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Italian Meringue Buttercream


Dora S
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Hi, I'm new here and I have tried searching the eG forums regarding this topic but without success. Is it possible to make an italian meringue buttercream less sweet? The recipe I am using is basically RLB's Mousseline Buttercream; it tastes light and yet luxurious and piped beautifully on cupcakes. Most of my relatives who tasted it commented that the buttercream was much too sweet! They liked the texture of the buttercream but not the sweetness. Is there any way of reducing the sugar in the recipe? Also on a side note, is there such a thing as an unsweetened buttercream? If so, could anyone recommend a recipe?

Thanks!

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You could reduce some of the sugar in the syrup; but if your relatives thought it was much too sweet to begin with, I'm not sure that will help matters. Did you use an alcohol to flavor it (I'm thinking if you used a sweet liqueur that might have taken it over the top)?

I use IMBC as my "house" buttercream in the bakeshop (I don't add the alcohol), but no one has ever mentioned it is too sweet. Sometimes people feel it is too rich because of the butter (it's usually clients who prefer the confectioner's sugar/butter variety that find IMBC too rich by comparison) but for people who ask me for something sweeter, I go for a different formula entirely. The Classic/Neoclassic are both richer (due to the yolks) so maybe that might be worth a try.

The other alternative is to use the pastry cream buttercream in the Cake Bible, that is less sweet than the Classic/Neoclassic and Mousseline ones.

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You could reduce some of the sugar in the syrup...

I'm in culinary school for pastry & baking and we're covering buttercreams right now. We were told that the ratios for buttercream are 2:1 sugar to egg whites and a minimum of 1:1 butter to sugar with a maximum of 2:1 for swiss and 3:1 for italian.

You're saying that you could go less than the 2:1 ratio of sugar to whites. Do you know the minimum amount that you can use and still maintain a stable foam?

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I made it as is without any liquors, so that would not be a factor. I am wondering if it would be possible to reduce the sugar syrup without compromising the overall texture/ stability?

Also, which pastry cream buttercream are you referring to? I can't seem to locate the recipe in the book. I will give the classic/ neoclassic ones a try though!

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Admittedly I am very bad at math and am not even going to try to figure out what the ratios are for the batches I make, so if I give you the numbers.... :biggrin:

Small batch size for the 6 qt mixer:

17.25 oz sugar (14 oz in the pot with the water; 3.25 in the whites)

12.5 oz whites

40oz (2.5#) butter

Normal batch size for the 20 qt mixer:

41.5 oz sugar (31 oz in the pot with the water; 10.5 in with the whites)

30.5 oz whites

98 oz (6#) butter

So the instructors are saying that the ratios for Italian meringue bcrm is 2 parts sugar to 1 part whites and a maximum of 3 parts butter to 1 part sugar - yes? This would mean that for 12 oz of whites, they tell you to use 24 oz of sugar and 36 oz butter? (what do your instructors say about minimums? For all I know, these numbers above could represent minimum amounts, these are formulas I got from my own instructors. These are batches I make on a regular basis because of the mixer size.)

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Admittedly I am very  bad at math and am not even going to try  to figure out what the ratios are for the batches I make, so if I give you the numbers.... :biggrin:

Small batch size for the 6 qt mixer:

17.25 oz sugar (14 oz in the pot with the water; 3.25 in the whites)

12.5 oz whites

40oz (2.5#) butter

Normal batch size for the 20 qt mixer:

41.5 oz sugar (31 oz in the pot with the water; 10.5 in with the whites)

30.5 oz whites

98 oz (6#) butter

So the instructors are saying that the ratios for Italian meringue bcrm is 2 parts sugar to 1 part whites and a maximum of 3 parts butter to 1 part sugar - yes?  This would mean that for 12 oz of whites, they tell you to use 24 oz of sugar and 36 oz butter?  (what do your instructors say about minimums?  For all I know, these numbers above could represent minimum amounts, these are formulas I got from my own instructors.  These are batches I make on a regular basis because of the mixer size.)

JeanneCake, your ratios are 1.38 : 1 for sugar to whites and 2.36 : 1 for butter to sugar. You have much less sugar than the 2:1 ratio, so it is no wonder yours is less sweet.

