Fun with Fondant

I’m not a cake decorator, but for as long as my children enjoyed a special cake for their birthday, I did my best to create a cake of their wishes.  I even took a cake decorating class way back when and mastered a few things with buttercream frosting.  Now I have grandchildren and after many years of not decorating cakes, I am back at it, having fun and learning new things!

Sometimes the grands just give me a theme for their cake and look forward to what my imagination creates.  Other times, they are a bit more specific. This year my 8-year old grandson sent me a picture. He thinks BIG and presently has his sights set on expensive race cars, specifically Lamborghinis’!  One look at the picture told me this wasn’t a buttercream frosting cake—I was going to have to learn how to cover the cake with fondant! 

I chose to make my own marshmallow fondant rather than make or buy traditional fondant.  Marshmallow fondant requires just three ingredients—marshmallows, icing or powdered sugar, and water.  It is inexpensive, fast, fool proof and tastes good!  Basically it involves melting down fresh marshmallows with a small amount of water and adding the powdered sugar to get the right consistency.  (Some recipes also include vegetable shortening.)  The recipe that I used can be found at the end.  Traditional fondant differs in that a marshmallow base is first made from unflavored gelatin, glycerin, butter, water, and corn syrup and kneaded with powdered sugar.

I had so much fun with the fondant!  Marshmallow fondant is almost like playdough—roll it, sculpt it, cut it, mold it.  I found some great tips and videos for handling fondant and covering a cake on the Wilton website. My adjustable thickness rolling pin came in handy for rolling the fondant to an even thickness for covering the cake.   I also found my silicon baking mat useful; I rubbed a small amount of vegetable shortening on it before rolling the fondant.  When it came time to pick up the fondant, it peeled up smoothly and easily. Fortunately for me, everything worked so very well; the cake came together beautifully and was the delight of a special little boy!

Because I had a little fondant left over, I researched how to properly store it.  While fondant is best used fresh, it can be stored and used at a later date. To keep the fondant from drying out, rub it with a small amount of vegetable shortening, wrap in plastic wrap, and store in an airtight, zip bag removing as much air as possible. Add a date and store in the refrigerator.  With proper care, it should be good for a couple of months; the greatest risk is getting dry.  I don’t know that I will be using it anytime soon for cake decorating, but it just might come in handy as an ‘edible’ clay for entertaining grands.

Freezing is not recommended as condensation in thawing could change the consistency and texture of the fondant.  Water begins to dissolve the sugar in the fondant and makes it sticky.  For the same reason, fondant covered cakes should not be frozen after decorating.  Further, condensation between the cake and fondant may cause bubbling.

Marshmallow Fondant
10 ounces marshmallows
3 tablespoons water
Approximately 6 cups icing/powdered sugar, sifted

Pour the marshmallows into a microwave-safe bowl, add the water, stir, and microwave in 30-second increments until the marshmallows are creamy and melted (2-3 minutes). Add the sugar and mix with a big spoon or hands.  After the fondant begins to come together, turn it out onto a well-oiled surface (I greased my countertop and hands with vegetable shortening) and knead, adding more icing sugar if needed, until it’s nice and smooth. To color, add paste or gel food coloring and knead to incorporate. Flavoring can also be added using a drop or two of food-grade essential oil.  This amount makes more than enough fondant to cover a layer cake or ¼ sheet cake.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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The Not So “Bitter” Truth About Eggplant

Eggplant, also called an aubergine, is now in season as a ‘fresh from the garden’ vegetable.  For many Americans, it is an underused vegetable even though it is highly versatile. It can be grilled, stuffed, roasted, and stir-fried and also used in soups, stews, curries, and kabobs.  Eggplant is nutritious, low in calories, fat, and sodium while high in fiber and nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, folic acid, Vitamin B6 and A.  Eggplants are also recognized as a source of phenolic compounds that act as antioxidants.  All of this “goodness” helps with maintaining good blood cholesterol, cognitive function, weight, and eye health and preventing cancer and heart disease.  As such it is a big component of vegetarian and Mediterranean diets; it is also a family favorite and we are fortunate to have a number of varieties in our garden to enjoy.

