Jump to content


Welcome to the eG Forums!

These forums are a service of the Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to advancement of the culinary arts. Anyone can read the forums, however if you would like to participate in active discussions please join the society.

Photo

Buttercream methods


  • Please log in to reply
41 replies to this topic

#1 Comfort Me

Comfort Me
  • participating member
  • 603 posts
  • Location:Chicago - Hyde Park

Posted 04 May 2004 - 09:24 PM

OK -- so I'm making a shitload of a whilte buttercream -- the regular way -- egg whites beaten and cooked with a hot sugar syrup, then butter beaten in.

My recipe tells me to boil the syrup for a couple of mintues. Is there a temperature on a candy thermometer I should cook the syrup to?
Aidan

"Ess! Ess! It's a mitzvah!"

#2 nightscotsman

nightscotsman
  • participating member
  • 3,068 posts
  • Location:Las Vegas

Posted 05 May 2004 - 04:15 AM

You want the soft ball stage. Let's see, that would be... 235-240 F. Or you could freak out everyone else in the kitchen and test with your bare hands. Get a bowl of very cold water and soak your fingers until they are chilled. Holding the bowl close to the pot of boiling sugar, quickly (but not too quickly) reach in and grab some syrup and plunge it into the cold water. It should set quickly and you will be able to tell what stage your sugar's at. You will feel the heat, but if done properly your fingers wont burn. This is the way we learned to do it in school, and the normal way we test in the pastry kitchen.

#3 Steve Klc

Steve Klc
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 3,739 posts
  • Location:Washington, DC mostly

Posted 05 May 2004 - 05:02 AM

I do a firmer ball sometimes, Aidan, in warm weather. Which book/magazine/recipe are you working from that doesn't mention temperature or how to test the proper stage and just says boil for a couple of minutes? Also, beside cooking to the right temperature, you'll get a better meringue if you gradually, slowly, pour the syrup onto the whipping whites.
Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant
Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

#4 kthull

kthull
  • participating member
  • 370 posts
  • Location:Chicagoland

Posted 05 May 2004 - 06:46 AM

I go to 245 with my sugar syrup. And maybe I'll get the courage to use my fingers. :unsure:

Steve, I have a question on technique. I can never seem to get my syrup between the beaters and the side of the bowl (KA 6qt). So instead, I've resorted to hand whisking while I slowly add the syrup, all the while with the bowl still attached to the KA. Then, when it's all in, I pop the whisk attachment, beat a couple seconds on high, then switch to medium until it cools. This has been working, but am I limiting my results this way?

Edited by kthull, 05 May 2004 - 06:50 AM.


#5 NeroW

NeroW
  • participating member
  • 2,137 posts
  • Location:Kalamazoo, MI, but heart is in Chicago.

Posted 05 May 2004 - 08:32 AM

DON'T test it with your bare hands. Don't listen to NSM. He operates on a different plane than most of the rest of us do :biggrin: And like kthull says, make sure to carefully pour the syrup between the beater and the side of the bowl (closer to the side than the beater).
Noise is music. All else is food.

#6 chefette

chefette
  • participating member
  • 854 posts

Posted 05 May 2004 - 09:26 AM

what plane would NSM be operating on that is so different from the rest of us? It is not as scary as it sounds to do the grab thing, but if you have never even seen it done I would not recommend that you just start - use a thermometer and work from there

Edited by chefette, 05 May 2004 - 09:32 AM.


#7 NeroW

NeroW
  • participating member
  • 2,137 posts
  • Location:Kalamazoo, MI, but heart is in Chicago.

Posted 05 May 2004 - 09:35 AM

what plane would NSM be operating on that is so different from the rest of us? It is not as scary as it sounds to do the grab thing, but if you have never even seen it done I would not recommend that you just start - use a thermometer and work from there

Neil operates on the Awesome Plane, and I operate on the . . . Not Awesome Plane . . . and I've always been scared to try the grabbing thing.

