Using flavoured syrups for Italian meringue


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I've seen the idea of using a flavoured liquid syrup like honey, maple syrup, or molasses instead of the sugar & water syrup for making Italian meringue and Italian buttercream. If I wanted to do so, how much flavoured syrup should I use to replace the sugar and water in the base meringue recipe?

If the syrups are cooked to the same degree, then I assume that the final water content (percentage wise) in them before they're added to the meringue would be the same anyway. So if structural problems are the concern, would it be simply a matter of normalizing the sugar contents? E.g. honey is about 20% water, 80% sugars, so replace 100g sugar in the base syrup with 100/0.8 = 125g honey. This way the final cooked syrups should be about the same weight when they're added to the meringue, so you won't end up with more or less hot syrup (by weight) added to the meringue than in the base recipe.

However another factor I figure would be the sweetness and intensity of flavour. Liquid sugars like honey and maple syrup all have different relative sweetness, so simply normalizing the weight of sugars to the base recipe may end up making the meringue (and hence buttercream if you use it for a buttercream) too sweet or not sweet enough.

It may require some experimenting, but anyone have any idea of where I should start?
 
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I've seen the idea of using a flavoured liquid syrup like honey, maple syrup, or molasses instead of the sugar & water syrup for making Italian meringue and Italian buttercream. If I wanted to do so, how much flavoured syrup should I use to replace the sugar and water in the base meringue recipe?

If the syrups are cooked to the same degree, then I assume that the final water content (percentage wise) in them before they're added to the meringue would be the same anyway. So if structural problems are the concern, would it be simply a matter of normalizing the sugar contents? E.g. honey is about 20% water, 80% sugars, so replace 100g sugar in the base syrup with 100/0.8 = 125g honey. This way the final cooked syrups should be about the same weight when they're added to the meringue, so you won't end up with more or less hot syrup (by weight) added to the meringue than in the base recipe.

However another factor I figure would be the sweetness and intensity of flavour. Liquid sugars like honey and maple syrup all have different relative sweetness, so simply normalizing the weight of sugars to the base recipe may end up making the meringue (and hence buttercream if you use it for a buttercream) too sweet or not sweet enough.

It may require some experimenting, but anyone have any idea of where I should start?

@Cahoot

Yes you would have to experiment.

Each one of these has a different level of water in them. You have absolutely no idea the actual amount of water to sugar. So when you bring them to 245°F, you are at more of an unknown as to how much water you have boiled off.

Sugar is sucrose is a disaccharide, a molecule composed of two monosaccharides: glucose and fructose. It contains zero water. You know exactly how much water you add to the pot. We know from decades of meringue making that boiling the sugar syrup to 145°F will produce a stable meringue. But you don’t have the same exact figures when you are working with honey, maple syrup, or molasses.

The issue of relative sweetness is complicated. Sucrose (table sugar) is the standard in which the sweetness of all other sweeteners are measured. Sucrose was established at a relative sweetness of 100. Other sweeteners are compared to sucrose in watery solution of the same concentration. The concentration, temperature, and the viscosity will affect the relative sweetness of the solution.

Depending on the molecular structure, a sweeter can have a relative sweetness higher/lower sucrose.

For instance honey is 38% fructose. Fructose is 120 - 140 on the relative sweetness scale compared to sucrose set at 100.

So depending on the concentration of honey used, honey can be for more sweeter than sugar.


The other issue is the distinct taste these sugars add to your meringue. How that flavor will Play out heated, in a meringue, mixed if you add some thing like chocolate to the meringue, and how it will taste against the cake. Make sure other components pair well with the honey, maple syrup, molasses flavors.

While sugar is sweet, it’s also neutral in that it will fall to the background and allow the chocolate, lemon, raspberry, etc. to stand on its own.
 
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@Cahoot

Yes you would have to experiment.

Each one of these has a different level of water in them. You have absolutely no idea the actual amount of water to sugar. So when you bring them to 245°F, you are at more of an unknown as to how much water you have boiled off.

