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Old 12-31-2018, 07:27 AM   #21
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Thank you all so much. It was a lot of time and work, but really fun to make and was something I had wanted to do for years.
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Old 12-31-2018, 10:31 AM   #22
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Flavored Italian buttercreams

Equipment:
Candy thermometer
Stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment - note, you can do this with a hand mixer, but you will definitely need a helper for safety when pouring the boiling hot sugar syrup.

Espresso frosting, makes a little over 3 cups of frosting

1-1/3 cups sugar, divided
4 oz water
4 large egg whites at room temperature 30 minutes
1 Tbsp plus 2 teaspoons instant-espresso powder
3/4 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
3/8 tsp cream of tartar
1/8 tsp salt, rounded
4 sticks (3/4 pounds) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces and softened to room temperature
Brown gel or paste food coloring for a darker bark if desired

Vanilla and Chocolate filling, makes a little over 3 cups frosting in total, I divided.

1-1/3 cups sugar, divided
4 oz water
4 large egg whites at room temperature 30 minutes
3/4 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
3/8 tsp cream of tartar
1/8 tsp salt, rounded
4 sticks (3/4 pounds) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces and softened to room temperature
3 ounces fine-quality 60%-cacao bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled to just above room temperature (for 2 cups of chocolate and a little over 1 cup of vanilla buttercream. Add another 1-1/2 ounces of chocolate if you want all chocolate.)

Bring 7/8 cups sugar and water to a boil in a large heavy saucepan fitted with candy thermometer (make sure bottom of thermometer is not touching bottom of pan) over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. If there are any sugar crystals on side of pan, brush down gently with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Then, bring to a boil and let cook, without stirring, until mixture registers 235 to 242 Fahrenheit, 15 to 20 minutes.

While syrup is boiling, beat whites with espresso powder, vanilla, cream of tartar, and salt in mixer at medium speed until they just hold soft peaks. Add remaining sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time and beat until whites just hold stiff peaks. Optional: Add in desired amount of food coloring a couple drops at a time while you are beating in the sugar.

When syrup reaches temperature, immediately start to pour syrup in a slow stream down side of bowl into whites (avoid beaters) while beating at high speed. Beat until the mixture is completely cool, 25 to 30 minutes. It is important that meringue be completely cool and at room temperature so that butter does not melt.

Then, with mixer at medium speed, add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition until buttercream is smooth. (Mixture may look curdled before all butter is added but will come together at end.)

Transfer 2 cups buttercream to a small bowl and stir in chocolate.

If buttercreams are too soft to spread, chill, stirring occasionally.
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Old 12-31-2018, 10:32 AM   #23
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Meringue mushrooms


2 large egg whites, room temprtsyitr
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
Cocoa powder
Dipping chocolate disks (dark, semisweet or milk chocolate, your choice)

Large baking sheet
parchment paper
piping bag or plastic bag
3/8 round tip (or cut a 3/8 hole in plastic bag, the tip will help with piping but is not necessary)
Small round brush (clean, food safe, unused for anything but food purposes)

Using a stand mixture will cut down on mixing time, but you can use a hand mixer, it will just take a little longer.

I added about 1/16 of a tsp of cocoa powder to the sugar and mixed so that my mushrooms wouldn't be white-white. You could omit or add a little more for a slightly darker mushroom.

Preheat oven to 200 Fahrenheit.

Using the balloon whisk attachment on a stand mixer, beat the egg whites until they just start to get foamy. Add in the cream of tartar and salt. Whip for 1 minute. Then, slowly start adding in the sugar/cocoa (if using) and beat until fairly stiff peaks form.

Place the tip (if using) in your piping bag, fold over several inches to make a collar. Either place your bag in a tall glass (which will make it easier to fill) or holding bag in your non-dominant hand, use a large spatula to fill the bag with the meringue.

On the large baking sheet covered with parchment paper, pipe mushroom caps of various sizes, 1 inch to 1-3/4 inches in diameter. They should like like very flat Hershey's kisses. With a wet finger, smooth the points down so that the caps are slightly domed. Pipe 6 caps. Then, pipe 6 stems. Bases should be about 3/4 or so inches in diameter and they should look like very tall, elongated Hershey's Kisses. You want to slightly vary the sizes so you'll have different size mushrooms. Some of the stems can be slightly curved, just don't go too far over as the mushroom won't stand up. You can ever do some double-stemmed mushrooms, just make sure 1 is shorter and both have slight curves in opposite directions. Continue making 6 each of caps and stems until all of meringue is used.

Don't worry about having too many. They make great gifts or, at least in my case, people were as interested in eating the mushrooms as they were the cake itself! You also want to have extra in case of breakage, as they are fragile.

Bake meringues for 1 hour and 30 minutes. They should feel crispy and firm on the outside and should slide easily on the parchment. Open the oven door several inches and let cool slowly.

Once completely cool, pour out a little cocoa into a small bowl. Dip the brush in the cocoa powder lightly and use it to brush the mushrooms to add more color and make them look more realistic. The brush I used is in the picture of the sponge cake below. This is an optional step, but it makes them look so real. I had one person completely fooled until I got her to touch it.

Melt the chocolate in a small glass bowl in the microwave at 15 second intervals, stirring each time with a small spoon or spatula. Don't overheat.

Using the tip of a small paring knife, make a small hole in the bottom of each mushroom cap. Using a butter knife or a small spatula, spread a small amount of chocolate on the bottom of each mushroom cap for the gills, making sure to get chocolate into the hole you made. Place the tip of each stem into the small hole. Place the mushroom cap back on the baking sheet upside down (cap side down) and let the chocolate cool and set up.

These can be made a 2-3 days ahead. Since I live in a very humid area (and meringues are GREATLY affected by humidity and they were already starting to soften slightly by the time I got around to finishing them later in the day after baking), I stored these in a plastic container filled with uncooked rice. They crisped back up quite nicely and stayed that way until they were used.
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buttercream, chocolate, espresso, meringue mushrooms, recipe, sponge cake

Buche de Noel Since we'll be having our real Christmas later this week with our girls, I started on our Buche de Noel today. This thread will be a work in progress. Today, molded fondant decorations so they'll have time to dry. The pinecone halves will be put together to make a 3D pinecone. 3 stars 1 reviews
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