I'm all about the ratios, so I can make any size batch on the fly. And in your example above, if you use 12 oz whites, 24 oz sugar, you can use up to 72 oz butter because the butter can be up to 3 times the sugar (you used whites). I always relate everything to the whites in my head for some reason.

Question of my own -- why the different ratio of butter in Swiss versus Italian. I cook my Swiss to 160F for salmonella reasons, and don't use Italian because of theories that it really doesn't cook to a high enough temperature for long enough to kill salmonella. That aside, I have taken Italian recipes and made them using a Swiss method and haven't really noticed that they weren't good. Granted, no side by side comparison was done...

Cheryl, The Sweet Side
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Admittedly I am very  bad at math and am not even going to try  to figure out what the ratios are for the batches I make, so if I give you the numbers.... :biggrin:

Small batch size for the 6 qt mixer:

17.25 oz sugar (14 oz in the pot with the water; 3.25 in the whites)

12.5 oz whites

40oz (2.5#) butter

Normal batch size for the 20 qt mixer:

41.5 oz sugar (31 oz in the pot with the water; 10.5 in with the whites)

30.5 oz whites

98 oz (6#) butter

So the instructors are saying that the ratios for Italian meringue bcrm is 2 parts sugar to 1 part whites and a maximum of 3 parts butter to 1 part sugar - yes?  This would mean that for 12 oz of whites, they tell you to use 24 oz of sugar and 36 oz butter?  (what do your instructors say about minimums?  For all I know, these numbers above could represent minimum amounts, these are formulas I got from my own instructors.  These are batches I make on a regular basis because of the mixer size.)

The ratio my instructor gave me is 2:1 sugar to whites, which in your example of 12 oz of whites would mean 24 oz of sugar. She never mentioned that the sugar to whites ratio could be adjusted. As for the butter to sugar ration, the minimum amount is 1:1 with a maximum of 3:1. So in our example that would a minimum of 24 oz of butter with a maximum of 72 oz of butter.

Your recipe has a 1.4:1 ratio of sugar to whites and a 2.3:1 ratio of butter to sugar. Maybe I'll make up a batch of each and do a comparison of the two. Thanks!

Sean

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Question of my own -- why the different ratio of butter in Swiss versus Italian.  I cook my Swiss to 160F for salmonella reasons, and don't use Italian because of theories that it really doesn't cook to a high enough temperature for long enough to kill salmonella.  That aside, I have taken Italian recipes and made them using a Swiss method and haven't really noticed that they weren't good.  Granted, no side by side comparison was done...

I don't know anything, but I remember reading that Swiss and Italian taste the same, but Swiss sets softer. Or the other way around.

May

Totally More-ish: The New and Improved Foodblog

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I don't know anything, but I remember reading that Swiss and Italian taste the same, but Swiss sets softer. Or the other way around.

No, you had it right the first time -- Swiss is much softer than Italian, in my experience. Many bakers prefer the Swiss method because it heats the egg whites more thoroughly than the Italian method.

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I don't know anything, but I remember reading that Swiss and Italian taste the same, but Swiss sets softer. Or the other way around.

No, you had it right the first time -- Swiss is much softer than Italian, in my experience. Many bakers prefer the Swiss method because it heats the egg whites more thoroughly than the Italian method.

Hmm, I can't say I really noticed the texture difference. Maybe that difference is lost because of the temp I cook it to. Most older recipes only say 120F, but I always go to 160F -- back to that salmonella thing.

When would you notice the difference in "set". When it's warm out? Or at a normal room temp? Or in the fridge?

Calling all food scientists -- or just those in the know....

Cheryl, The Sweet Side
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Hmm, I can't say I really noticed the texture difference.  Maybe that difference is lost because of the temp I cook it to.  Most older recipes only say 120F, but I always go to 160F -- back to that salmonella thing. 

When would you notice the difference in "set".  When it's warm out?  Or at a normal room temp?  Or in the fridge?

Calling all food scientists -- or just those in the know....

A quick google search led me here - http://www.baking911.com/decorating/cakes_...am.htm#meringue

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Hmm, I can't say I really noticed the texture difference.  Maybe that difference is lost because of the temp I cook it to.  Most older recipes only say 120F, but I always go to 160F -- back to that salmonella thing. 

