Buttercream being one of the most versatile component in pasty kitchen, can be used for filling and decorating cakes, cookies and all sorts of desserts. It’s also one of my favorite frosting for cupcakes. As Valentine’s day coming right up, I can think of a ton of usage for buttercream. So we better make a lot.
If you don’t know already, there’re American Buttercream and Meringue-based Buttercream. American Buttercream is easier to make, you just whip up fat (choice of butter, margarine and even shortening) together with powdered sugar to the right spreadable consistency. But the drawback is it’s quite sweet. Meringue-based Buttercream on the other hand creams egg whites and sugar/sugar syrup, cooked or uncooked, together with softened butter. It’s less sweet yet softer and creamier. The two cooked meringue versions are Italian and Swiss and the uncooked version is French. Unless you use pasteurized egg whites, I don’t recommend French buttercream due to raw eggs consumption concerns. Between Italian and Swiss meringue, Italian meringue is made by pouring boiling sugar syrup to whipped egg white while Swiss meringue is done by whipping warm egg white and sugar mixture. Both are safer than French meringue when used as a base for buttercream.
After some information regarding buttercream and meringue, let’s get back to the topic of making buttercream. Today I’ll be doing Italian Meringue-based Buttercream.
Sugar 120g and 20g divided
Butter 226g (2 sticks)
Egg White 75g
Before we start, let’s first take a look at a very important tool. To a pastry chef, an accurate fast reading thermometer is probably like a best knife to a chef. Thermapen by ThermoWorks is everything you can ask for for a high performance reliable food thermometer. Its instant-read feature has a 3 second response time with ±0.7°F accuracy. It’s especially vital for candy (sugar syrup) making, because slight variances in temperature can make the difference between a successful and a ruined batch.
Designed like an army knife, the Thermapen fits comfortably in the palm of the hand, making measuring temperature a snap. Along with the thermometer itself, the kit also comes with a detailed guide telling you everything you need to know about your new friend, and how to take care of him. On the back of the booklet, there’s also a convenient food temperature chart for you should you decide to enjoy some BBQ on the grill. That’s right, the nifty little tool is actually an all-around-er. It’s capable for all kinds of kitchen tasks, measuring temperatures of meat, poultry and fish.
The usage is as simple as swinging open the probe. The second you open it, it’s going to give you the temperature of the air surrounding the probe. So we decide to do a little test on the accuracy and the result is… spot on!
After having 100% confidence of making the syrup, shall we proceed?
Italian Meringue Buttercream Instructions:
1. Place 120g sugar and 40g water in a small saucepan and bring the mixture to a simmer over medium high heat. Tilt the pan to help dissolving the sugar.
2. While letting sugar syrup to cook, turn the stand mixer to medium speed 6 to whip up the egg whites. Gradually add 20g sugar into the egg whites and whip until it begins to form soft peak.
3. When the syrup reaches 248°F, turn the mixer to medium low speed 4 and pour the syrup in between the egg whites and mixer bowl. With the help of Thermapen, it literally took seconds to get the temperature. Highly recommend!
4. Turn to medium high speed 8 and whip the mixture until stiff peak, about 10 minutes and make sure the bowl cools or else it’ll melt the butter.
5. Check the butter by pressing it to see if it’s completely softened. Or use the soften butter function on the microwave, be sure not to melt the butter.
6. Add butter a few pieces at a time into the mixer at medium speed 6. If the mixture looks broken, increase the speed and it should be emulsified.
7. Continue to finish off all the butter and check the buttercream consistency.
The buttercream should hold a soft and spreadable consistency. If the outside temperature is warm, refrigerate it for a few hours to harden, then whip again to get the right consistency.
At this point, the buttercream is finished. It can be flavored with vanilla extract or other oils, and used immediately as fillings or frostings. The buttercream can also be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for several days or frozen for up to 1 month. Defrost and re-whip to proper consistency before using.
p.s. To purchase Thermapen, head over to thermoworks.com