Troubleshooting Soupy Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Joined
May 27, 2022
Messages
9
Reaction score
4
How do I save this? It's soupy but I had it in the fridge thinking it needs to cool down but it just won't come together.
 

Attachments

  • 20220627_180932.jpg
    20220627_180932.jpg
    55.4 KB · Views: 17
  • 20220627_180920.jpg
    20220627_180920.jpg
    66.1 KB · Views: 17
Joined
Jun 22, 2017
Messages
4,076
Reaction score
2,084
I’m sure I recently answered a post by you on the same topic.

Post your recipe with
  • the mixing method (instructions)
  • brand of ingredients
  • temperature of ingredients
  • temperature of your kitchen

The only way to help you troubleshoot is with detailed information on what you’re using and what you’re doing with the ingredients.
 
Joined
May 27, 2022
Messages
9
Reaction score
4
I had posted about the same issue previously but I didn't take photos last time. This time I remembered to take them.
I ended up saving it by pretty much melting the buttercream so it was smooth and then cooling it before whipping it.

The recipe I use is below and the ingredients are always room temperature (i take the butter out of the fridge a few hours before i use it). The room temp is uusually between 20 and 22°C. for some reason, sometimes is works seamlessly and other times this happens.

  • 6 large egg whites (approximately 230g)
  • 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (3 sticks; 350g) unsalted butter, softened but still cool and cut into Tbsp size pieces (*see note*)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
Separate the eggs: If you haven’t done so yet, separate the eggs first. Separate 1 egg white in a small bowl, then place the egg white in your heatproof mixing bowl. Repeat with the remaining egg whites. This way, if a yolk breaks in one of them, you don’t waste the whole batch.

Whisk sugar into the egg whites, then set the bowl over a saucepan filled with just two inches of simmering water over medium heat. Do not let the bottom of the egg whites bowl touch the water. Whisk the whites and sugar constantly until sugar is dissolved and mixture has thinned out, about 4 minutes. The mixture will be thick and tacky at first, then thin out and be frothy white on top. To test that it’s ready, you can use your finger or an instant read thermometer. Lightly and quickly dip your finger (it’s very hot, be careful) and rub the mixture between your thumb and finger. You shouldn’t feel any sugar granules. If using a thermometer, the temperature should read 160°F (71°C).

If the bowl and meringue still feel warm, wait until both cool to room temperature (around 70°F (21°C)) before adding the butter in the next step. Feel free to place it in the refrigerator. A warm bowl and meringue will melt the butter.

Switch the stand mixer to the paddle attachment. On medium-high speed, add the butter 1 Tablespoon at a time. Wait for the butter to fully mix in before adding the next Tablespoon. After all the butter has been added, turn the mixer down to medium speed and fully beat in the vanilla and salt, about 30 seconds.

Your Swiss meringue buttercream should be thick, creamy, and silky smooth and is ready to use on any cake, cupcake, or other confection
 
Joined
Jun 22, 2017
Messages
4,076
Reaction score
2,084
I have to say the mixing method is unusual.

Divide the sugar, I indicate half here, but as you get better, you can dissolve more with the egg whites.


use approximately 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar to help stabilize thmeringue

Standard mixing method for a Swiss meringue buttercream:

Fill a pot large with just enough water to hold a mixer bowl without the bowl touching the water or the bottom of the pot.

Water should not touch the bottom of mixer bowl. Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer.

Place egg whites, HALF the sugar, salt in mixer bowl. Hand whisk to combine.


Place mixer bowl over simmering water. Whisking continuously to prevent eggs from cooking.

Heat egg mixture to a minimum of 140° (I heat to 160°). The sugar will dissolve as the egg whites heat.


After egg whites reach desired temperature remove from heat and wipe the outside of the bowl to remove any condensation


With whisk attachment, beat egg mixture on medium speed (kitchenaid #4) for about a minute.

Egg whites will be translucent, but very bubbly. Add Cream of Tartar and continue to beat on medium speed another minute, until egg whites begin to turn from translucent to white.

