How To Make Swiss Meringue Buttercream
The recipe calls for a 1:2 ratio of egg whites and sugar. The hardest step in making a perfectly whipped Swiss Meringue Buttercream, fit for the tastebuds of royalty or best friends for that matter, is in the careful separation of egg whites. Egg whites can be separated in one of many ways, depending on preference.
You may choose to use a separator, with little slots that perfectly drain the egg whites or you can deploy the eggshell to eggshell waltz that, though inaccurate to a certain degree, makes for a wonderful performance, worthy of an applause in the kitchen, as your fingers do a dance for nobody, because you are inherently alone.
I’ve spent many nights hunched over a sink, feverishly executing the egg white tango only to have a few drops of egg yolk slither sneakily past me and ending up in my perfect bowl of 6 egg whites. I let out an exasperated heave, a sigh, sometimes a loud internal blood-curdling scream, and throw the whole lot out. And then I start again, and again, and again until I get it right.
You see, the Swiss meringue buttercream does not take anybody prisoner. It demands perfection, it demands the absolute perfect execution of the most basic of cake making skills for it to froth, rise and become the magic that it was always meant to be.
Whisk the egg whites and sugar in a Bain Marie, which is posh French for a double boiler. Continuously whisk the sugar-egg white mixture until it reaches the exact temperature of 60 degrees Celsius, with a reading of a candy thermometer. The aim here, at this temperature, is two folds.
One, at this temperature all the nasty bacterias present in raw egg whites will disappear and two, the sugar, at this same temperature would also have melted into the mixture.
(Contrary to popular belief, things do not need to come to a boil for it to die. Sometimes all it takes is a warm 60 degrees temperature, constant stirring and not taking your eyes off the current situation for bacteria to perish)
What then, does one do if one does not have a candy thermometer? Simple, dip your finger into the mixture and rub it between your fingers. When you feel granular friction, keep on whisking and stop only when the degree of separation between your fingertips is almost, always equal to zero. That’s when you know everything bad and nasty has died.
Then, you beat the softened butter till white. Softened, not melted. There is a difference between the two. Room temperature butter gives way easily to touch, making an indentation on an otherwise silky smooth surface of the combination of fats and oil. The combination that gives it that majestic yellow colour. At room temperature, butter becomes a huge soaking agent for anything the baker throws in his way. Sugar? Cream it. Flour? Mix till it becomes a grainy consistency. Eggs? Well, no one really does that because there are some things butter can and cannot do. And for the things she can, butter evolves to become this wonderfully creamy texture that melts so succinctly in your mouth that it makes one forget that the world is indeed as bitter as it is turning out to be.
You know the creaming process of butter is complete when the mixture almost doubles and turns a pale white colour. This is the point where butter stops being who it was singularly meant to be. It stops being a unique combination of fats and oil and begins giving itself to the severe beating and turning of the mixing paddle, determined to make the many facets of itself into one. Forcing them to sort out their differences, take a breather and understand that separately, they’re great, but together, beaten, they are a symphony.
Then, you take half of the sugar-egg white solution and pour it into your creamed butter. Set the mixer on high and watch as the egg whites in the mixture get whipped out, torn between wanting to be a meringue and wanting to be a buttercream. Torn between wanting to form soft peaks and wanting to emulsify into the butter.
Adding half of the liquid at a time allows the mechanical action of the mixer to work to develop the emulsion without overwhelming the butter and causing the mixture to break. In doing this slowly, the buttercream is given time to allow the air to be incorporated within itself as it rises and form peaks.
But in between, the more you look, you will realise that yr mixture is starting to look a lot like curdled eggs. Is this how betrayal looks like? Is this what happens when you don’t warm the egg whites up to exactly 60 degrees Celsius? Is this what happens when you should have beaten the butter just that 2 minutes longer? Is this betrayal a direct causation of you and your careless mistakes that started at the beginning and never stopped at any time throughout? Is this what you deserve? A curdled buttercream that will never amount to anything at all?
You peek over the bowl just to be sure that the damage is done.
And then something magical happens.
You can see the buttercream physically coming together, going round and round and with every turn, it becomes fluffier. With every round, it gathers what is left of the unmixed butter and invites them into this joyful tango of sugar, egg whites, and butter. With every revolution, it forms soft peaks that remind you that all this worry, all this beating yourself up was not for naught. The white buttercream transforms itself into a singular entity that is a combination of different parts of very different ingredients that were never meant to work harmoniously together.
Hello, my name is Zat. And I am obsessed with life, love, music, and baking.