Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The BEST Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Smooth, creamy, silky... so light it barely lasts on your tongue despite all that butter.

This is how to make Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

It is my favourite of them all and it sits somewhere between American Buttercream and Italian Meringue Buttercream in terms of its difficulty.

Unlike American buttercream, this recipe uses no icing sugar (and a lot less sugar in general) so expect ZERO grittiness that is typically associated with sickly sweet frostings.

Like Italian Meringue Buttercream, Swiss Meringue Buttercream also requires separating eggs but no sugar syrup. For the former type, you need to boil sugar with water to a certain temperature which cooks the egg white and essentially forms marshmallow. The Swiss kind applies the same principle but in a less intense method. Instead you combine the egg whites and sugar in a bowl and whisk vigorously over simmering water until the sugar is completely dissolved and the eggs reach a safe eating temperature - although with fresh eggs, this isn't so much of an issue. The temperature serves mostly to dissolve sugar and slightly denature (or break down) protein strands so that they can grab on to each other and trap air better.

Dissolved sugar = no grit = silky smooth = stable meringue.

You will find that this frosting tastes light and silky smooth despite 1 cup of butter in the recipe! It pipes like a dream thanks to the stability provided by the meringue. Also, it is more resistant to heat (ie. melting) making it perfect for summer BBQ's.

Once you get the hang of this you will find that it easy to whip up! The main issue most people have is when the butter is added, the mixture begins to curdle and look like there is no way in hell it will recover. It will! It comes back when the balance is just right and there is enough physical force to bring it all together.

How to ensure smooth buttercream?

Heat the egg whites slowly and carefully over the simmering water and don't let them get too hot. If you cook them, the proteins will break down entirely and they will lose their emulsifying properties.

What happens if my buttercream separates?

Either you didn't add all of the butter or you added it too quickly. Add the butter to the meringue while the machine is whipping just 1 tablespoon at a time. Once it is all added, continue to whip on high speed for up to 2 minutes. Sometimes it just takes force to bring the fat and water phases together. If this still doesn't work, then it might mean your water-fat balance is off. Your egg whites may be larger than normal and there is too much water, so try adding a tablespoon or two more butter.

Can I use any type of chocolate?

To control the sweetness of the frosting, I always prefer to use dark chocolate. Anything from 55-80% will work well. I prefer 70% bittersweet chocolate and if you are really serious about achieving those super sharp straight cuts and defined swirls then use couverture chocolate with a high cocoa butter content. It's uber professional and you can use it to make tempered chocolates too.

The Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
makes enough to frost 18-24 cupcakes or one 8-inch layer cake

4 large egg whites (about 135g)
¾ cup plus 2 tbsp (175g) granulated sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 cup (227g) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 1 tbsp pieces
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
7 oz (200g) dark chocolate (60-70% cocoa), melted and cooled

Whisk together egg whites, sugar and salt in the heatproof bowl of a stand mixer (or other heatproof mixing bowl if using a hand mixer). Place the bowl over a saucepan with ½-inch of simmering water and whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 144°F (62°C), about 5 minutes. The mixture should feel warm to the touch and should not feel gritty if you rub it between your fingers.

Remove from heat and immediately attach the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until it is completely cooled to room temperature. This will take 7-10 minutes and the mixture will appear white and fluffy like marshmallow or shaving cream. If using a hand mixer, it may take longer and wear your arm out!

Meanwhile, melt chocolate gently in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan with ½-inch of barely simmering water. Set it aside to cool enough so that it won’t melt the butter in the frosting.
With mixer on medium speed, add the butter one tablespoon at a time to the cooled whipped meringue. Once all of the butter is added, increase speed to high and beat for 1-2 minutes until creamy and smooth. The mixture will go from looking grainy and soupy to smooth, silky and glossy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the melted and cooled chocolate mixture and beat for another minute until well blended, smooth, whipped and creamy. Cover with a damp cloth if not using immediately. Otherwise, pile frosting over cooled cupcakes or spread between cooled cake layers any way you like.
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