VERY gradually pour in the remaining sugar. It is important that the sugar is added gradually. There’s a scientific reason gradually beating in the sugar slowly, but I’m not going to get into here. If you are interested in learning the reason I explained it in an old post. You can search this website to read it. But it is for stability of the egg whites.

Increase speed to med-high (kitchenaid #6).

Beat until egg whites reach stiff peak. The egg whites will go from dull white to very smooth and glossy. I always watch the ring of egg whites up against the bowl. When that ring looks smooth and glossy, I know the egg whites are ready.



Stop mixer. Replace the whisk with the paddle attachment.



On low speed (kitchenaid #2) begin adding butter, a couple of cubes at a time. Allow the cubes to incorporate a bit before adding additional cubes of butter.



After all the butter has been added, set a timer for eight minutes. Now walk away. The buttercream will probably look like soup. In fact, the minute you begin adding butter it will deflate. This is perfectly normal. Have faith. Set the timer walk away.

When the timer goes off should have a butter cream. If the buttercream is not emulsified leave the mixer going


When the timer goes off should have a buttercream. If the butter cream is not emulsified leave the mixer going. sometimes it can take 11 minutes or more depending on butterfat levels, water levels, type of sugar, etc.



Flavor as desired



Extracts: Mix in any flavor of extract.



Vanilla bean & paste: for vanilla, i’d prefer to use vanilla bean or paste.



Chocolate or white chocolate: melt and cool approximately 6-8 oz of quality chocolate. Chocolate should be fluid, but cool. Mix into buttercream.



Purées: with purées, take care as too much can ruin the buttercream. Purée should be reduced to remove as much water as possible. Add small portions at a time. The moisture in purée will vary by fruit, and batch by batch. So don’t assume you can add the same amount of purée of the same fruit. Also don’t forget to sieve purée with seeds and skins like raspberries and blueberries.



Alcohol: Bailey’s Irish Cream, Grand Marnier, amaretto, rum, whiskey, whatever you like to taste. But given it is a liquid around 60mL (2oz) - 100mL (3.5oz)



Coloring: buttercream can be resistant to color due to the butter. I would NOT recommend Wilton colors. Americolor gels mixed with a bit of their Flo-coat will create a smooth even colored buttercream. The flo-coat essentially converts the gel color to a food color that can be used in applications where moisture is an issue, like in candy.
 
Joined
May 27, 2022
Messages
9
Reaction score
4
Thank you for all the detail!
I only have one question - wouldn't adding half the sugar after the meringue has formed cause it to be gritty ?
 
Joined
Jun 22, 2017
Messages
4,076
Reaction score
2,084
Thank you for all the detail!
I only have one question - wouldn't adding half the sugar after the meringue has formed cause it to be gritty ?
No it dissolves when added slowly into the egg whites which are at 160°F. The heat and gradual addition gives it time to dissolve if you are using regular granulated sugar.

Ideally baker‘s sugar or caster sugar is used when making meringues, mousses, flans, pastry creams, batters, etc. These superfine granulated sugar crystals are 1:1 by weight interchangeable with regular granulated sugar.

Since the crystals are superfine, they dissolve more readily.

These superfine sugars don’t require heat to dissolve, so are used in cold and room temperature liquids.

I prefer to use pure cane sugar to sugarbeet sugar. There are differences in performance, especially when it comes to caramelization (Millard Reaction). The food science research (as opposed to anecdotal evidence) on taste between the two are mixed. Some food scientists have found detectable taste difference, with unfavorable attributes found in sugarbeet sugar. Other studies have found no differences in flavor.

............
The mixing method in the recipe you have been using is odd. I wonder if the recipe source made an error in copying a recipe.

While a meringue buttercream can be made without making a meringue first, aeration is still required.

When a meringue is not used, then the butter must be aerated first. Then the cooled egg syrup added in stages to the whipped butter.

The problem with this reverse aeration technique is butter pliability is absolutely dependent on the temperature of the butter. When butter becomes too warm it loses it ability to hold its shape.