While this vegetable provides so much good, many shy away from it because they detect a “bitterness” in it or have heard that the fruit is bitter.  A young, freshly picked eggplant with smooth, glossy skin and intense color will have no bitterness whatsoever if consumed soon after picking.  Old or overripe eggplants or those that are off color or sit out for a while after being harvested are more likely to exhibit a bitter flavor.  Therefore, choose eggplants that are heavy, shiny and firm and avoid eggplants that are off-colored and/or do not exhibit a bright, glossy color. The seeds of a young, fresh eggplant are very small, so the flesh will not have accumulated the bitter compounds found in eggplants that have become overripe and rubbery. 

If bitterness should be of concern, there are some actions one can take to eliminate it.

Begin by peeling the skin to remove any bitter compounds present in the skin or between the skin and the flesh.

 “Sweating” an eggplant with salt will draw out the compound solaine, the chemical found in the seeds and flesh that contributes to the bitterness; it will also draw out some of the moisture making the eggplant more tender.  To do this, slice, dice, cube, etc the eggplant and sprinkle the pieces with salt.  (Canning and pickling salt is best, but any salt will do.)  Allow the eggplant to set for 30 or more minutes, rinse off the salt, pat dry, and continue to prepare.  Sweating an eggplant will also reduce the amount of oil it will absorb during cooking, too.

If salt is a dietary problem, another method used to remove bitterness is to soak the eggplant pieces in milk for 30 minutes prior to cooking.  Drain off the milk and prepare the eggplant normally.  Some feel that removing the seeds from the flesh is helpful.  This may be of some use in an older eggplant as the seeds enlarge with age thereby increasing bitterness.  To remove the seeds, slice the eggplant length-wise and use a spoon to scrap out as many seeds as possible.

In an ideal world, the eggplant is used the day of harvest and is fine on the counter short term.  For longer storage, eggplants can be refrigerated for about a week as long as they don’t get too cold or damp.  They should be stored in the refrigerator crisper drawer in a perforated plastic bag. I find it helpful to also wrap it in a paper towel before placing in the bag; the thin skin is highly susceptible to moisture damage so the paper towel helps with that.  It can be sliced or cubed, then blanched or steamed, and frozen up to eight months for later use. 

Eggplant should be cooked as it has chemicals that can cause digestive upset if eaten raw.  Since the flesh discolors quickly, use right away after cutting.  Lightly sprinkling raw eggplant with lemon juice helps to prevent browning.  Eggplant is best cut with a stainless steel knife since carbon blades will cause discoloration.  Cooking in an aluminum pan also will cause blackening.  Eggplant fruits should be handled with care as they do bruise easily and those flaws quickly turn bad; a bruised eggplant will exhibit brown, corky flesh in the affected area. 

Eggplant is a member of the nightshade family, same plant family as tomatoes and peppers.  There are many varieties of eggplant in numerous colors and sizes.  To learn more about eggplant, check out the eggplant fact sheet from the National Garden Bureau. (This site has fact sheets on other vegetables that may be of interest, too.)  Visit ISU Extension and Outreach’s Quickinars, 5-15 minute online lessons, of seasonally appropriate topics for the garden, food preparation and food preservation to also learn more about gardening and how to use garden produce.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Create Your Own Cooking Channel

Our completed scones!

We have had a weekly Zoom call with my entire family most Sunday evenings. That call has included my parents and all of their kids, grand kids and great grand kids. We are living in three different time zones and we have had the best time getting caught up on what is happening in every ones lives. This is one of the benefits of the pandemic-making us realize the importance of staying connected with family.

On one of our calls we were talking about cooking and we decided to schedule a Zoom class where I could show those interested how to make scones. After a search on the internet, we chose a white chocolate raspberry scone recipe for us to make together. I sent the recipe to everyone who was interested and available and scheduled the call. We ended up having 4 participants and everyone was pleased with how their scones turned out. Our next class is going to be on making homemade pretzels and I think we will have even more participants! I have even had some friends ask if they can be included on the next session.

