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Swiss Meringue Buttercream
By Kelly McGeehan - October 30, 2017
I often get complimented on the flavor of my "not too sweet" buttercream. Clients tell me all the time that they don't like too much frosting because it is just way too sweet. Usually that's because it is made with confectionary sugar and low quality ingredients. Adding more sugar helps mask the taste of a cheap frosting. I take a lot of pride in my 4 ingredient Swiss Meringue Buttercream. I use it for all my cakes and macarons!
Swiss Meringue vs. Italian Meringue
You may ask, "Why Swiss meringue over Italian meringue buttercream?" For me, I like Swiss meringue buttercream better for two reasons. First of all, it's quicker to make! So if you have to bust out 5 batches in an afternoon, it takes about half the time that Italian meringue does. Second, it's foolproof. I used Italian meringue for many, many years earlier in my career. I do love the taste and texture, but it can be messed up pretty easily.
The difference between the two types of buttercream are mainly the method they are made. And also that Italian meringue has water added into the recipe, while Swiss does not. When you make a Swiss meringue, you heat up your egg whites and sugar over a double boiler. Once your sugar is dissolved and your whites are nice and hot (165*), you can start whipping your meringue. For Italian meringue, you make a simple syrup (water and granulated sugar) and heat it up to 225* and then starting whipping your egg whites. You continue to heat the syrup up to 235* and once that temperature is reached, you very slowly stream the syrup into the whipping whites. While it sounds pretty easy, many things can go wrong during that final step. Your whites may not be whipped up quite large enough or they may be overwhipped. You may add your syrup a little too quickly and deflate the whole meringue. If that happens, you have to start over completely. There's just no "re-flating" a meringue. So if you go with the Italian method, which takes longer to make, and then you deflate your meringue, you are out way more time! Enough time to make two batches of Swiss meringue!
The only problem I have ever encountered making Swiss meringue is when I tried to make a batch that was slightly too large for my 5 qt mixing bowl. My meringue wasn't able to whip up as high as it needed to be and inherently was warmer than desired. Once you add butter to meringue that is still too warm, it ends up melting the butter, instead of emulsifying it into the egg whites. IF this happens to you, not all is lost. Take your mixing bowl with the loose buttercream and throw it in the fridge for 20-30 minutes. That will chill the butter back up. Pop it back onto your mixer and whip it until it comes back together.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
10 oz egg whites
1# granulated sugar
1# 10 oz unsalted, softened butter
1 T vanilla paste
Pinch of sea salt
Method of Preparation
*Over a double boiler, heat the egg whites, granulated sugar, salt, and vanilla until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is very hot. (165*)
*Transfer to a 5 qt mixing bowl and using a whisk, whip up the mixture into a meringue on medium speed. This process will take about 10-12 minutes.
*Continue to whip meringue until the bowl is cool to the touch. Switch to a low speed and add chunks of softened butter. Whip on high speed for 1 minute once all butter is added.
Perfect, smooth, and not too sweet!
**Store at room temperature and use within 3 days. Your egg whites are pasteurized through the heating process, so don't worry about bacteria. Be sure that the buttercream is stored in a cool, dark area. If you prefer to refrigerate, take out the buttercream at least 2-3 hours before using. You will most likely still need to put it into your Kitchenaid and whip it back up to a softer consistency**
**Remember to scrape your butter pads with an offset spatula to get every last bit of butter!