Butter melts at 95°F, which is just below body temperature. Most recipes incorrectly state butter for meringue to be “room temperature” which is 1) not a temperature; 2) too warm for beating in just about every baking application.

Friction from the mixer causes heat. Heat destroys the butter’s pliability.

So the reverse aeration method in which the butter is aerated first is a very unreliable since it lacks real controls to stabilize the buttercream.

The temperature of the egg whites in your recipe is also a bit high at 70°F. Without aeration, the thick viscosity of the mixture requires long beating time at higher speed. That friction just creates more heat.

Most bakers do not realize how much friction heat is generated by mixing . I cream sugar with butter straight out of the refrigerator. That 38°F butter reaches 68°F in about 6 minutes. And 68°F butter is precisely the FINISHED temperature for creamed butter. If I start with “room temperature” butter, the finished temperature will be in the high 80s to low 90s. The butter will be destroyed before the batter/dough is mixed.

The recipe you use in which egg whites and butter are beat together lacks both aeration and controls to stabilize the buttercream.
 
Joined
May 27, 2022
Messages
9
Reaction score
4
After reading what you said, I went back over the recipe and I've just realised there is a step missing in the recipe I shared. This step was missing

  • No need to let it cool down to start this next step– it’s important to begin mixing while it is still warm. Transfer mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (if you aren’t already using the metal bowl that comes with it). You can use a hand mixer instead, but this step takes awhile and your arm tires quickly. On medium-high speed, beat the mixture until stiff glossy peaks form and the meringue is no longer warm to the touch, at least 10-15 minutes. On particularly humid days, this has taken me up to 17-18 minutes. If it’s still not reaching stiff peaks, stop the mixer, place the bowl–uncovered–in the refrigerator for 10 minutes, then return to the mixer and continue beating until stiff peaks form. (This has always worked for me when it’s taking forever to reach stiff peaks.
thank you for the detailed explanation. I'll try your method next time and see how I go.
What should the ideal temperature be for the meringue and the butter before I start combining the two?
 
Joined
Jun 22, 2017
Messages
4,076
Reaction score
2,084
After reading what you said, I went back over the recipe and I've just realised there is a step missing in the recipe I shared. This step was missing

  • No need to let it cool down to start this next step– it’s important to begin mixing while it is still warm. Transfer mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (if you aren’t already using the metal bowl that comes with it). You can use a hand mixer instead, but this step takes awhile and your arm tires quickly. On medium-high speed, beat the mixture until stiff glossy peaks form and the meringue is no longer warm to the touch, at least 10-15 minutes. On particularly humid days, this has taken me up to 17-18 minutes. If it’s still not reaching stiff peaks, stop the mixer, place the bowl–uncovered–in the refrigerator for 10 minutes, then return to the mixer and continue beating until stiff peaks form. (This has always worked for me when it’s taking forever to reach stiff peaks.
thank you for the detailed explanation. I'll try your method next time and see how I go.
What should the ideal temperature be for the meringue and the butter before I start combining the two?

OK making a meringue first makes more sense. Without that step, I thought the recipe source had blotched the reverse aeration technique.

The melting point of butter is 95°F. So when working with butter, whether creaming it, adding to a meringue, laminating dough, or making pie dough, you have to keep the melting point temperature in mind.

Always think about how temperature is being added. even though you removed the egg whites from the stove top, you’re going to add heat through friction when you start beating.

With the meringue, you have the heat of the cooked egg whites and the friction heat of the mixer to contend with.



95°F is your kiss of death.



You want to get as far below that as you possibly can without overbeating the egg whites.



Shoot for 90°F. but if you can get it below that into the 80s without overbeating your egg whites that’s even better.


Beating the egg whites at med-low speed and gradually increasing it is a plus because it gives you more time to cool them down without overbeating them.



The temperature of your butter is important. The warmer your meringue the cooler you want your butter. Shoot for 68°F for your butter. I know some will even take it slightly cooler. I just don’t like getting too far down toward the 65°F range because there is a risk of butter flecks.



I smash my cubes of butter as I add them into the meringue. Especially if I’m using colder butter.



You want to aim for a finished buttercream temperature of around 72°F.