Keeping in touch with others is so important especially when we are still social distancing. This was a really fun way to spend a morning together and to learn to make a delicious treat.

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Beth Marrs

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

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Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is here to HELP!

While AnswerLine has been providing information and resources for Iowa consumers with home and family questions for over 40 years, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has been serving Iowans since the early 1900s.  The Mission of ISU Extension and Outreach is to engage citizens through research‐based educational programs and extend the resources of Iowa State University across Iowa. AnswerLine is just one of the entities of extension outreach. Let me introduce you to some of the other resources available to help individuals and families navigate issues that may concern them. 

  1. Stay informed on general ISU Extension and Outreach resources and opportunities through the Extension home page and news feed.
  2. The Iowa 4-H team has at-home learning resources which are publicly available for members and families to use.
  3. Iowa Concern offers free and confidential calls and emails 24/7 to help with stress management, financial issues, legal aid, and crisis resources.
  4. The ISU Horticulture and Home Pest news page offers download publications, how to improve your garden videos, and a Hortline for answers to lawn and garden questions.
  5. Get help with meal planning and food budgeting through the Spend Smart Eat Smart website.
  6. Visit the Beginning Farmer, Women in Ag and Ag Decision Maker websites for updates on programs and helpful resources from the Farm Management team. You can also contact the farm management field specialists with your questions. 
  7. Preserve the Taste of Summer offers a number of publications and resources for safe food preservation techniques.
  8. For great information on home gardens, farmer’s markets and u-pick operations, plant sales, and more or how to become a Master Gardener, the Master Gardener Program site is a must.
  9. When Teens don’t know who to talk to, Teen Line can help with a variety of issues that affect Teens and their families.
  10. Use the ISU Extension Staff Directory when looking for a specific person or persons in a specific area of expertise.  The Contact page offers additional resources and provides a form to send an email with questions, concerns, or suggestions. Ask An Expert is always available for questions; those questions come to AnswerLine where we either answer the query or send it to someone in Extension (Iowa or elsewhere) that can better answer it.

Besides these resources, one can always find help at the ISU Extension and Outreach extension offices located in each of Iowa’s counties, on social media outlets, and the many blogs written by Extension staff on current topics.  At the present time, most ISU Extension and Outreach in-person events throughout the state have been canceled through May 31 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  However, ISU Extension and Outreach staff remain committed to serving Iowans during this difficult time; phones and emails are being answered by Extension staff at the county and state levels.  Please check out the resources available that may provide the help you seek and watch for updates on how ISU Extension and Outreach will proceed to serve Iowans after May 31.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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How to store bread

Many of us may have been finding time recently to do more baking. If you were fortunate enough to be able to find a supply of yeast, you may have been baking your own bread. It tastes delicious right out of the oven but can become stale very quickly. So where is the best place to store bread to keep it the freshest the longest?

If you want to keep your bread for more than a day or two, the freezer is your best option. Make sure your bread is completely cool before packaging it so moisture is not trapped which affects the texture and quality of the crust. Freezing greatly slows down the staling process and reheating the bread in an oven or toaster makes the bread springy and chewy again.

To freeze bread, wrap it in plastic then again in foil. Place it in a freezer bag or some other airtight packaging and use a straw to suck out extra air in the bag before sealing it. Bread stored in the freezer will remain safe indefinitely but for best quality you will want to use it within 6 months.

When you are ready to use your bread, defrost it at room temperature in it’s wrapping. If you unwrap the bread while it is still cold, condensation will form on the exterior compromising the texture. The bread will thaw at room temperature in about 3 hours. When the bread is fully defrosted you can unwrap it and reheat it at 300-350 degrees F for @10 minutes to crisp up the crust.