I just use a thermometer :rolleyes:
Noise is music. All else is food.

#8 carp

carp
  • participating member
  • 195 posts

Posted 05 May 2004 - 09:44 AM

I go to 250 degrees.
Anyway...
If you are using the kitchen aid 6qt, you should buy the pouring shield. It is rarely useful to me for anything else except pouring boiling hot sugar into the bowl without hitting the beaters. But it's pretty cheap and definitely worth buying even if only for this purpose.
I try to avoid hitting the shield and go for the small area between the edge of the shield and the bowl. But it does have a spout and you can simply pour it onto the edge of the spout and the sugar will drip down onto the bowl without hitting the beaters.

#9 Lesley C

Lesley C
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 2,548 posts
  • Location:Montreal

Posted 05 May 2004 - 10:03 AM

Pouring shields are for sissies! :wink:

Just pour from a height and aim for the small ridge between the beater and the side of the bowl. And when you pour, pour the first third on high speed, the next two thirds on medium speed, and pour very slowly in as thin a stream as you can manage.

I cook it to 121 C, and I usually start beating my whites when the sugar reaches 115 C.

Also, once all your hot syrup is incorporated, remove the whisk in favour of the paddle. The meringue cools down much faster this way (especially when you're making large quantities). Just make sure to maintain medium speed.

Then change back to the whisk to beat in the butter.

God, we could do an entire thread on the ins and out of Italian meringue.

#10 carp

carp
  • participating member
  • 195 posts

Posted 05 May 2004 - 10:26 AM

Pouring shields are for sissies! :wink:

Just pour from a height and aim for the small ridge between the beater and the side of the bowl. And when you pour, pour the first third on high speed, the next two thirds on medium speed, and pour very slowly in as thin a stream as you can manage.

I cook it to 121 C, and I usually start beating my whites when the sugar reaches 115 C.

Also, once all your hot syrup is incorporated, remove the whisk in favour of the paddle. The meringue cools down much faster this way (especially when you're making large quantities). Just make sure to maintain medium speed.

Then change back to the whisk to beat in the butter.

God, we could do an entire thread on the ins and out of Italian meringue.

Hey, but it beats removing the whisk attachment and whisking in the sugar by hand. Not that I would ever do such a thing.
It's not that I'm scared, OK. It's just that I have the effin pouring shield because it came with the mixer and have nothing else to do with it. Now back off and leave my pouring shield out of this!
Now look what you did! I am crying... Are you happy?

#11 Lesley C

Lesley C
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 2,548 posts
  • Location:Montreal

Posted 05 May 2004 - 11:04 AM

The pouring shield is a bad habit. Ditch the pouring shield and train yourself to pour the sugar properly. Trust me on this one, you'll thank me one day.
And forget about whisking by hand. It's a waste of time and you need two people to do it properly. If you don't whisk fast enough, you risk cooking the whites and ending up with lumps in your buttercream.
As for using your fingers to determine the soft ball stage. I used to work with a young guy in France who always tested this way. But one night he was tired and talking to a guy on the other side of the room and he reversed the oder of things, dipping his fingers straight into the sugar, then into the water, then into the sugar again. Nice blisters the next day. :rolleyes:

#12 chefpeon

chefpeon
  • participating member
  • 1,796 posts
  • Location:Tinytown, WA, USA

Posted 05 May 2004 - 11:04 AM

:blink:
Ok......um.....maybe I'm doing it wrong or I don't know something, and if I don't I'm
sure you'll all tell what it is.......I think I can trust y'all to guide me.
BUT......