Sugar is sucrose is a disaccharide, a molecule composed of two monosaccharides: glucose and fructose. It contains zero water. You know exactly how much water you add to the pot. We know from decades of meringue making that boiling the sugar syrup to 145°F will produce a stable meringue. But you don’t have the same exact figures when you are working with honey, maple syrup, or molasses.

The issue of relative sweetness is complicated. Sucrose (table sugar) is the standard in which the sweetness of all other sweeteners are measured. Sucrose was established at a relative sweetness of 100. Other sweeteners are compared to sucrose in watery solution of the same concentration. The concentration, temperature, and the viscosity will affect the relative sweetness of the solution.

Depending on the molecular structure, a sweeter can have a relative sweetness higher/lower sucrose.

For instance honey is 38% fructose. Fructose is 120 - 140 on the relative sweetness scale compared to sucrose set at 100.

So depending on the concentration of honey used, honey can be for more sweeter than sugar.


The other issue is the distinct taste these sugars add to your meringue. How that flavor will Play out heated, in a meringue, mixed if you add some thing like chocolate to the meringue, and how it will taste against the cake. Make sure other components pair well with the honey, maple syrup, molasses flavors.

While sugar is sweet, it’s also neutral in that it will fall to the background and allow the chocolate, lemon, raspberry, etc. to stand on its own.
As far as I understand, there are really two separate factors are play: 1) structure and stability of meringue, and 2) flavour. Substituting would be fairly complicated since you'd have to balance both, but I'd like to just focus on one at a time for simplicity's sake.

1) Structure and stability
Correct me if I'm wrong, but at a given temperature high enough above the boiling point of water (assuming we're at sea level, so 212°F/100°C), the sugar and water content in any syrup should be roughly the same, no matter the starting water concentration, right? So it doesn't matter how much water is initially in any of the syrups, as long as you heat it to the same temperature you do for a normal Italian meringue recipe, the final water content will be the same in proportion to the weight of the cooked syrup.

I'll just make up some arbitrary numbers here for the sake of the example as it may be easier to illustrate. So let's say at 248°F/120°C, syrups are 90% sugar, 10% water. Then 100 g of a sugar-water syrup (AT 248°F/120°C) would have the same amount of water and sugar as 100 g honey (AT 248°F/120°C). Of course the starting weights of each syrup wouldn't necessarily be the same in order to get to the same final weights due to differing water contents, but if you know the water content of your syrup (information is usually available online for stuff like honey and maple syrup), then you can adjust it to get the same final, cooked water and sugar contents from your regular Italian meringue recipe.

Let's say the figure of honey being 20% water is correct, and your ingredients in the regular Italian meringue recipe are 100 g sugar, 33 g water. At 248°F/120°C, that would mean the syrup should be (using our made-up numbers of 10% water):

100 g sugar: 100/111.11 = 90%
11.11 g water: 11.11/111.11 = 10%
(111.11 g total)

You want enough honey to start out with so that it also contains 100 g sugar (water content doesn't matter initially), and with 80% sugar, that means you need 125 g honey: it should have 100 g sugars, 25 g water. At 248°F/120°C then, since the concentration of water should have reduced to the same 10%, it will also have 100 g sugar, 11.11 g water as with the regular sugar-water syrup.

So IF I'm correct about the above, then following that procedure would ensure that your syrup will always have the same water and sugar content when it's added to the meringue, and is heated to the same temperature, hence the stability should be the same too.

2) Flavour
This is the part where I figure you can't "math" it out and will need to rely on experimentation, assuming that my theory above is correct haha. But if the intended liquid sugar is too sweet/intense, then you could simply only replace a portion of the base sugar-water syrup with it instead of the entirety. So my thought is I can then just decrease the amount of flavoured syrup used (using the math above to ensure the total amount of sugar/water in the final cooked syrup is the same to ensure no stability issues in the meringue) and see where the sweet spot is.
 
