Monday, Sugar Rush shared a primer explaining just what buttercream is -- and how many different kinds there are. Today: Make your own in eight steps.
Step 1: Egg whites and sugar go into your mixing bowl and are placed over a pot of boiling water.
Step 2: Whisk the mixture as it heats, dissolving the sugar and giving it some froth. Think of the sugar and egg as strengthening the mixture. It melts down and, with the protein of the egg, acts as the muscle for your buttercream.
Step 3: When the sugar has dissolved (test by rubbing some of the mixture between your fingers to see if it is still gritty. If it is still gritty, your sugar hasn't dissolved; keep whisking). Make sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl as well, so that all the sugar is dissolved. The mixture will be a bit frothy.
Step 4: Put the mixing bowl on the mixer with the whip attachment. Set it to high and whip until light and fluffy (meringue consistency), and the bowl is cool to the touch.
Step 5: Start adding butter in slivers. I like slivers of butter versus chunks of butter because they incorporate faster and lessen the chance of globs of eggy butter flying out at me.
Step 6: Allow the mixture to come together to be smooth and fluffy, then add flavoring.
Step 7: Eat by the spoonful. You deserve a treat.
Step 8: Store in the fridge for seven to 10 days, though it rarely lasts that long.
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To bring your buttercream back to its light, fluffy state after being refrigerated, I pull it from the fridge to take the chill off (usually about 20 minutes). I then paddle it to bring it back together. Using the whip usually incorporates more air into the mixture, when what I want is to bring it back together. If needed you can always throw the whip back on, after paddling, if it needs more air incorporated.
As in any job, there are things you start to find tedious, be it a report you always have to run, a customer you always have to deal with, or scooping 1,500 small cookies. One task I never tire of doing is making buttercream. It is edible chemistry. As the chunks of butter drop into the fluff of the warm eggs and sugar, you see a soupy chunky mixture take shape. Don't worry, no mistakes have been made, this is the transformation. Slowly, with each rotation of the whip, it comes back together, corralling the butter into a mass of light, feathery pillows of beautiful buttercream. Happy buttercream making!
Rachel Miller is a pastry chef and food writer in Phoenix, where she bakes, eats, and single-handedly keeps her local cheese shop in business. You can get more information about her pastry at www.pistolwhippedpastry.com, or on her blog at www.croissantinthecity.com.