I am attempting an Italian Meringue Butter cream! It’s a bit scary. There is 240 degree sugar syrup AND whipped egg whites involved. I’ve never successfully made a meringue before. Probably doesn’t matter too much since I don’t like meringue, but I digress.
Fortunately, I found a couple of websites willing to tutor the public on how to make an IMBC: Allrecipes blog and JoePastry.
I used the recipe on the Allrecipes blog and started with 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup white sugar & 1/2 cup maple syrup (which, incidentally, has had a cinnamon stick floating in it since Christmas). I brought all this to a boil.
Boiling syrup: Click to enlarge
While the syrup came to temperature (240 degrees), I started beating the egg whites, a bit of cream of tartar, and a pinch of salt until they reached what I believe was medium stiff peaks.
With the mixer on high, I drizzled in the just-off-the-stove syrup. After the syrup was incorporated, I checked the temperature of the whites to make sure they were over 140 degrees, then turned the mixer on high and whipped until cooled.
Pouring and whipping: click to enlarge
Syrup + egg whites = meringue: click to enlarge
So far, so good! It tastes fluffy and maple-sweet.
Then I attempted to add the butter….. That’s the part I’ve never understood about a meringue butter cream. You start with a nice fluffy meringue, then you add clods of coldish butter….Hmmmm…..how’s that supposed to work? Well, it didn’t! I ended up with this:
Broken icing: click to enlarge.
Thanks to some expert googling on my part, which led to some people out there who have been to pastry school, I learned that I could melt part of the icing and add it back to the mixer bowl and whip the hell out of it and it would come back together. Guess what? It did! The butter cream turned out smooth and buttery with a light maple flavor. Just what I was hoping for! (Thanks to baking911.com.)
For the actual cupcake, I wanted more of a French toast experience than just cinnamon, maple, and vanilla flavors. What’s similar to French toast that goes into the oven? Bread pudding.
Cinnamon Swirl bread cubes: click to enlarge
I cut up about 8 slices of Franz Cinnamon Swirl bread (roughly 7 cups), then soaked it for a bit in a mixture of 1 1/2 cups milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream. In another bowl, I mixed 4 beaten eggs, 2 teaspoons of vanilla, 1/3 cup brown sugar and 1/3 cup white sugar and 6 tablespoons butter which had been melted and cooled. In a third bowl, I mixed 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/3 cup flour and a healthy sprinkle of cinnamon (and maybe some salt….did I add salt?). I added the liquid mixture to the bread mixture and mixed, then added the flour mixture and mixed. I scooped the mixture into buttered mini muffin tins and baked for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. (If I had this to do over again, I probably would use mini cupcake liners as these were hard to get out of the pans in one piece.)
Batter before baking: click to enlarge
It would have been nice to have put a “pat” of icing on top of each cupcake, but my skills are not that advanced. (See above near fiasco.) Instead, I put a scoop of icing on top in the style of IHOP.
IHOP pancakes: click to enlarge
Buttered cakes: click to enlarge
I sprinkled the cakes with powdered sugar, then made a caramel of maple syrup and heavy cream, let it cool and drizzled it over the top.
French Toast Cupcakes: Click to enlarge
Thanks to Mr Shuck for moral support, help with scooping icing, photography, tasting, and (most importantly) cleaning up the kitchen.