My perpetual problem in sharing recipes is that I don’t actually use or create recipes for most of the things I make. Given how many recipe books and magazines I have, it’s really quite sad I almost never use them. When I cook I would rather just use my experience, my instincts, and my senses to create my meals. Taste testing as I go and always adding small amounts of things at a time till it’s just right is just easier for me than constantly referring to a recipe, measuring out precise amounts of ingredients etc.
Baking is the exception. Cooking is not an exact science – it’s not going to hurt to leave something out, add something, substitute something. But baking is an exact science, and it is one that unless you really know what you’re doing you should not meddle with it. Unless of course, you have the time to spend on perfecting something, the money to buy enough ingredients to come up with your creation, and are not bothered by all the wasted ingredients that will wind up in the trash before you manage to come up with just the right recipe.
I personally cannot afford to experiment with baking recipes and I absolutely hate the idea of wasting food/ingredients trying to come up with a recipe of my own. I will however, tweak a recipe just a tad to try to make it better.
One area of baking that I don’t measure though, is icings. Granted I do not make Swiss or French buttercream, I don’t make cooked icings, all of which yes do require careful measuring. I just make good old American buttercreams. I like them because they’re pretty foolproof, easy to flavor, they store well and do not need to be refrigerated (except maybe in summer when it’s ridiculously hot and humid, unless you are lucky enough to live somewhere with milder temperatures and low humidity), they can easily be made thin for filling and basic frosting or nice and thick for piping flowers and other decorative touches, and did I mention the stuff is foolproof?
I like experimenting with my buttercreams to come up with different flavors. Of course the simplest way is just using different flavor extracts. But I like to use fresh ingredients when possible – the flavor pay-off is far superior to using extracts. Of course if color is a concern then the extracts might be the best way to go. Jams and jellies are often also a good choice to add flavor (and color) to buttercream.
A couple weeks ago I decided to measure when I made my “not so famous” Nutella Mousse icing. I’ve been making this for a while – it’s incredible and perfect on chocolate cake. I like to make chocolate cupcakes, fill them with a small bit of Nutella, and then top them with this icing. Seriously yummy. If you love Nutella then you need this recipe. If you’ve never had Nutella, this recipe might convert you. I’m not saying it definitely will, I do know some folks who don’t like it. But it’s worth a try if you ask me.
Of course, as I mentioned above, I don’t measure when I make my buttercreams. I have been baking and decorating cakes for so many years now I just know how to do it without measuring anything. Granted this Nutella Mousse icing is a newer creation, I still just don’t measure when I make it. But everyone loves this stuff, and everyone always wants a recipe. So I finally measured, to have a proper recipe to share.
This icing is really light and airy, and has a consistency very similar to mousse. Hence the name Nutella Mousse Icing. This recipe makes a fairly large batch of about 3-1/2 cups so you will have plenty to fill and frost most layer cakes or to frost lots of cupcakes. As for any leftovers you may have… well, just sit down with a spoon and enjoy yourself. I won’t tell anyone that’s what happened to the rest of the icing. In all seriousness, your frosted cake/cupcakes will not need to be refrigerated but do store leftover icing in an airtight container in the fridge. You will have to let it come to room temperature before using the leftovers, and it might need to be re-whipped (probably not, but maybe) after having been in the fridge as well. I’ve had a container of leftover icing sitting in the fridge for about two weeks now and it’s still good but then I tend to be a rebel about these things, “experts” might say not to keep it more than a week. *shrug* I say as long as it does not look, smell, or taste funky, it’s probably still safe. Use your own judgement on that one.
PS You might have noticed I removed the link to my recipes from the sidebar. MRM is still tweaking their site and the bug that links profiles incorrectly seems to have resurfaced. Once the profile bug is fixed again I will put the link back up. For now you will need to view my recipes individually if you want to see them. If you need a link to any of the recipes I have published on MRM at this time feel free to ask and I’ll get the link for you.