I've been making wedding cakes for 14 years. I've made all different kinds of buttercreams.
I've made small batches on Kitchenaid mixers and huge batches on 60 qt. mixers. I go through
buttercream like cars go through gas. If I were doing the "sugar syrup" method I would spend
WAY too much time making buttercream and it'd be harder to get anything else done.
My favorite buttercream, is of course, a meringue buttercream......it tastes the best, and I like
it's workability......but I've never had to make it with a hot sugar syrup. I've tried that method,
and the purpose of it is sort of lost on me. I mean, it just seems like it's doing it the hard way.
Since I do such a large amount of wedding work (among other things), my life is about finding
the easiest way to do something (without sacrificing quality, of course).

I have always made my meringue buttercream like this: (and it's so EASY)
Whisk my sugar and egg whites together, either directly in the mixer bowl, or in some
sort of double boiler. If I do a small batch on the Kitchenaid, I will mix the two together
and stick the whole bowl in a pot of simmering water, whisking often, until the whites and
sugar are nearly too hot to touch. Then I put the hot whites and sugar on the mixer
and whip to stiff peak. Then I add my cool butter in chunks and add vanilla. Voila!
Perfect buttercream with safely cooked whites and no sugar syrup hassles.

So my question is, why do you guys do the sugar syrup thing? I see no difference in the
finished product, when done my usual way in comparison to the sugar syrup way.
Is there something I don't know?

Annie :wub:

#13 Lesley C

Lesley C
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 2,548 posts
  • Location:Montreal

Posted 05 May 2004 - 11:19 AM

You're doing the Swiss meringue buttercream. No harm in that. Honestly I don't know the advantage of the Italian over the Swiss. Maybe the Italian holds up better because the sugar is cooked? But I'm guessing.
Actually my favourite buttercream is with yolks or whole eggs, making a pate a bombe for the base. The flavour is better, but it has a creamy yellow colour, not always ideal for wedding cakes.

#14 carp

carp
  • participating member
  • 195 posts

Posted 05 May 2004 - 11:27 AM

The pouring shield is a bad habit. Ditch the pouring shield and train yourself to pour the sugar properly. Trust me on this one, you'll thank me one day.
And forget about whisking by hand. It's a waste of time and you need two people to do it properly. If you don't whisk fast enough, you risk cooking the whites and ending up with lumps in your buttercream.
As for using your fingers to determine the soft ball stage. I used to work with a young guy in France who always tested this way. But one night he was tired and talking to a guy on the other side of the room and he reversed the oder of things, dipping his fingers straight into the sugar, then into the water, then into the sugar again. Nice blisters the next day. :rolleyes:

OK. Hold on a minute. Smoking crack and watching The View are bad habits, but using a pouring shield just makes good sense to me. Especially if I am making buttercream while smoking crack and watching The View. Occasionally I can get distracted by some witty comment made by Barbara Walters and absent the pouring shield I could get boling hot sugar all over my dome.
As I wrote earlier, I almost always pour the sugar right in the sweet spot, between the beater and the bowl. But the shield keeps the sugar from flying at me when I am distracted or shaking too much from laughter when Barbara says something characteristically hilarious. You can examine my shield... it hasn't a drop of soft-cracked sugar on it after most buttercream maneuvers.
My use of the shield is analogous to my use of seat belts.

#15 Lesley C

Lesley C
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 2,548 posts
  • Location:Montreal

Posted 05 May 2004 - 11:36 AM

OK, I think he's time to put the cards on the table and be brutally honest.
Carp, you have developed a pouring shield habit that must be broken.
But fear not! I hear they have a program at the Betty Ford Center for pouring shield addicts. They wrestle your pouring shield away from you at the front desk, then it's pouring shield cold turkey from then on in.
You can do it, I know you can.
They say Whitney Houston was in rehab for a drug habit, but my inside sources tell me she was really addicted to her pouring shield.
Get help -- fast! And don't forget, we're here to hold your shaky, sugar-syrup-coated hand if need be.

