A Millennial Lifestyle-ish Blog

A Millennial Lifestyle-ish Blog

outdoorsing, indoorsing, & strong opinions on cooking.

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Sexy Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Sexy Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Alternately titled: How Swiss Meringue Buttercream Saved My Best Friend’s Wedding Cake Raise your hand if you’re really excited to eat a cake and then…proceed to scrape off all the frosting because it’s sweet AF. So sweet that all you can taste is chalky powdered […]

How to Make a Matcha Latte in 5 Minutes

How to Make a Matcha Latte in 5 Minutes

Print Matcha Latte A no-bullshit recipe for easy breezy matcha lattes. Cook Time 5 minutes Servings 1 Author Mia Chen McMahon Ingredients 8 oz milk of choice 1 tsp ceremonial matcha 1 tsp raw honey Instructions Heat up 8 oz. of your desired milk on […]

Matcha For Dummies

Matcha For Dummies

matcha setup

Sit down, kids. Class is in session.

Alrighty, this is going to be a long-ass post because I got a lot of ‘splainin to do. Not mansplaining, but matchasplaining. If you manage to read through the end because you are a grown-ass adult who can muster a greater attention span than a cocker spaniel, you will be rewarded with some never-before-seen (okay, definitely before-seen) footage of yours truly whippin’ up a hot cup of the good stuff. I’m your drug dealer, and the drug is caffeine…and polyphenols. And the amino acid L-theanine. And dopamine when you make your first mug of matcha and feel good about your life.

I love me a good coffee as much as the next girl, but matcha? The way to my heart. I love matcha because it’s so…easy. My extent of coffee knowledge ends at light vs. dark roasts. There’s the grind size, the “bloom” technique, the different processing methods, etc.  Matcha, on the other hand, is great because it’s really not that hard. So when I see people making sad matcha “lattes” with grainy chunks of dull green powder floating around, it just breaks my heart. Please, don’t be that person. Let me help you. You can do it.

The only decision you’ll have to make is whether you wanna be a pleb and buy culinary grade matcha, or be ~*extra*~ and splurge on ceremonial grade matcha. Not to shame you into one decision or another, but…actually, I am going to shame you. Just bite the bullet and get ceremonial grade. It’s worth investing in. Unless you know what you’re looking for,  the average culinary grade matcha is going to be a dull green vomit color which doesn’t have any of the vibrancy that we’re going for. “Culinary” is often code for “shitty brown powder mass-produced in China.” (Sorry, China. No offense.) If you’re drinking matcha that’s not green AF, why even bother? Just get some old-ass green tea and grind it up and chew on that instead. (Once upon a time, in a desperate situation, I’ve actually been there, tried that. 1.5/10 do not recommend.)

 

culinary vs. ceremonial matcha green tea
Culinary vs. ceremonial matcha. You guess which is which.

Okay, so I lied.

There is a little bit of fine print in the categorization (read: classism) of matcha so I’ll just cut to the chase. Basically, all you need to know is that most culinary matcha that you can find online for the price of dirt is precisely that. Most ceremonial matcha? Expensive AF, and so fancy that it’s meant to be savored on its own, just traditionally whisked using a bamboo chasen into water to make a purist, holier-than-thou drink. If you’re somewhere between basic and extra, like me, and want to bastardize that matcha by drowning it in milk and honey, you should either buy a lower tier ceremonial grade, or a really high-quality culinary.

