How many of you have cooked with children? It truly is a treat. I recently began holding kids summer cooking camps at my cooking school and I’ve been loving it! The enthusiasm, desire to learn, and their great senses of humor are contagious.
The cupcake camp has been my favorite, and that’s surprising because I’m really not a dessert guy. Actually, I’m the furthest thing from a pastry chef. Pastry chefs tend to be uptight, impatient, agonizingly precise, and just no fun. I, of course, as a former chef de cuisine, am extremely patient, easygoing, capable of adjusting to the situation and lots of fun. The one thing we do have in common is passion for our work.
Making cupcakes is a lot of fun — because of the frosting. Specifically, buttercream frosting. Butter, that’s the heart of the issue. Butter, the best substance ever created by mankind. Butter, the only ingredient on this planet I could never live without! Do you ever have dreams involving butter? I do, all the time. Yeah, this may seem a tad obsessive, but I choose to think of it as passion.
Not all butter is created equal. The USDA requires butters sold in the United States to contain a minimum of 80 percent milkfat. That means that all butters are delicious, but some are much, much better. The premium butters contain at least 82 percent milkfat. That may not sound like much of a change, but the taste difference is HUGE! The variance in richness, creaminess, lusciousness, is unfathomable.
The ones available here that I like the most (I admit — I’m kinda afraid you’re going to buy it all, leaving none for me) are Kerry Gold, Plugra and Presidents and, if you’re lucky, Vermont Creamery. Each one is incredible. They are truly dream-worthy.
Take note: The best way to experience the pure, clean flavors of these exquisite, mouthwatering treats is in the unsalted version. Though salt is your friend, it has no place in butter. Always buy unsalted. Sprinkle a little coarse sel gris (grey salt) on top of ice-cold Kerry Gold, and join me in butter Nirvana!
Here’s a basic buttercream recipe that’s practically foolproof. My junior chefs in cooking camp make their own colors with a little food coloring.
1 pound butter, softened
1 pound powdered sugar
2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
1. With a paddle, beat the butter in a bowl. Slowly add the sugar, scraping the sides
2. Add vanilla extract (or any other flavor).
3. Add food coloring of choice.
Until we cook again!