#16 kthull

kthull
  • participating member
  • 370 posts
  • Location:Chicagoland

Posted 05 May 2004 - 11:57 AM

Lesley, my aim sucks, so I had to stop pouring with the motor on. I inevitably hit the beaters, shot sugar strands around the sides of the bowl and then definitely got lumps. Whisking by hand was the only way I could get around that. Doing it while the bowl is still attached to the KA eliminates the need for a second person and I've yet to get lumps that way. And maybe it's just my mixer, but if I poured down the sides (with or without that pour shield) a good deal of the syrup would congeal at the bottom of the bowl and never get worked in.

#17 lemon curd

lemon curd
  • participating member
  • 174 posts
  • Location:Vancouver B.C.

Posted 05 May 2004 - 02:18 PM

I was taught start beating the whites once the water/sugar mixture has started to boil. I use 116 deg C as the final temperature for the water and sugar mixture (about 240 deg F) which is pretty much in line with most of the other comments. A suggestion for helping to pour into the bowl (and some might see this as cheating :smile: ), is to pour the hot water/sugar mixture into a HEAT RESISTANT liquid measuring cup (this also has the advantage of stopping the cooking process). You can then hook the lip of the liquid measuring cup on to the top of mixing bowl and slowly pour down the side of the bowl. This will help prevent the sugar/water mixture from hitting the rotating beaters and also makes for easier bowl clean up.

I was interested to hear chefpeon's technique. I was only aware of Italian, French (same as Italian but uses egg yolks instead of egg whites), and German buttercream (has a pastry cream base to which butter is added - a bit more chewy and best for things like choux pastry filling). The swiss meringue base sound interesting.
Support your local farmer

Currently reading:
The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

Just finished reading:
The 100-Mile Diet by Alisa Smith & J. B. MacKinnon

#18 Lesley C

Lesley C
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 2,548 posts
  • Location:Montreal

Posted 05 May 2004 - 02:35 PM

I think we're getting terms confused here. There's French meringue, Swiss meringue and Italian meringue, but there's no French buttercream, Swiss buttercream and Italian buttercream. And that description of German buttercream is certainly NEW to me. You can make buttercream with an Anglaise as your base, but if you're beating butter into pastry cream, you're making creme mousseline, the kind of cream you would use for a Fraisier. And if you're folding Italian meringue into pastry cream you're making creme chiboust.
And in my books, you aren't making Italian meringue unless the sugar reaches 121 degrees C; 116 is not high enough.

#19 Steve Klc

Steve Klc
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 3,739 posts
  • Location:Washington, DC mostly

Posted 05 May 2004 - 02:37 PM

There's always the Alton Brown buttercream method.
Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant
Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

#20 JanKK

JanKK
  • participating member
  • 96 posts
  • Location:Chicago

Posted 05 May 2004 - 03:41 PM

Ok ...I give up ...............is sticking your fingers in boiling sugar syrup or caramel some kind of macho thing?? A secret club? The mark of a REAL baker??

I am perplexed as to why anyone would WANT to do this --unless they don't own a spoon.

::going back to my corner:::: ;)

#21 chefette

chefette
  • participating member
  • 854 posts

Posted 05 May 2004 - 03:45 PM

macho

#22 chefpeon

chefpeon
  • participating member
  • 1,796 posts
  • Location:Tinytown, WA, USA

Posted 05 May 2004 - 07:09 PM

<ahem>
Since it's been awhile since I graduated from pastry school, I figured I'd better hit the
books again to refresh my memory about meringues. I've been in the "real world" too
long and all those ragamuffins in the kitchen have soiled my proper education!

Ok.....I actually knew my version of meringue (in that the whites and sugar are heated
together) is called Swiss Meringue.....duh.....I've just sort of come to know it as "easy
meringue", 'cause, well, that's what it is.

According to his eminence Bo Friberg, the major difference between Italian and Swiss
Meringue (besides the preparation method) is that supposedly Italian Meringue is more
stable and is ideal for desserts in which the meringue is eaten "raw" or merely browned
on top, such as Baked Alaska. Swiss Meringue will deflate faster.

