, egg-white based buttercreams, this will be helpful. If you need another metaphor for how emulsions work, that's a good place to go as well. Naturally, if the article is useful for you, please click the Thumbs Up button. If you have some troubles with it or further questions, a comment is always appreciated.

Food Mysteries: Liquid Frosting

One of my favorite food activities is when someone is having a problem with a recipe and ask for help. Whether it's asked directly to me or just in my vicinity, it gives me a chance to test what I've learned and see how well I'm doing. There's nothing like taking some basic problem, breaking it down as best I can, and attempting to come up with a solution. Sometimes I'm right, often I'm wrong, but it's generally worth the effort. In this particular instance, one of my twitter friends asked: Broken_Recipe.png This was a little vague, but my mystery-loving nose was a-twitchin', so I asked for more information. What she told me was that she had this coffee mascarpone frosting recipe that she'd used for forever. Normally it went together with no trouble, but this time it was much more fluid than solid, which is generally not what you want with a frosting. The recipe was:
  • 1 cup chilled whipping cream
  • 8 oz mascarpone
  • 1/4 cup ground coffee
  • 2 to 3 cups confectioner's sugar (depending upon how thick you prefer frosting)
Whip up whipping cream in mixer until soft peaks begin to form. Fold in mascarpone and coffee grinds. Then while mixing over low speed, slowly add the confectioner's sugar one cup at a time, being careful not to over whip frosting. Okay, all well and good. Comparing with other frosting recipes, it appeared that the sugar should be more than enough to thicken things up (although sugar does not thicken in the same way a starch does, it can still do its share under the right circumstance, generally by dissolving itself into water and preventing the water from moving about). As the coffee is ground and not, say, a liquid, it wasn't likely to throw anything off. I asked if perhaps she was using a different brand of whipping cream with more liquid, or a different mascarpone, but no, that was all the same. As the cream was being whipped, there was a possibility that it was the culprit. It's easy to break a whipped cream with too much heat. So I suggested that perhaps something were warmer than usual and that may have caused the trouble. Finally, I noticed that other recipes, rather than whipping the cream first then folding and mixing, just threw everything together and mixed that way. I suggested that, if she still had everything together, perhaps she could give that a go. The responded to tell me that, yes, it was the temperature. Hurrah! But, instead of being too warm, the mascarpone was too cold, and bringing it to room temperature fixed the problem. Hurroo. So I was half-right, and I was helpful, and I learned something. That's all good. As I get better, hopefully I will be right more than I am wrong. As with most of life, the important thing is to never stop learning.