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As far as I understand, there are really two separate factors are play: 1) structure and stability of meringue, and 2) flavour. Substituting would be fairly complicated since you'd have to balance both, but I'd like to just focus on one at a time for simplicity's sake.

1) Structure and stability
Correct me if I'm wrong, but at a given temperature high enough above the boiling point of water (assuming we're at sea level, so 212°F/100°C), the sugar and water content in any syrup should be roughly the same, no matter the starting water concentration, right? So it doesn't matter how much water is initially in any of the syrups, as long as you heat it to the same temperature you do for a normal Italian meringue recipe, the final water content will be the same in proportion to the weight of the cooked syrup.

I'll just make up some arbitrary numbers here for the sake of the example as it may be easier to illustrate. So let's say at 248°F/120°C, syrups are 90% sugar, 10% water. Then 100 g of a sugar-water syrup (AT 248°F/120°C) would have the same amount of water and sugar as 100 g honey (AT 248°F/120°C). Of course the starting weights of each syrup wouldn't necessarily be the same in order to get to the same final weights due to differing water contents, but if you know the water content of your syrup (information is usually available online for stuff like honey and maple syrup), then you can adjust it to get the same final, cooked water and sugar contents from your regular Italian meringue recipe.

Let's say the figure of honey being 20% water is correct, and your ingredients in the regular Italian meringue recipe are 100 g sugar, 33 g water. At 248°F/120°C, that would mean the syrup should be (using our made-up numbers of 10% water):

100 g sugar: 100/111.11 = 90%
11.11 g water: 11.11/111.11 = 10%
(111.11 g total)

You want enough honey to start out with so that it also contains 100 g sugar (water content doesn't matter initially), and with 80% sugar, that means you need 125 g honey: it should have 100 g sugars, 25 g water. At 248°F/120°C then, since the concentration of water should have reduced to the same 10%, it will also have 100 g sugar, 11.11 g water as with the regular sugar-water syrup.

So IF I'm correct about the above, then following that procedure would ensure that your syrup will always have the same water and sugar content when it's added to the meringue, and is heated to the same temperature, hence the stability should be the same too.

2) Flavour
This is the part where I figure you can't "math" it out and will need to rely on experimentation, assuming that my theory above is correct haha. But if the intended liquid sugar is too sweet/intense, then you could simply only replace a portion of the base sugar-water syrup with it instead of the entirety. So my thought is I can then just decrease the amount of flavoured syrup used (using the math above to ensure the total amount of sugar/water in the final cooked syrup is the same to ensure no stability issues in the meringue) and see where the sweet spot is.

@Cahoot Sorry, I just saw this....My grandmother was a beekeeper. I know moisture in honey varies by location. But I had to do more research to find out exactly how much water was optimal for storage.

The water content has to be less than 20% in honey AND yeast levels at a certain count for the honey to be stored safely. (I didn’t know about the yeast levels). Otherwise the water and yeast will trigger fermentation. When honey is between 16.5% - 17% water content, yeast count isn’t a factor. But honey can be stored with a water content between 19% - 17% if the yeast count is at specific levels. The yeast levels vary depending on the percentage of water. So water content in honey vary from 16.5% to 19%. This would explain one reason for differences in viscosity between brands of honey.

So water content is an unknown variable.

But honey is also hygroscopic. So what ever the humidity is in your kitchen, the honey will balance to the humidity in the air.

For example, if the humidity in your kitchen is 60.0%, and you leave the honey exposed, the honey will balance out to 18.8%.

Since the unknown is the water content, if you have a way to check the humidity in your

How Honey Moisture Percentages Balance Between Relative Air Humidity
Information in the chart is from Artisans De La Ruche
If Relative Air Humidity Is​
Honey Moisture Will Balance To​
50.0%​
15.9%​
55.0%​
16.8%​
57.8%​
17.2%​
60.0%​
18.8%​
65.0%​
20.9%​
70.0%​
24.2%​
75.0%​
28.3%​
80.0%​
33.1%​


I have a hydrometer that I use to get some gauge on the humidity in oven when I set it up as a proof box. If you have something like that, you could use it to gauge the humidity in your kitchen.