So......when it comes to making buttercream with meringue, the stability of Swiss Meringue
isn't really an issue, because with buttercream, you don't have to really worry about it
"deflating". I have come to the conclusion that if you make a meringue buttercream with
Italian Meringue or Swiss Meringue......the end result will essentially be the same, the keeping
qualities will be the same, and the flavor will be the same. So.........
since Swiss is inherently easier.......why mess around with making Italian and doing it the
hard way?

I choose easy.
:raz: Annie

#23 Tepee

Tepee
  • participating member
  • 1,804 posts

Posted 05 May 2004 - 07:26 PM

I have come to the conclusion that if you make a meringue buttercream with Italian Meringue or Swiss Meringue......the end result will essentially be the same, the keeping
qualities will be the same, and the flavor will be the same.  So.........
since Swiss is inherently easier.......why mess around with making Italian and doing it the
hard way?

I choose easy.
:raz: Annie


Ditto! My unrefined tastebuds can't tell the difference :rolleyes: ; both tastes yummy to me!

By the way, Annie, I had a peek at your site. You do great cakes!

Edited by TP(M'sia), 05 May 2004 - 07:33 PM.

TPcal!
Food Pix (plus others)

Please take pictures of all the food you get to try (and if you can, the food at the next tables)............................Dejah

#24 Wendy DeBord

Wendy DeBord
  • legacy participant
  • 3,653 posts

Posted 05 May 2004 - 07:49 PM

Boy oh boy I just have to jump on this band wagon too. A couple of you had me laughing pretty good, thanks!


First I think we need to imagine what it's like to make buttercream at home with a tiny mixer on the kitchen counter. That's foreign to several of us. Where I'm heading is HEIGHT. Unless your very tall your visually limited when you pour into a kitchen aid sitting on an averagely HIGH kitchen counter.....and the bowl is closer to your face- I can see how someone might be scared the syrup would splash out at you. SO from that deduction I can understand why Kthull has his method and why Carp used the sheild as a saftey blanket. I think we also have to remember that in these little kitchen aides is waht like 6 whites at the most.....it's tiny. THEN when you cook a sugar syrup in such a small amount you're highly likely to over heat because you have to consider the pan continues cooking the syrup while your picking it up to move to you mixer. I then THINK what happens to people is their syrup has gotten way too hot and when it hits the bowl and whisk they've got vertually a hard crack shooting around in their bowl.

When we/professionals make buttercream we're using mixers set at a lower height, we can see clearly into our bowls. We're not heating 3 tbsp. worth of syrup, we know when to take it off the heat depending upon how heavy our pan is and how far we need to walk it to the bowl...during that time the syrup isn't turning into hard crack.

But of course Lesley and the other pros here are correct and only giving great advice. I just wanted to point out that it's not comparing apples to apples what we do at work and what people in home kitchens experince. Quite frankly it's easier to make a huge batch then a tiny one-I think!

O.k. I'll shut up and sit down now.........oh wait, if we get to pick favorites.... I agree with a egg yolk butter cream for taste and for easiest method for a meringue- a water bath beats a syrup for home baking.

Hey where's Annie's site I want to take a peek too?

#25 Lesley C

Lesley C
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 2,548 posts
  • Location:Montreal

Posted 06 May 2004 - 04:55 AM

Funny, I consider Italian meringue easier. Swiss meringue can get gloopy, shiny and thick, and whip up poorly.
I noticed a few years ago on Martha Stewart's show that they switched to Swiss meringue buttercream for making wedding cakes. I have tried her recipe and it's quite good.

#26 nightscotsman

nightscotsman
  • participating member
  • 3,068 posts
  • Location:Las Vegas

Posted 06 May 2004 - 03:07 PM

macho

You wouldn't say that if you met me. :wink:

two points on the fingers in boiling sugar and I'll shut up:

1) I've got many burn scars from the ovens and hot sheet pans, but I've never burned myself testing hot sugar with my fingers.