Years ago when I first started baking, I used to leave the butter out overnight. It was very soft. I would add it all at once. It would emulsify beautifully into a very fluffy buttercream. But I learned very quickly using too soft butter was not stable.



68°F is where I like my butter. And that’s assuming a cool kitchen. I also cube my butter into 1 tablespoon size pieces.



I know I get into a lot of detail.



I could easily say shoot for A finished temperature of 72°F; use 68°F butter, begin to add it when your meringue is 90°F or cooler. But stating that doesn’t teach Baker’s why they are adding butter at that temperature. It doesn't teach them to think about how temperature is added during the process, and how that affects their product. How to use their ingredients with temperature to get the best results.



So that’s the reason I get into this kind of detail.
 
Joined
May 27, 2022
Messages
9
Reaction score
4
I appreciate the in depth explanation and the time you take to educate. I'm a teacher by trade and I have an extra special appreciation for the detail you go into.
Thank you ❤️
 
Joined
Jun 22, 2017
Messages
4,076
Reaction score
2,084
I appreciate the in depth explanation and the time you take to educate. I'm a teacher by trade and I have an extra special appreciation for the detail you go into.
Thank you ❤️

I’m relieved to hear you are not put off by my long-winded explanations!


Teachers are so unappreciated. I oversaw my 3rd-grade niece’s online schooling during the lockdown. She has special needs, so required supervision. Teaching is difficult enough, but teaching 20 unsupervised eight-year-olds online is a monumental task. Delivering the lesson, keeping the children on task, answering all their questions, all the while troubleshooting their computer problems was an extraordinary effort.

All her teachers deserved medals--more pay and a really long holiday.
 
Joined
Jun 22, 2017
Messages
4,076
Reaction score
2,084
This is why sugar is added gradually; why beating needs to be gradually increased; why temperature matters... I wasn’t going to explain it because it's a lot to consume. But since you’re a teacher, I figured you can handle it.




The egg white is about 90% water and 10% protein


Beating egg whites triggers the denaturation of protein: long chain amino acids unfurl from a somewhat spherical shape. This exposes various amino acids that are either hydrophilic (absorbs water on a molecular level) or hydrophobic (repels water on a molecular level).



If whipped correctly, the hydrophilic amino acids will form what are called ionic bonds, created by electrically charged molecules that bind to water molecules. Ionic bonds are the best bonds as they create a voluminous, silky, and moist meringue.


Water molecules easily bond to each other and form a film. But as more and more air is best into the egg whites it stretches the water film; the more air, the farther the water molecules separate from each other. If too much air is whipped into the egg whites, it forces the water molecules out of the network of amino acids (proteins), water, and air bubbles.

Disulfide bonds are bonds between the amino acids that have sulfurs. When too many water molecules are squeezed out of the network and these really tight disulfide bonds form between the sulfur amino acids form the result is dry egg whites with gritty tiny white specks.



So two types of bonds can occur in whipped egg whites:

  • ionic bonds (perfectly beaten egg whites)
  • disulfide bonds (over beaten egg whites)


The ionic bonds are desirable for meringue, but they are NOT stable.



To stabilize the ionic bond you must do three things:


1. add an acid


2. add sugar at the correct time and slowly


3. gradually beat egg whites from low speed to high speed


Acid: recipes instruct bakers to add an acid, but never explain why. An acid, like cream of tartar is potassium hydrogen tartrate. It’s the hydrogen that is important. A hydrogen atom contains a single positively charged proton and a negatively charged electron. Because it has a negatively charged electron, it can keep protein from binding with other proteins. So disulfide bonds are less likely to occur.

Sugar: Adding the sugar to whipped eggs too soon will interfere with the protein denaturalization process (sugar molecules can get in the way as the hydrophilic amino acids bind with water molecules). The sugar and water molecules also bind, adding more stability to the egg whites by keeping the water molecules from being forced out. If the sugar is dumped in or added too fast it will not disperse the sugar evenly throughout the egg whites to build a good network of water and sugar molecule bonds.