We have callers who want to store bread in their refrigerator to keep it fresh. Storing bread in the refrigerator is not a good idea however. The refrigerator draws moisture out of the bread causing it to go stale faster.

If your bread does happen to go stale before you were hoping – never fear! To revive it try flicking a little water on the crust, wrapping it in foil, and heating it in a 300 degree oven for 5-10 minutes. Or consider using the stale bread to make bread pudding, French toast, or croutons.

If you are not going to be able to use your whole loaf of bread at one time out of the freezer you may want to consider slicing it before freezing it so you are able to pull out smaller amounts. You can defrost individual slices in the toaster.

If you are interested in trying to make your own bread, Spend Smart Eat Smart has a recipe for No Knead Whole Wheat bread. It is easy, delicious, and less expensive than purchasing whole wheat bread at the store. Enjoy!

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Steaming Vegetables

Recently an AnswerLine client called with concerns related to the safety of microwaving steam bag vegetables such as those sold under the Birds Eye Steamfresh label. These bags are sold with the vegetables inside as stand-alone products containing just vegetables or with sauces or seasonings. In general, microwaving foods in plastic containers may carry some health risks due to the transmission of BPA and pthalates from the plastic to the food. However, the bags being used for the steamed vegetable products are specifically manufactured for microwave steaming and do not contain BPA or pthalates.  These bags are designed for a one-time use.  If there is any concern, the packages can be opened and the vegetables steamed or prepared by another method.

Whether you purchase the microwave steam bag vegetables or not, there are advantages to steaming vegetables.  Frozen vegetables are usually flash frozen right after picking.  As a result, frozen vegetables may be more nutrient dense than fresh vegetables that have spent time in transit, sitting in a warehouse, or on display at the store. 

Steaming by way of the microwave, stove top, or pressure cooker are healthy ways to cook vegetables to prevent nutrient loss and retain flavor, texture, and color.  Steaming also helps to retain the water-soluble vitamins and minerals that would otherwise leech into cooking water.  Water soluble vitamins are also heat sensitive, so quick cooking times helps to reduce nutrient loss.  Vegetable nutrients along with fiber and phytochemicals, help to lower risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, obesity, cancer, and vision loss.

Steam bag vegetables can be used in the same way as any frozen vegetable.  While steam bags do add cost to the vegetables, there definitely is convenience in using the steam bag packaging as there is virtually no clean up involved.  One doesn’t need to be confined to using an entire bag when a smaller amount is needed.  The bag can be opened and a smaller portion taken out and steamed using another method. For additional information on steaming vegetables, check out Cooking Fresh Vegetables by Purdue University.

Steaming is also a great way to prepare frozen vegetables for use in a salad. One should not thaw frozen vegetables and eat them without cooking.  Blanching prior to freezing stops the aging of vegetables but does not necessarily take care of contaminants that may be found in the field such as salmonella, listeria, and E.coli; contaminants can penetrate the tiny cell walls which are broken when the vegetables are blanched.  All vegetables are packaged as ready-to-cook, not as ready-to-eat. Therefore, vegetables should be cooked to 165 degrees for that reason. In most cases this temperature can be reached by steaming the vegetables to tender-crisp and then letting them sit in a closed container for 5 minutes before serving.

Bottom line is that the best cooking method for frozen (and fresh) vegetables is steaming.  If accomplishing that is by using pre-packaged steam bag vegetables, know that it is safe when package directions are followed.  Besides nutrient retention, steamed vegetables will have better flavor and more desirable textures.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Substitute Ingredients for Coronavirus Baking

When people feel anxious, they look for something to do, a distraction of sorts, and baking provides just that for many people.  During these challenging times, it seems that people are baking more at home than previously and psychologists have coined the baking frenzy as “coronavirus baking” or “stress baking”. I, too, have found myself baking more while at home to fill in what we don’t have on hand and maybe for a distraction, too. One thing is for sure, I have more time now for baking than I had before.