2) I don't think we even have a thermometer in our kitchen, and the women on the team don't seem to mind it when they have to make the meringue.

As far as which method - Swiss or Italian - I think whatever works for you. For me, I find the Italian method is faster and takes less attention. I'd rather give my whisking arm a rest.

#27 chefette

chefette
  • participating member
  • 854 posts

Posted 07 May 2004 - 04:04 AM

I think that it is the food safety issue
Italian meringe buttercream is taken to a higher heat so the whites are 'cooked' more thoroughly
so not only is it more stable but also better in applications where one is feeding the public including the elderly and young children

But otherwise it is personal preference.

#28 spyddie

spyddie
  • participating member
  • 36 posts

Posted 10 May 2004 - 07:29 PM

[quote name='Comfort Me' date='May 4 2004, 09:24 PM'] OK -- so I'm making a shitload of a whilte buttercream -- the regular way -- egg whites beaten and cooked with a hot sugar syrup, then butter beaten in.

I skip the cooking process. To my understanding there are 2 purposes for cooking the sugar, 1. dissolve the sugar crystals, 2. kill any bactirias in eggs. I prlong the whipping time to 30min to solve the first problem and use frozen egg white which is pastureized and that solved the second problem


Frozen egg white 10#

sugar 24#
salt 2 table spoons

butter 27#
cake shortening 14#

vanilla extract 2#

oil 2# (optional)


whip egg white (room temperature) to soft peak add sugar and salt, leave the mixer in 3rd gear set the timer for 30 minutes (shorten the time will have sugar crystals in finish product). When alarm go off add butter, shortening and slowly add the vanilla extract right after it, continuou to whip in 3nd speed untill the butter cream almost reach top of 80 qt bowl and add 2# of oil just to cream in.

*Use only frozen egg white (pastureized).

hope this helps

Edited by spyddie, 10 May 2004 - 07:35 PM.


#29 Lesley C

Lesley C
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 2,548 posts
  • Location:Montreal

Posted 10 May 2004 - 08:17 PM

No offense spyddie (I see this is your first post so I really hate to be brutal but...), but that's the kind of recipe that gives pastry a bad name. Shortening and oil! Talk about unhealthy.
If you're going to go the shortening route, I would skip the meringue altogether and beat together white fondant, unsalted butter, and emulsified shortening.
I have never seen a buttercream recipe that contains oil. Where did you get that recipe?

#30 spyddie

spyddie
  • participating member
  • 36 posts

Posted 10 May 2004 - 09:44 PM

Lesley,

Point taken, but would like to make few points about your common.

Sweet butter is not healthier than shortening and oil.

First I would like to introduce myself, I am certified Pastry Chef from CIA and I have 12 years of working experience in baking/pastry field(retail,wholesale,hotel). Currently I am running a 10,000 sq/ft bakery kitchen that supply all our 5 retail bakery outlets with 20+ wholesale accounts so I think I know a little bit of what I am talking about. I can see from you point of view--quality and taste is your #1 concern, but when you are running a commercial kitchen the size I am running, trust me there is more than just quality and taste you have to worry about. Things such as ingridents cost, labor cost,product shelf live, quality consistency.....list goes on.

Cake shortening is not same as general purpose shortening but if taste is your top cerncer, then feel free to replace cake shortening with sweet butter, the finish product will tasted better but it will have more yellowlish look which is not good for wedding cake icing. We also use same butter cream for butter cream roses adding the cake shortening will make it much easier to work with. As for the oil, it's acturally very common practice among bakers, it's a easy way(cheating) to add the shine to the finish product but if all the steps has been done correctly it's not necessary to add the oil to make it shining, that's why I put is as option.

By the way don't jump to conclusion to early before you try it :rolleyes: .

Edited by spyddie, 10 May 2004 - 09:57 PM.