Buttercream Doctor

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Two factors whip up widespread fear of real buttercream. One: It seems to “break” if you so much as look askance at it. Two: You have to toss out broken buttercream and start over. Oh wait, that’s a myth. You can repair it. Real buttercream is not an achingly sweet blend of icing sugar and butter. It is classic European buttercream, which starts as a meringue and finishes with softened butter being beaten in slowly, piece by piece. (You need a stand mixer for this.) If the mixture suddenly breaks, or appears curdled, don’t panic. It’s a temperature problem. Turn off the beaters, dip a kitchen towel in the hottest tap water you can stand and wrap it around the base of the bowl. (The mixing bowl may also be dipped in a larger bowl of tap water for a minute, but that’s maybe too fussy.) Start beating again. At first, the buttercream will look soupy at the bottom and edges. Then it will magically come together, smooth out and fluff up. Several other ill-conceived remedies work on the principal of adding heat. Putting the metal mixing bowl over simmering water on the stove and whisking the buttercream vigorously is overkill. So is attacking the bowl with a kitchen torch. The latter can damage the bowl, as well. Guide to frosting quantities, pg. 564 in 12,167 Kitchen and Cooking Secrets.

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12,167 Kitchen and Cooking Secrets

Paperback, 704 pages
Publisher: Robert Rose

In thousands of entries on every aspect of cooking and baking, Susan Sampson provides expert information that is indispensable in any kitchen, including: keeping produce safe from spoilage, protecting equipment from nasty bacteria, shortcuts, embellishments, restaurant tricks, presentation tips, party planning and recipe development.

Whether just browsing or desperately trying to solve a vexing emergency, every home cook will treasure this book.

Susan Sampson (a.k.a. The Fare Lady) is an award-winning food writer and recipe developer who lives in Toronto.