If you’re like most people searching for cheap matcha to buy off Amazon, I’ve already saved you the time & obsessive scrolling and found the best bang for your buck. I use this matcha, which is is a lower tiered ceremonial grade, which means it’s not quite as fancy and full-bodied in its flavor. But at around $35 for 100 grams (I did the very easy math for you, that’s $0.35/gram), it’s less than half the cost of most other ceremonial grade matcha, which clocks in at around $0.79/g. I ain’t lying – do a cursory search for ceremonial grade matcha and calculate the cost…or don’t, because I already went through the trouble. And if you can afford the top-tier matcha, I’m happy for you. I truly am. But for the rest of us, don’t bother. My favorite ceremonial-but-not-too-braggy-about-it matcha has never steered me wrong. And it passes my #1 test for quality, which is how vibrant green my drinks turn out with it. And with the vibrancy comes the assurance that you’re getting fresher & more concentrated antioxidants and amino acids from tea leaves that were grown in the shade under prime conditions and given daily positive affirmations, etc. etc. But the bottom line is you’ll be willing to ‘gram this shit.

If you must buy culinary (and I’ll only judge you a little bit), buy this stuff. It’ll still be a vibrant enough green for (you guessed it) culinary purposes like baking and making lattes, and it’s only $0.19/gram so you won’t be breaking the bank.

Alright, I’m glad I got that off my chest. Are we ready to do this?

Step 1:

Throw away your brown-ass culinary matcha. Really, if you have some of that stuff sitting around, chances are it’s old as shit. I’m trying to help you live your best life, so at least meet me halfway here. (Also, pro tip, keep your ~*ceremonial™*~ matcha stored in an airtight container in the fridge to keep it fresh & limit the oxidation process.)

Step 2:

Heat up 8 oz. your desired milk. If you can afford it, whole grassfed milk is the tits. (Pun intended.) If you buy lower fat milk, the resulting matcha will be lower in fat, calories, and joy. If you use nondairy milk, it will be fine too, I guess. I personally hate almond milk, but you skinny bitches enjoy. Whatever floats your boat. Don’t boil your milk – warm it till it’s hot to the touch, about 175° F/80° C – too hot and you’ll be destroying some of the flavor & beneficial properties of the matcha, which will make both you and your drink bitter.

 

matcha latte ingredients
The gang’s all here.

Step 3:

You could go old school and use a traditional bamboo chasen to whisk your matcha with a little hot water to make a paste first, but for a frothy latte it’s not the most efficient route. Ain’t nobody got time for that! This is a post for the PEOPLE. For the basic bitches who don’t want to be so basic no more. Pour your warmed milk into a blender with 1 tsp. matcha and desired sweetener (1 tsp honey is great. Lavender syrup is also A+). Then let ‘er rip. Blend for at least a full minute – you’re not just mixing all the ingredients together but trying to incorporate air to get that frothy foam cap at the end. I don’t use a fancy blender – I literally use this cheap-ass personal blender – and it does the job just fine!

 

rainbow honey
You could try to be a purist and drink it unsweetened. But in my book, the honey is crucial.

Step 4:

Pour into your favorite mug. If you blended it long enough, there should be some bubbles already forming at the top. And here’s my best-kept secret of all: if you can wait a couple minutes, the bubbles start popping, leaving behind the suspended matcha particles, which results in a deep green foam cap. It’s perfection. Drink your easy, breezy, beautiful, green as f*ck matcha and feel good about your life.

 

Matcha after pouring
Matcha directly after pouring it out of the blender.

 

Matcha after resting
The same matcha after waiting a couple minutes for the bubbles to pop.

 

half-consumed matcha!
I’m serious, it just gets deeper in color as time goes on.

Here’s a printable (and less lengthy) recipe to bookmark/commit to memory/inscribe upon your heart.

So…now what?

Alright, you’ve made it this far. Now you’re a certified matcha snob and can go around spreading the gospel. Remember, friends don’t let friends drink culinary matcha.

As a token of my appreciation for your readership, please appreciate this footage of yours truly making matcha for some stock footage for my friend Maxwell Monty‘s videography business. You may notice I pretend to mix it with a tiny whisk because we deemed it more aesthetic for the stock footage purposes. Don’t do that. Definitely blend your matcha. And definitely blast Dre while you’re at it.