When would you notice the difference in "set".  When it's warm out?  Or at a normal room temp?  Or in the fridge?

Calling all food scientists -- or just those in the know....

A quick google search led me here - http://www.baking911.com/decorating/cakes_...am.htm#meringue

Ah, but it doesn't say WHY the Italian is more stable. I guess that's my question, and it likely goes back to why is an Italian meringue (the base) more stable than a Swiss meringue (again, just the base, w/o the butter). Is it temperature or is it the timing of adding the sugar (later rather than sooner)? Or is it the cooked structure of the sugar itself?

Cheryl, The Sweet Side
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My guess is that because the sugar gets hotter in Italian meringue, when it hits the eggwhites there is more evaporation of moisture? Personally I use Swiss because it is one less pot to wash, and no chance of caramelization.

Is this the first time you used the Cake Bible meringue buttercream? It would be too sweet if you didn't get the whites whipped enough, or the entire buttercream was underwhipped. It's amazing how air, the invisible ingredient, makes such a difference.

To make a buttercream less sweet, just use more butter. Or add a pinch of salt, which adds flavor as well.

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When the soft ball syrup poured into the egg whites, the heat transferred provides enough energy to form more stable complexes than in the case of Swiss Meringue, where the whole thing is only heated to 120/160F?

Or it could be that cooking the sugar with the unwhipped egg whites interferes with something. I do find that whipped egg whites are more stable when sugar is added after it's gotten to soft peaks stage.

May

Totally More-ish: The New and Improved Foodblog

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I don't know anything, but I remember reading that Swiss and Italian taste the same, but Swiss sets softer. Or the other way around.

No, you had it right the first time -- Swiss is much softer than Italian, in my experience. Many bakers prefer the Swiss method because it heats the egg whites more thoroughly than the Italian method.

Hmm, I can't say I really noticed the texture difference. Maybe that difference is lost because of the temp I cook it to. Most older recipes only say 120F, but I always go to 160F -- back to that salmonella thing.

When would you notice the difference in "set". When it's warm out? Or at a normal room temp? Or in the fridge?

Calling all food scientists -- or just those in the know....

I noticed the difference when I tried to pipe the Swiss -- it wasn't firm enough to do roses (which my Italian can handle). I'm guessing that the Italian meringue is just more stable than the Swiss, but I'm curious to hear everyone else's thoughts. (I've only tried Swiss once or twice.)

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...

Or it could be that cooking the sugar with the unwhipped egg whites interferes with something. I do find that whipped egg whites are more stable when sugar is added after it's gotten to soft peaks stage.

This is the part that I'm thinking....

Cheryl, The Sweet Side
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  • 1 month later...
...I cook my Swiss to 160F for salmonella reasons, and don't use Italian because of theories that it really doesn't cook to a high enough temperature for long enough to kill salmonella.  That aside, I have taken Italian recipes and made them using a Swiss method and haven't really noticed that they weren't good.  Granted, no side by side comparison was done...

I thought that with the Italian by heating the sugar syrup mixture up to 248-250 F, that would be sufficient to kill any potential salmonella in the meringue mixture. Am I wrong?

At any rate, I've made both Swiss and Italian meringue buttercreams. The Swiss tastes less sweet to me and more buttery. And the technique is easier than Italian. But I find that the Italian is more sturdy and doesn't break as easily as the Swiss.

With both icings, I find that they lose their flavor after a while and you have to re-flavor it.

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...I cook my Swiss to 160F for salmonella reasons, and don't use Italian because of theories that it really doesn't cook to a high enough temperature for long enough to kill salmonella.  That aside, I have taken Italian recipes and made them using a Swiss method and haven't really noticed that they weren't good.  Granted, no side by side comparison was done...

I thought that with the Italian by heating the sugar syrup mixture up to 248-250 F, that would be sufficient to kill any potential salmonella in the meringue mixture. Am I wrong?

Yes. Usually, we don't use enough sugar syrup to be able to bring the temperature of the egg whites up to 160F.

May

Totally More-ish: The New and Improved Foodblog

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With both icings, I find that they lose their flavor after a while and you have to re-flavor it.

I also found that out the hard way. Is there anything that can be done to prolong the flavor when flavoring IMBC a day or two before a wedding?

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