Baking triggers all kinds of positive feelings and plays welcome tricks on the brain whether one is stressed or not.  Such pleasures as creativity, memories of happy times, using energy in a focused, engaged, or mindful way, and enjoying tangible or measurable accomplishments come to mind.

With people staying at home, the urge to bake may strike only to find that ingredients needed are not on the shelf.  Or, even more unimaginable, with more people baking, there is a shortage of baking supplies in some areas. 

When this happens, we look to other ingredients to substitute for what is missing.  Bear in mind, that baking is more of an ‘exact science’  so when substitutes are used, baked products will perhaps be slightly different in taste, texture, appearance, and quality, but will result in an edible baked product that can be enjoyed.  Having tried these various substitutes over time, I have found that some substitutes are better for one baking situation than others; it’s very much trial and error. Most good cookbooks provide a listing of emergency substitutions; substitutions can also be found online.  (A good, printable chart is available from Colorado State University and includes many substitutions beyond baking.)  Despite these good resources, sometimes desperate times call for more desperate measures using less common substitutions.  To that end, here are some substitutes for common baking ingredients that one may not find in the usual lists of emergency lists.

Butter Replacers
Replace 1 cup butter with

NUT BUTTERS – Nut butters need to be combined with an equal part oil to get a 1:1 butter replacement.  (i.e., combine 1/2 cup nut butter with 1/2 cup oil to equal 1 cup butter.)

Oil – ¾ cup.  Choose an oil with a light flavor.

COOKED BEANS – 1 cup mashed beans; use black beans for chocolate baking and light beans such as cannellini for light backing.

AVOCADO – 1 cup mashed avocado.

UNSWEETENED APPLESAUCE OR PUMPKIN/SQUASH PUREE – 1 cup sauce or puree; reduce liquid in recipe slightly if possible.

Egg Replacers
Replace 1 egg with

VINEGAR AND BAKING SODA – 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 tablespoon vinegar combined.

UNSWEETENED APPLESAUCE, YOGURT, SILKEN TOFU, or MASHED BANANAS – ¼ cup of any.

GROUND FLAXSEED – 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed, 3 tablespoons water, combine and allow to sit until thick and gelatinous.

Baking Soda
Replace 1 teaspoon baking soda with

BAKING POWDER – 3 teaspoons baking powder; reduce salt, and replace acidic ingredients (buttermilk, yogurt, lemon juice, etc) with non-acidic ingredients, if possible.

EGG WHITES – 2 egg whites whipped to stiff peaks, fold in.  Measure egg whites and reduce any liquid used in the recipe by the same amount. 

CLUB SODA (sodium bicarbonate) – replace any liquid in the recipe with club soda.

Baking Powder
Replace 1 teaspoon baking powder with

BAKING SODA – 1/3 teaspoon baking soda and ½ teaspoon cream of tartar.

BUTTERMILK, SOUR MILK, PLAIN YOGURT – ¼ teaspoon baking soda and ½ cup buttermilk, sour milk or yogurt.  Decrease liquid in recipe by ½ cup.  (Sour milk can be made by adding ½ tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice to ½ cup sweet milk.)

MOLASSES – ¼ teaspoon baking soda and ¼ cup molasses; reduce liquids and sugars used in recipe.

White Granulated Sugar
Replace 1 cup sugar with

HONEY AND MAPLE SYRUP – ¾ cup honey or maple syrup.  Reduce liquid in recipe by 3 tablespoons. Add a pinch of baking soda to honey to reduce acidity.

AGAVE NECTAR – 2/3 cup agave.  Reduce liquid in recipe by 2-4 tablespoons and oven temperature by 25 percent.

POWDERED SUGAR, BROWN SUGAR, RAW SUGAR, MAPLE SUGAR, COCONUT SUGAR – 1 cup of any.

Brown Sugar
Replace 1 cup packed brown sugar with

SUGAR AND MOLASSES – 1 cup white sugar and ¼ cup unsulphured molasses.

COCONUT SUGAR – 1 cup.