 

 

It should probably go without saying, but the brands I mentioned didn’t sponsor me. I’m just, you know, really opinionated about what you should be spending your money on. Here’s a list of the products I recommended. If you want to help me pay off my credit card (or at least subsidize my online shopping addiction), use my affiliate links when you go forth and procure your matcha-making supplies! Or just Venmo me.

Paradise Park, Mt. Hood

Paradise Park, Mt. Hood

I spent my birthday week last year (August 2017) on the Timberline Trail, which circumnavigates Mt. Hood. Of the entire trail, Paradise Park is probably the most picturesque place we camped. I took these photos during the alpenglow of the early evening! 10/10 best dinner […]


Sexy Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Sexy Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Alternately titled: How Swiss Meringue Buttercream Saved My Best Friend’s Wedding Cake

Raise your hand if you’re really excited to eat a cake and then…proceed to scrape off all the frosting because it’s sweet AF. So sweet that all you can taste is chalky powdered sugar and it’s a big letdown because you needed some lubrication to go with the cake layers, ya feel? (If you’re one of those people who actually likes overly sweet frosting, such as the crusty kind found on store-bought cakes, please let me know so I can cut you out of my life.)

I thought that buttercream frosting was just gonna be really crusty and sweet and that I would ever only like ganaches or whipped-cream-based frostings because the universe of buttercream was a sad, saccharine, one-dimensional flavor party where “butter” was just a lie, a mere mirage of what frostings should be. But I was wrong! Allow me to introduce you to non-sad, non-saccharine, v sexy Swiss meringue buttercream.

Once upon a time, my best friend got engaged and I was like, “OMG we love baking together and one of my favorite food bloggers made her sister-in-law’s wedding cake and blogged all about it and they looked so cute we can totally do it no biggie.” (Narrator: “It was, in fact, a biggie.”) My friend shrugged and was like, “cool.” And then we kept putting it off and putting it off and then it was one month and eight days until her wedding date and we hadn’t done anything.

And so with one month and some spare change to go, I went to her house and we made the Best Friend Wedding Cake (So Don’t F*ck This Up) Prototype #1. And, ladies and gentleman, here it is:

Yeah, we started easy with one layer. It was underbaked, didn’t rise, the glaze frosting idea failed, and those buttercream “roses”…….needless to say, we f*cked it up. We only had a little over a month until she got hitched! My value & importance as a bridesmaid definitely depended upon this one incumbent task! This was fine!! Everything was fine!!! (Narrator: “Everything was not fine.“)

Two test wedding cakes and several meltdowns over buttercream later,  I landed upon Swiss meringue buttercream in desperation. The main difference is that American (aka regular) buttercream tastes like Paula Deen’s Type 2 Diabetes, while Swiss Meringue (aka sexy) buttercream tastes like a velvety, silky tryst with a Swiss model. (Am I overselling it here? I don’t think so.)

American buttercream gets its stability, structure, and volume from mass amounts of powdered sugar, making it an effective cement that you could use to glue cake layers together, or put down as a house’s foundation. Swiss meringue buttercream gets that volume and structure from egg whites whipped into a meringue which is then emulsified with butter. It’s way less sweet, has an amazing texture, and most importantly for our wedding cake situation, it piped rosettes like a dream without collapsing or melting. $50 of fancy gel food coloring, several Amazon orders/Michael’s runs for piping tips, and a shit ton of butter and sugar later, we arrived at this masterpiece:

swiss meringue buttercream cake #3
Best Friend Wedding Cake (So Don’t F*ck This Up) Prototype #3

We had 10 days to go until her wedding. This cake was…better, and it tasted damn good. But it also looked unprofessional and we still needed to hone in on the colors and overall technique. Our hands were cramping up. Our eyes glazed over. We had gone through so many pounds of butter that it had lost all objective value to us. Time stood still. We were just cogs in a buttercream-rosette-making machine.

The next 10 days are a blur. What I know is this: 4 days before the wedding, the bride came over and we piped out all the final rosettes.

