Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Swiss Meringue Buttercream


Swiss meringue buttercream is one of the easiest icings you can master.  It only has four ingredients:
  1. Egg Whites
  2. Sugar
  3. Butter (Unsalted)
  4. Vanilla Extract
A meringue is basically egg whites that are whipped with sugar.  Before I go into recipes just a quick breakdown of the different meringues.

French Meringue
For a French Meringue all it is is egg whites whipped with granulated sugar until it forms stiff peaks.  You can overwhip this meringue.  It'll go from glossy and stiff to chunky and back to its liquid state.

Italian Meringue
For an Italian Meringue you must cook the sugar with some water to about 235-240 degrees then as the egg whites are whipping you slowly add.  Then you whip until the bowl has cooled and the meringue has formed stiff peaks.  You cannot overwhip Italian Meringue.

Swiss Meringue
For the Swiss Meringue you combine the sugar and egg whites and cook it in a double boiler until the sugar granules have dissolved completely.  Then you whip until the bowl has cooled and the meringue forms stiff peaks.  You cannot overwhip Swiss Meringue.

Here's a general recipe I follow that I've mentioned in a previous post.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
(Enough to ice about 12 cupcakes)

General guidelines for a Swiss Meringue Buttercream is 1:2:3, One part egg whites to two parts sugar to 3 parts butter.

2 Ounces Egg Whites
4 Ounces Sugar
6 Ounces Unsalted Butter, Room Temp

In a bowl of a standing mixer add the egg whites and sugar and mix well with a whisk.
Whites and Sugar

If you're going to make a large batch I boil boil a pot of water and put the bowl directly into the water. 
Double Boiler

You might read elsewhere to make sure the bottom of the bowl to the water.  I've done it.. in fact, that's all I do.  And it's turned out fine.  

If you're doing a small batch like the recipe above what you could do is get a stainless steel bowl large enough to fit the standing mixer bowl and microwave about 2-3 cups of water on high for about 2 minutes.  After the water is at a boiling point in the microwave pour it into the larger bowl.  That way you don't have to wait 10 minutes for the water to boil in the pot.
Keep it in the hot water until the sugar granules dissolve.

Put the bowl of the mixer back on the mixer with a whip attachment and whip on high until stiff peaks.  
Stiff Peaks 

Switch to a paddle attachment.
Then slowly add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time.  About halfway through switch back to the whisk attachment then continue to add the butter until it comes together.
 Butter added
If the buttercream is still very liquidy at this point Let it continue to whip for another minute or so.  Sometimes it needs a minute or so for the butter to fully incorporate.  If it is still very liquidy slowly add 1 tablespoon of butter at a time until it comes together.

FYI the humidity and current weather of where you live may be a factor.  So, if you live in Seattle in the heat of summer, you might have a harder time with this as sugar tends to soak up moisture and your meringue might not ever come to stiff peaks.

Vanilla buttercream makes an awesome macron filling.  MmmMmm!