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Sunday, July 11, 2010

~P,B,H,B, C and B Again~ Truly a mouthful by any definition

Here we have an old favorite of mine turned retro-nouveau butter cream!  One of my personal favorites from my preschool lunchtime days is still honey peanut butter so why not put its delicious sweet-salty-nutty harmony through its paces and make some butter cream!


~Peanut Butter Honey-Butter Butter Cream~

6 Egg Whites
Pinch Cream of Tartar
Pinch Salt
1 3/4 C Baker's Sugar
1/2 C Cold Water
16 oz Unsalted Butter
4 oz Creamy Peanut Butter
1 Tablespoons Honey
1/4 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

SPECIAL TOOLS: Counter Top Mixer
                               Candy Thermometer
                               Pastry Brush

NOTES - It is important that you have a fairly cool work 
                space to make this recipe, as a hot ambient temp 
                can cause the butter to melt and cause the end 
                product to become thin and unstable.

Some may note that this is an Italian Meringue Butter Cream recipe and as such is the most touchy of all the butter creams...  Even if it is, I will stand by it through thick and thin because it really does yield the lightest, fluffiest, creamiest frosting of all time.  Here are a few other butter cream types including American (the simplest and easiest) and French (a cooked egg white frosting.)

Enough talk!  Lets get some butter cream going!

First make sure all of your ingredients are at room temperature (aside from the water for the hot sugar.)  This is a very important part of any semi-soft or custard like recipe as temperature variations can cause...


well... not cause food science content...  well!  Maybe it does...  Yes.  It can cause this but only in blog form on the Internet.  OK...

Temperature variations are very important in cooking.  All the physics of the actual cooking cooking can be boiled down to "Heat" in the thermodynamic sense of the word.  Heat is flow of thermal energy between multiple mediums at different temperatures in order to achieve a uniform temperature in both.  This rate is also affected by thermal conductivity of the two media.  When we cook, its less about how hot something is and more about the difference in temp as cooking occurs when heat flow is greatest not when temperature is greatest.  

 Dry Ice chunks can burn like hot metal skillet
(Photo - Mark S, Wikipedia Commons)

This distinction is most easily made via dry ice:  at almost -110f, it is a full 200f different from your skin and can burn just like burning hot skillet.

In recipes that require quick cooking of high-fat and/or high-protein via hot sugar syrup or other hot liquids, this physical science principle comes into play in a big way.  If you expose 38f-cold-from-the-fridge ingredients to 212f-240f scalding hot liquid, the extreme differences can cause a number of unpleasant effects including seizing/curdling fat, sugar and protein.
In Italian meringue butter cream this means not soft and creamy with evenly cooked egg and stable sugar crystallization but lumpy and gloppy with "sweet-scrambled" eggs and hard, potentially sharp sugar beads.  Not really what comes to mind when you think of meringue...
So keep in mind that sometimes, you should leave the groceries on the counter!  Might help out here and there... Temperature stable ingredients = creamy smooth and sweet results!



First you'll want to make your butter base for the fat content of the frosting.  In a large bowl or food processor, cream butter until its nice and fluffy.  Add your honey and peanut butter and blend until smooth then set aside at room temp until you're ready for it. 
Now for the meringue!

Separate your egg whites and put them, along with the cream of tartar and salt into the bowl of your stand mixer with a whisk attachment.  Start the mixer on medium low speed just to keep things moving and mixed and to prevent the eggs and dry goods from skinning over.

In a medium sauce pot over medium high heat candy thermometer in tow, start cooking your sugar for the meringue.  As always, keep a pastry brush with water nearby to brush down the sides of the pot to prevent crystals forming!  Once the sugar reaches 240f on a candy thermometer, douse the bottom very quickly in cool water just to stop cooking.
Turn up the mixer speed on your egg whites to medium speed and slowly trickle in the hot sugar, being careful to not get sugar syrup on the whisk wires (to prevent hard sugar chunks.)

Once all the syrup has been added, turn up the speed and whisk on high until the mixture has reached firm peaks and is completely cooled to room temp.  Don't give in to impatience or worry about over-whipping here because too much leftover heat from the sugar can melt your butter and ruin the butter cream!

Once your meringue is cooled turn the speed down a bit to medium speed and start adding your peanut butter mixture to the meringue a tablespoon at a time.  As you incorporate more fat, the meringue base will begin to deflate but don't worry as it will come back in the end!  Once all the fat is incorporated, turn up the mixer speed to high until light and fluffy



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