Swiss meringue buttercream in pastry bags
Look at this color palette! The perfection! The light at the end of the buttercream tunnel!

Two days before the wedding, I baked The Cake, and then I baked a last-minute replacement cake layer because even after multiple batches of baking The Exact Same Coconut Layer Cake repeatedly, one of the cake layers underbaked and sunk in the middle and then stuck to the pan when I inverted it and came out in pieces. (I definitely did not cry when that happened.)

swiss meringue buttercream rosettes
MOTHER. EFFIN. ROSETTES.

The day before my friend got hitched, I showed up to her house early in the morning several hours before her bridal shower and we baked the rest of the leftover wedding cake batter into mini cupcakes for her shower and assembled, frosted, and decorated the Best Friend Wedding Cake (So Don’t F*ck This Up), Final Version. She was the most chill bride and literally decorated her own wedding cake like the boss bitch she is. And, guys…it was beautiful. (Narrator, choking up: “Against all odds, they overcame.”)

The real love story here is not that of my friend and her now husband, but of our wedding cake love child that we birthed after 1 month of labor. Well, that and my new exclusive relationship with Swiss meringue buttercream.

swiss meringue buttercream wedding cake
Our love child.

At this point you’re probably like, “that’s a really nice story, but how do I actually make Swiss meringue buttercream?” So if you stuck around for this emotional journey of a lifetime, I applaud you. And I gift you with this recipe:

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

The only buttercream you should ever make, truly. Makes enough to frost one 3-layer cake, but double the batch if you also plan on decorating the cake with buttercream rosettes.

Keyword swiss meringue buttercream

Ingredients

  • 6 large egg whites
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt (use half as much if using table salt)
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 5 sticks unsalted butter, slightly cooler than room temp (about 65°F)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract

Instructions

  1. Fill a wide pot with around 1 1/2 inches of water. MacGyver a nice 'n thick ring of crumpled aluminum foil wrapped around the base of your stand mixer bowl to keep it from touching the bottom of the pot. Place your pot o' water on high heat until it starts to reach a boil and then adjust the temp to maintain a gentle simmer. 

  2. Meanwhile, add egg whites, sugar, salt, and cream of tartar in your stand mixer bowl. Put the bowl (with tinfoil bumper) into your pot of mildly simmering water and start stirring and scraping sides down with a rubber spatula. Do this constantly for about 10 minutes, until your arm is about to fall off and egg whites are about 185°F (this process is just "cooking" the egg whites so they're safe to consume, while you continuously stir them so they don't actually cook on you. #science) If you don't have a food thermometer, then #YOLO and just stir & scrape for 10-12 minutes and assume that you won't get salmonella because you've decided it's better to risk food poisoning than bother to buy a candy thermometer.

  3. Take off your aluminum bumper and stick your stand mixer bowl into...yep, your stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Then whip it...whip it good. At high speed, for about 10 minutes until the meringue is glossy and makes stiff peaks. It should feel cool-ish to the touch.

  4. With mixer still running, add your room-temp-ish butter, cut into 1 or 2 tablespoon chunks, one chunk at a time. Don't freak out here. The volume of the meringue will deflate and start to look soupy. But all is well! As you add the room-temp-or-slightly-cooler butter, the buttercream will begin to thicken and cool and look dangerously like something you want to swoop your fingers through and taste test. Final buttercream should be #thicc, silky, and velvety (around 72°F for you food thermometer snobs). At this point beat in the vanilla and almond extracts on low speed.

  5. Use the buttercream right away. If you're using it within a day or two, you can just cover the stand mixer bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temp, re-whipping day of if needed. If waiting longer, you can transfer to a large Ziploc bag, press out air, and seal. The buttercream can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks, but really, are you going to make frosting 2 weeks ahead of time? If so, you might want to examine your control problems. Bring buttercream back to a warm room temp (72°F) and re-whip before using.

Recipe Notes

Adapted from Serious Eats' Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe.