When does a person go from being a baking novice discovering that macarons have feet to the next stage in baking when you have to upgrade your barbie dream-house hand-mixer for a workhorse machine built to make your baked goods the best version of themselves? For me that rite of passage was today. I unboxed a KitchenAid Mini Stand Mixer with a glossy Sriracha red finish that caught the sunlight in the most beautiful way.
I had emptied what seemed like a rather small space on my kitchen counter where it would sit and I didn’t think it would fit, but it did! Unlike the larger Artisan model, this guy was built for a kitchen like mine. Smaller, narrow and took up like half the room my microwave does. I was ecstatic to use it, and I didn’t know how to start teasing its capabilities. Plenty of ideas came to mind, but I decided I was going to stick to something basic like cake.
A Southern pound cake was decided upon because I wanted to test the paddle beater’s creaming abilities. Just two minutes into adding the butter, the days of tediously holding my hand-beater for creaming seemed like a distant memory. This machine was wondrous. It could go on without tiring and I was frankly impressed with the billowy wisps of light butter and sugar I was left with after almost 8 minutes of beating. With my hand mixer I would have probably called it quits by the sixth minute and moved on. But this beater was unrelenting and persevering. Not just that, the paddle reached the very bottom of the bowl and that’s when the ingenuity and finer details about the product really started to make sense.
The Mini is every bit as powerful as the Artisan. The motor is the same and the only difference is its size. It can still make large batches of cookies to freeze, mix pie dough evenly and knead bread easily, all while you go about starting on the cleaning and busying yourself with other stuff for a bit. I could never do that with my hand mixer.
The most notable change I felt though was while making meringue. It’s a tedious process waiting on your egg whites to whip up to stiff to lustrous, pearly peaks. Something basic like adding sugar to your meringue mixture slowly with one hand as you continue to whisk with the other, keeping your bowl steady can get tiring. It’s honestly something I’d like to worry less about, caring more for the quality of my meringue, which I can do quite easily with the whisk attachment on the stand mixer. I applied the stand mixer’s abilities to two seasonal dessert recipes that would both really push the stand mixer’s abilities well.
The first was an apple cake with brown butter buttercream. The cake layers are Apple Juice cakes sandwiched with a cinnamon-y cooked apple filling, pie crumbs in the same vein as the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook and a brown butter buttercream that brings everything together so beautifully. In this recipe, the stand mixer evenly mixed the cake batter, made the pie crumbs, as well as the Swiss meringue, then eventually the buttercream. Drastically reducing hands-on time here, using a stand mixer makes this cake and the task at hand seem very doable, as opposed to the multiple-day project it would have ideally been before.
The second recipe is for a Pavlova with whipped palm sugar labneh with poached pears in port wine. The stand mixer really does all the work in this recipe-whipping up the egg whites for the pavlova and the labneh too. The pears are a great finishing touch and the poaching syrup is drizzled over for lovely acidity in contrast to all of the meringue’s sweetness. For a seasonal variation, swap the poached pears for balsamic strawberries later in the year.
In both recipes, the meringue-making was made very easy by the stand mixer, not to mention the paddle attachment did a stellar job of combining the butter into the Swiss meringue. All in all, I was incredibly happy with the results of the two desserts and can’t wait to share them with you here.
Apple Juice Cake With Pie Filling and Brown Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream
This cake uses a bounty of apples-green and red, all available right now and all very delicious in this cake that’s a hybrid between pie and cake, all beautiful enrobed in a silky cinnamon and brown butter buttercream icing.
For The Apple Cake
Apple juice 1 1/2 cup (juice fresh apples for best flavour, but juice from a tetra pack is okay too if that’s all you’ve got)
All-purpose flour 450g or 3 cups
Baking soda 1 1/2 tsp
Powdered almonds 60g
Salt a pinch
Caster sugar 660g or 3 cups
Eggs 3, room temperature
Vanilla extract 1 1/2 tsp
For The Apple Filling
Granny Smith apples 600g
Butter 2 tbsp
Brown sugar 1/2 cup
Cinnamon powder 1 tsp
Salt 1/4 tsp
Juice of a lime
For The Pie Crumbs
Caster Sugar 1 tablespoon
Salt one large pinch
Butter 4 tablespoons or 57g, melted quickly in 10 second bursts in the microwave
Water 3/4th tablespoon
For The Brown Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Salted butter 350g, taken out of the refrigerator when you start on the buttercream
Egg whites 180g
Vanilla extract 1 tsp
Cinnamon powder 1/2 tsp
Salt 1/4 tsp
For The Cake:
Start by making the cake. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees celsius. Grease and line 3 x 18cm cake tins with baking paper and keep aside.
In a saucepan, heat together the apple juice and butter over low heat. Once the butter has melted completely, take the saucepan off the heat and let it cool on the side.
In the meantime, whisk together the all-purpose flour, baking soda, almonds, salt and caster sugar together by hand in a bowl. In the bowl of a Kitchenaid Mini stand mixer set with the whisk attachment, add the butter and juice mixture and whisk for a few minutes on medium speed. Reduce the mixer’s speed to low, and add the eggs, yoghurt and vanilla extract. Increase the mixer’s speed to high and whisk until well combined. Stop the stand mixer and add the whisked dry ingredients in one shot. Combine the dry and wet ingredients on low speed for a few seconds, then increase the speed and whisk for a few seconds only till the ingredients are almost combined. Finish folding any stray bits of flour with your spatula before transferring the cake batter evenly between the tins.
Bake the cake layers for 45-50 minutes or until a cake tester comes inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Cool the cake in the tins for 15 minutes before turning them out and letting the cakes cool completely. Clingfilm the cake layers and refrigerate until the other components of the cake are ready. You can make the cake layers a few days in advance too.
For The Pie Crumbs:
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius and line a cookie sheet or Swiss roll tin with baking paper.
In the bowl of a Kitchenaid Mini stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the flour, sugar and salt and run on low speed to mix all the dry ingredients well.
With the motor still running, drizzle in the butter and water and let the pie mixture start forming little balls or crumbs.
Tip the crumbs onto the prepared baking sheet and transfer to the oven. Bake the crumbs until a light golden, breaking them up at least twice during the 15-20 minutes that they take to bake. Take the cookie tray out of the oven and let them dry during which time they will also harden. Once they have cooled completely, transfer to an airtight box and keep sealed till it is time to assemble the cake.
For The Apple Pie Filling
Peel, halve, then quarter the green apples. Core the apple quarters and slice each quarter twice lengthwise, then turn them anticlockwise and chop into dices. Do this for all the apple quarters. Take a bowl of water and squeeze the juice of a lime into the water and dunk the apple dices to prevent oxidisation.
In a small saucepan, heat the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt together over a medium flame till it starts to boil. Drain the apples and add them to the syrup. Reduce the heat slightly and continue to cook the apples till they soften just a bit, but still retain their crunch. Let this mixture cool and any reserved syrup can be stored for another use, such as a glaze for donuts or a syrup to top your next bowl of oats with.
For The buttercream
Heat 150g of the butter in a saucepan over medium heat till the butter starts foaming, bubbling and then finally it should start to settle down and not sound so angry. Look for bits of amber in the white clouds frothing over as the butter continues to cook. If you smell toffee as you take a whiff, take the pan off the heat. The colour of the butter should be amber and it should smell nutty. Give it a swirl and strain the brown butter into a bowl. Let the brown butter cool. You can speed up this process by letting it sit in the freezer for a few minutes. Once the brown butter is soft and solid again, measure the butter again so it’s 350g. You may have to add a wee bit more butter if it isn’t.
Set up a double boiler on your stove (one dish set snugly over a saucepan of gently simmering water so that the dish at no point touches the water below). In the dish set over the saucepan, add the egg whites and sugar and whisk away by hand until the egg white and sugar mixture records 160 F on a candy thermometer. At this point, transfer this mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and let the stand mixer run on medium-speed for about 8 minutes, or until the bowl of the mixer is cool to touch and the meringue reaches stiff peaks.
Stop the stand mixer and swap the whisk attachment for the paddle attachment. Start mixing on a medium-low speed and add the browned butter and butter mixture a tablespoon at a time to the bowl. Once all the butter has been added, add the vanilla, cinnamon and salt and increase the stand mixer’s speed to high and beat until the mixture turns into a billowy, airy and deliciously nutty buttercream.
To assemble the cake, torte the tops of the cakes so as to achieve an even flat surface for layering. Spread a layer of buttercream (about 3 tablespoons per layer) followed by one-third of the pie crumbs and half the apple filling. Sandwich with the second layer and at this stage you could freeze the cake for a bit for the buttercream to hold, or continue layering. Repeat with another layer of buttercream, then the pie crumbs and apple filling and sandwich with the last layer of the cake. Return to the freezer and let everything firm up for a few minutes before continuing. To begin closing the cake, add a fairly large mound of buttercream to the top and work it around the edges and down the sides, adding more buttercream as you go to compact the crumbs of the cake. This thin layer of icing will become your crumb layer. Once you have finished covering the top and sides of the cake with this crumb layer, return to the cake to the freezer for 15 minutes at least or until this crumb coat is set. You can serve it right away at this stage or finish with a final thick coat of icing on the outside. Sprinkle the remaining pie crumbs on the top of the cake and chill until it is time to serve.
Recipe for the Pavlova:
Pavlova with Whipped Palm Sugar Labneh and Pears Poached In Port Wine
Yield 8 servings
The rule to follow for meringue is to increase speed gradually in even numbers, so 2, 4, 6. Remember this and it’ll be difficult to mess up a pavlova.Maintain a medium speed on your stand mixer throughout the process of mixing your sugar into the meringue for evenly melting it which causes little to no weeping in your final pavlova.
For the pavlova
Egg whites 6, aged for at least two days, and at room temperature
Caster sugar 330g
Vanilla essence 1 tsp
Cornflour 3 tsp
Vinegar 1 tsp
For the whips labneh topping
Greek yoghurt 500g, hung up in a muslin cloth overnight to drain
Palm sugar 50g
Vanilla extract 1/2 tsp
For The poached pears
Pears 500g, peeled, halved and cored
Port wine 200ml
Caster sugar 100g
Star anise 1
Cinnamon stick 1, broken
One day before serving ensure that the Greek yoghurt is hung up to drain in a muslin cloth and finish making the pavlova as it will sit and cool overnight.
Preheat the oven to 130 degrees Celsius and Line a sheet pan or Swiss roll tin with baking paper and draw a rough circle in the centre of the paper as just a guide for when you’re assembling the meringue.
In the bowl of a Kitchenaid Mini stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the egg whites and start on speed 2, then gradually move the speed up to 4, then 6.
Maintain this speed and once the foamy bubbles have been replaced by the beginnings of the white meringue cloud, start adding the sugar a tablespoon at a time continuing on this speed. This will help all the sugar dissolve slowly while still bringing the meringue up to stiff peaks so there’s very little or no seepage from the meringue (weeping meringue).
Once the meringue has reached stiff peaks, stop and add the cornflour, vinegar and vanilla. Start the machine again and only whisk for a minute or two before stopping on high speed. Pile the meringue sky high, one dollop on top of the other using the help of the circle you’ve drawn on the baking sheet.
Use an offset spatula to swirl the pavlova to whatever design you like. You can even use it to make a cavity that will nestle the fruit filling later. Once you have achieved the desired result, transfer the pavlova to the oven and bake for 7-8 minutes before turning down the heat to 90 degrees Celsius. Leave the pavlova to cook for 1 1/2 hour after which the pavlova can continue slow cooling overnight in the oven.
The next day in the bowl of a Kitchenaid mini stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, combine the strained Greek yoghurt, sugar and vanilla extract on medium speed till fluffy and light like buttercream. Scrape it out into a bowl.
In a saucepan, heat together the port wine, sugar and spices over medium flame. Once all the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is coming up to a boil, add the pears and reduce the heat to a medium-low simmer. Let the pears and the mixture cook slowly stirring often until the pears are just beginning to soften, about 15 minutes. Take the pears out from the poaching liquid and reduce the liquid further.
When ready to serve, dollop the whipped palm sugar over the top of the pavlova and top with the poached pears. Any poaching syrup once cool can be drizzled over when cutting the pavlova to serve to guests.