All-Purpose Flour
Replace 1 cup flour with

SEE SUGGESTIONS FROM COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY

Go ahead and make your brownies, cakes, cookies, muffins, or biscuits if it calms your nerves or helps put your mind at ease. I’ll probably be doing the same.  And know that the same pleasures derived from baking can be experienced even if we have to substitute an ingredient and settle for a product that isn’t quite the same.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Out of Bread? Bread ‘In a Pinch’ Ideas

As we hunker down during this time of social distancing and staying home unless absolutely necessary to go out, we may find that we are running out of things that we commonly buy as needed.  One of those items may be bread.  In our previous life, we might have made a run to or a stop at the store to pick up a loaf or two.  Maybe NOT today.  There are ways to get bread ‘in a pinch’ with basic pantry ingredients at minimal cost—and no yeast needed as it might not be a staple in everyone’s pantry.  Further, the recipes are so easy that the kids can get involved with the making, too.

Idea One–‘Magic’ Dinner Rolls or Biscuits.  This recipe was shared by a friend.  The ingredients needed include flour, baking powder, salt, milk and mayonnaise.  Here’s the recipe:

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup milk
2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Combine all ingredients and spoon into a greased muffin pan. The recipe makes 5-6 rolls. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 15 min or until golden brown. After you take the rolls out of oven, brush butter on top.

I experimented with this recipe a bit by adding some raisins and a small amount of cinnamon and sugar for a quick breakfast treat.  One could also add a little cheese, herbs, and bacon bits for a savory flavor.  If the latter is added, the biscuits should be eaten out of the oven rather than stored. I also plan to experiment with gluten-free flour.

Idea Two—Indian “No Fry” Fry Bread.  I’ve had Indian Fry Bread in Arizona where it is usually deep fat fried.  Since I don’t personally deep fat fry, I sought to find a recipe that could be baked.  Indian Fry Bread is a very simple bread made with flour, baking powder, salt, and warm water resulting in a tortilla-style or flat bread.  After trying several, I liked Indian “No Fry” Fry Bread published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  I used my indoor electric grill to bake them.  An outdoor grill could be used as well.  I topped my fry bread with strips of meat, onion, pepper slices, black beans, and grated cheese to make a quick lunch but anything—savory or sweet–could be used.  Further, they are very tasty and would make a great accompaniment to soup or salad.  The directions that come with the recipe are excellent.

Idea Three—Tortillas.  Homemade tortillas are nothing new for me as I’ve made them off and on for years.  Ingredients are very similar to Indian Fry Bread with the addition of shortening.  One thing that I learned from a very good YouTube video, How to Make Soft Flour Tortillas (recipe included in the video), was that kneading the dough for a longer time made the tortilla dough much easier to handle.  Tortillas are best baked/prepared on a hot skillet or griddle; a cast iron skillet is best but definitely not necessary. The finished tortillas can be used in all of the same ways that one might use purchased tortillas but know that they do not keep as long.  They are best used freshly made or within a day of making.

As I experimented with the recipes, I liked the suggestion of making balls before resting the dough as shown in the Flour Tortilla YouTube video for both the Indian Fry Bread and Tortillas.  I also found that I could get thinner tortillas and fry bread if I let the rolled dough rest a few minutes after the first rolling and then rolled them a second time.

Do you have ideas for getting by ‘in a pinch’ when a staple just can’t be had? I’d love to hear from you.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Kitchen Mixer Scraping Tip

Last year I acquired my mother’s Kitchen Aid® Food Preparer (Mixer).  I didn’t really need it as I’ve had a perfectly good mixer of another brand for many years.  My mixer did all the chores I asked of it and I was completely comfortable with its operation.  However, I just couldn’t bring myself to sell or donate my mother’s prized possession.  She purchased it in 1978 for a sum of money that she worked diligently to pay for by decorating cakes.  She loved it and over the many years that she owned it, it was well used to prepare foods of many kinds.

Wanting to love this piece of equipment as my mother had (and so many friends do), I boxed up my mixer, put it in storage, and set my mother’s mixer in its place.  I had never used a Kitchen Aid® before so I was a novice; fortunately, there was an instruction manual to go with it which guided me on which attachment for what and what speeds to use, etc.  I continue to learn as I try new things with it.  While it can do many operations quite nicely, I was befuddled and frustrated with scraping down the sides of the bowl while creaming butter and sugar or any other operation requiring scraping.  With my previous mixer, I was able to scrape along the inside of the bowl with a rubber/silicon scrapper anytime needed.  Not so with my new friend; every time the bowl needed scraping, I had to stop the machine, lift the head, scrape, and restart the operation.  

As if in answer to my frustration, I spotted an online Food and Wine article sharing information about a new Kitchen Aid® attachment, the Flex Edge Beater, designed specifically to take care of my problem.  The Flex Edge Beater is the classic beating attachment with a sturdy rubber/silicon outer blade wrapped completely or half-way around the blade for the purpose of continuously scraping the sides of the bowl and bring ingredients into the batter.

The article gave some good reasons for using the new attachment with the first being my No 1 problem: no more stopping and lifting to scrape the bowl!  It also mentioned thoroughly combined ingredients (no more flour or other ingredient left at the bottom of the bowl), reduced strain on the motor, and using the beater in place of a spatula to wipe out the bowl.  Sold!

I was not able to find the beater in any of my local stores so I ordered one online.  I am pleased to say that the new flex beater lives up to its promotion and I am indeed beginning to love the new (old) machine.

Reference to any commercial product, process, or service, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporate name is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute an endorsement, recommendation, or certification of any kind. Persons using such products assume responsibility for their use and should make their own assessment of the information and whether it is suitable for their intended use in accordance with current directions of the manufacturer.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Buttercream Frosting

For some reason there has been a lot of discussion surrounding different types of frostings in the office recently. I have been recommending Buttercream frosting recipes to both family members and callers.

There are seven different types of Buttercream Frosting. The ingredients used are similar, but the way each is prepared is different.

Traditional Buttercream is fluffy and creamy, easy to make, and requires no cooking. It is a great base for adding flavoring and it holds color very well if you want to tint your frosting. This frosting is safe to be out at room temperature but it does not hold up as well in very warm temperatures. Once the butter starts to melt, the structure collapses.

Flour Buttercream, also known as Ermine Buttercream is not as sweet as Traditional Buttercream and it holds up a lot better in warm temperatures because of it’s pudding type cooked base. It is made by cooking together flour, sugar and milk then letting it cool completely before mixing it together with beaten butter.

German Buttercream is similar to Ermine Buttercream but it uses a custard type base instead of a pudding type. It turns out to be more like a whipped cream icing. This type of buttercream has eggs in it so it must be kept cool.

French Buttercream is rich and creamy. It is made by heating a sugar syrup until it reaches soft ball stage then whipping it into beaten pasteurized egg yolks and soft  butter. It will have a yellow tint to it due to the egg yolks but is easy to spread and makes a great filling between layers.

Italian Buttercream is similar to French Buttercream but you pour boiling syrup of sugar and water over pasteurized egg whites instead of just the yolks. This buttercream is best the day it is made.

Swiss Buttercream uses egg whites and sugar to create a warm mixture that is then whipped into frosting. You will want to make sure your sugar/egg white mixture is cool before adding your butter or the butter will melt. This buttercream is soft and fluffy and spreads nicely for filling layers and icing.

The seventh type of buttercream is Vegan Buttercream. You can substitute a vegan butter spread for the shortening but some spreads will produce a softer frosting so you may need to experiment with how much liquid to add if you are using a vegan spread.

I enjoy the ease and safety of the Traditional Buttercream but occasionally it is fun to experiment with some of the other styles.

Reference to any commercial product, process, or service, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporate name is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute an endorsement, recommendation, or certification of any kind. Persons using such products assume responsibility for their use and should make their own assessment of the information and whether it is suitable for their intended use in accordance with current directions of the manufacturer.

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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