=============

What happens during the beating of egg whites: The meringue is formed when the amino acids unfurl and bind with water molecules. Then air bubbles are pushed in between the proteins and water molecules. As the water molecules are pushed apart by air it expands the network, creating volume.


Water has surface tension so its surface can stretch; water can dribble down your chin or across the counter. But you can only stretch the surface of water so far. Keep in mind the water in the eggs is no different--it will only stretch so far. As more air bubbles are beaten into the egg whites, the water molecules form a film and stretch out. Beating the egg whites gradually and increasing the speed makes for tiny uniform air bubbles and reduces the risk of forcing in so much air that it forces the water molecules to stretch beyond their tolerance level and eventually forces them out of the network.

So in making a meringue, the timing and rate sugar is added is important as sugar will interfere with protein denaturation (sugar molecules interfere with how the hydrophilic amino acids [protein molecules] bind with water molecules).


If the sugar is added too soon, sugar delays egg coagulation. Water molecules are displaced. The result is a weaker foam with lower volume.


But if the sugar is added at the correct time and gradually, sugar and water molecules bind, adding more stability to the egg whites by keeping the water molecules from being forced out. This creates a stronger foam network with greater volume.



In most Swiss meringue recipes all the sugar is dumped in at the beginning. So there is the issue of delayed protein denaturation.



Heat is a way to denature the protein. It also dissolves the sugar crystals, and that allows the sugar and water molecules to bind. So heat can undo the adverse effects of frontloading the sugar. But you have to heat it to a high enough temperature. The temperatures below 160°F are too low to stabilize the meringue.



Gradually beat in a portion of the sugar after heating to trigger the binding of the sugar and water molecules further enhancing the stability of the meringue.



People who use lower temperatures assume heating is simply to kill the salmonella, nothing else. They don’t understand heating is also to address the delayed protein denaturation and the need to stabilize the egg whites.



Interestingly, pastry Stella Parks found if you heat at higher temperatures the meringue becomes more stable—enough that it will not deflate or weep.



However, I do not care for the texture of the meringue and buttercream at the higher temperature. I find the product to be too dense, stiff, and sticky. It also has less volume.



Meringues for toppings can be stabilized against weeping with cornstarch
 
Joined
Jan 12, 2020
Messages
1,053
Reaction score
221
How do I save this? It's soupy but I had it in the fridge thinking it needs to cool down but it just won't come together.
Its broken because its out of balance, its too wet.
Needs more butter to emulsify.
It should be equal parts sugar to butter as a starting point.
Some recipes (french ones) call for more butter, never less.
Fix it easily by whipping another half stick of butter into it.
 
Joined
Jun 22, 2017
Messages
4,076
Reaction score
2,084
Its broken because its out of balance, its too wet.
Needs more butter to emulsify.
It should be equal parts sugar to butter as a starting point.
Some recipes (french ones) call for more butter, never less.
Fix it easily by whipping another half stick of butter into it.
1) French buttercream is not a meringue buttercream. It's an egg foam (whipped egg yolks) based buttercream. It has a completely different texture (soft and dense) and flavor (very rich) because it's yolk base.

2) Adding more butter to a broken buttercream won’t fix it. Two things break a buttercream: 1) over beating the meringue; 2) using butter that is too warm.

Beating egg whites into meringue is protein denaturation. It is irreversible; and once over beaten there is no fixing the egg whites.

Butter is tempered to create plasticity and to keep the butter from breaking and leaking water. Every dairy has their own proprietary method for tempering. That is why every brand of butter has a different plasticity. Kerrygold brand is very flexible right out of the refrigerator, while other brands are rock hard. Elle & Vire Professionnel Extra Dry Butter sheets have more plasticity for laminating dough without shattering it.

But all butter warmed beyond their tolerance level lose their plasticity--it’s called breaking the butter. Once you break the butter there’s no fixing it.
 

Ask a Question

Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?

You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments. After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.

Ask a Question

Members online

No members online now.

Forum statistics

Threads
6,580
Messages
47,366
Members
5,515
Latest member
cleoasc

Latest Threads

Top