Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Basics: Swiss Buttercream v.2

I have a new blog crush: The Woodland Bakery Blog. I used to watch Gretchen Price's "Crumb Boss" videos on You Tube then got distracted and forgot about them. You know, busy mom, busy life, yadda, yadda, yadda. Then, for some unknown reason, I remembered about them last month and went looking for them again. I was so glad to discover that she'd converted the "Crumb Boss" channel to the "Woodland Bakery Blog/You Tube" channel. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, all her videos and so far all the recipes I've tried. She really knows what she's talking about but presents it in such a easy going way. No snooty, snobby, uppityness on her blog. Just great recipes presented in a easy to follow and fun way. I love it, I may even pull a "Julie/Julia" thing and blog my way through all her recipes. Maybe, when I come across all that extra time I seem to have misplaced.

Anywho, I was intrigued by her Swiss Buttercream recipe and decided to try that first. My first love is still Nick Malgieri's "Easy Meringue Buttercream", but I've always been wary of piping with it, specifically roses, things that need a stiffer texture to retain their shape. For piping roses, I loved the way the icing we used at the grocery store performed, the texture was perfect. The taste not so much. Kind of gritty, and basically just shortening and sugar. YUCK. Pretty similar to Wilton's basic buttercream recipe, perfect for piping but greasy, overly sweet and not much real flavor. Gretchen's recipe looked to be a hybrid of the two recipes. It had the egg white "Swiss Meringue" preparation of Nick's recipe, and the shortening/powdered sugar combo of the Wilton recipe. Could it deliver the right combination of taste and texture? Let's find out. . .

Ingredients: Egg whites (I usually use powdered but went with fresh this time, either will work.), granulated sugar, powdered sugar, butter and shortening (both at room temperature) and vanilla or other flavoring.

In a large heatproof bowl*, whisk together the egg whites and granulated sugar. NOT the powdered sugar, you'll add that later. Try not to get too much on the sides and use the whisk to scrape down the sides. 
*I just use the bowl of my mixer but you can use a separate bowl and then transfer the mixture to the mixer later.

Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water. This is my makeshift double boiler. Whisk the egg whites gently but continuously until they reach 140°F on a candy thermometer.
Note: Gretchen's recipe says to go to 115°F but that makes me nervous when using raw egg whites so I went with the 140°F from Nick's recipe just to be on the safe side. If you use powdered egg whites this probably isn't necessary, use your own judgement.

When the egg/sugar mixture reaches temperature, remove from heat and transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer with the whip attachment. Whip on high speed until it is thick, glossy and doubled (or more) in volume. It should have very stiff peaks and be completely cool to the touch. Just run your hands around the outside of the base of the bowl, if you feel even the slightest warmth, keep going. It's very critical that the mixture be completely cool.

While the egg/sugar mixture is whipping, go ahead and sift your powdered sugar. I usually skip this step, but for this recipe, you want the sugar to be lump free, so take the extra minute for this step. I sift it onto a sheet of waxed paper then just lift the edges and pour the sugar into the bowl.

When the egg white mixture is completely cool, has stiff peaks and has at least doubled in volume, add the powdered sugar all at once and mix in well. Do this on low speed or you'll have a powdered sugar dust storm in your kitchen.

Once the powdered sugar is incorporated add the butter and shortening in 3-4 additions. Here again, it's critical that the butter and shortening are the same consistency and at room temperature. Add the 3-4 additions separately but quickly. Beat on high speed until the mixture comes together and is creamy. It will deflate a bit and may look separated, kind of like scrambled eggs, at first, but just keep whipping it on high speed. I promise it will come together.

Once it's creamy and smooth and all the butter and shortening are incorporated (you may need to stop the mixer and scrape down the sides a couple of times.) Add whatever flavoring you want, I went with vanilla. Beat it in quickly. You can also add color her if you want.

There you have it, luscious, creamy, Swiss Buttercream. This recipe was exactly what I thought it would be. A total hybrid between Swiss Meringue Buttercream and Wilton's Buttercream. It piped beautifully, check out the roses below. It has a great buttery taste and no funky greasy shortening taste. It also has a slight bit of sugary grit (from the powdered sugar) which I kind of like. Reminds me of the birthday cakes we used to get at the grocery store when I was a kid. I'll probably stick with Nick Malgieri's "Easy Meringue Buttercream" if I'm just splitting and filling a cake with simple decoration. However, if I need to do a lot of piping, an elaborate party cake or a tiered wedding cake, I would use this recipe for sure. I can't wait to try the other flavor combinations.

(Note: for the pink on this cake, I added strawberry puree to the buttercream, following Gretchen's recipe for Strawberry Buttercream.)

Here again are the recipe links:
Woodland Bakery Blog: "Strawberry Buttercream"

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