Insofar as flavor is concerned, one of two things will happen: 1) the intense heat breaks it down, thereby degrades the flavor; 2) the reduction concentrates the flavor making it more intense. Know way to know which way it will go. But since you are going to take it to the firm ball stage, not take it through an intense boil down, my guess is you will get more flavor by evaporating off the water. In my own recipe, I use less sugar than the “standard” ratio of 200%. Even though we don’t know how stable the honey is, I am just concerned it will be too sweet if you do a 1:1 swap.

I am really curious as to how this will turn out. You should get some color from the honey too. Actually a honey flavored buttercream would be lovely on a “chai” flavored cake. Just add some ground cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and a pinch of cloves to the batter. Then a honey swiss meringue buttercream. And if I did a filling other than the buttercream, I would do a bright like apricot or passionfruit.


I have this gadget, it takes the humidity and temperature in both Fahrenheit and Celsius.
46A02624-2C43-43C4-B4D9-2190C6BAEC09.jpeg
 
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@Cahoot Sorry, I just saw this....My grandmother was a beekeeper. I know moisture in honey varies by location. But I had to do more research to find out exactly how much water was optimal for storage.

The water content has to be less than 20% in honey AND yeast levels at a certain count for the honey to be stored safely. (I didn’t know about the yeast levels). Otherwise the water and yeast will trigger fermentation. When honey is between 16.5% - 17% water content, yeast count isn’t a factor. But honey can be stored with a water content between 19% - 17% if the yeast count is at specific levels. The yeast levels vary depending on the percentage of water. So water content in honey vary from 16.5% to 19%. This would explain one reason for differences in viscosity between brands of honey.

So water content is an unknown variable.

But honey is also hygroscopic. So what ever the humidity is in your kitchen, the honey will balance to the humidity in the air.

For example, if the humidity in your kitchen is 60.0%, and you leave the honey exposed, the honey will balance out to 18.8%.

Since the unknown is the water content, if you have a way to check the humidity in your

How Honey Moisture Percentages Balance Between Relative Air Humidity
Information in the chart is from Artisans De La Ruche
If Relative Air Humidity Is​
Honey Moisture Will Balance To​
50.0%​
15.9%​
55.0%​
16.8%​
57.8%​
17.2%​
60.0%​
18.8%​
65.0%​
20.9%​
70.0%​
24.2%​
75.0%​
28.3%​
80.0%​
33.1%​


I have a hydrometer that I use to get some gauge on the humidity in oven when I set it up as a proof box. If you have something like that, you could use it to gauge the humidity in your kitchen.

Insofar as flavor is concerned, one of two things will happen: 1) the intense heat breaks it down, thereby degrades the flavor; 2) the reduction concentrates the flavor making it more intense. Know way to know which way it will go. But since you are going to take it to the firm ball stage, not take it through an intense boil down, my guess is you will get more flavor by evaporating off the water. In my own recipe, I use less sugar than the “standard” ratio of 200%. Even though we don’t know how stable the honey is, I am just concerned it will be too sweet if you do a 1:1 swap.

I am really curious as to how this will turn out. You should get some color from the honey too. Actually a honey flavored buttercream would be lovely on a “chai” flavored cake. Just add some ground cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and a pinch of cloves to the batter. Then a honey swiss meringue buttercream. And if I did a filling other than the buttercream, I would do a bright like apricot or passionfruit.


I have this gadget, it takes the humidity and temperature in both Fahrenheit and Celsius.
View attachment 3755
That honey moisture chart is very useful! I do actually have a hygrometer too so that will be very nice for testing the substitutions.

Funnily enough with our discussions on Stella Parks' recipes recently, the motivation behind this were her recipes for maple and honey Italian buttercreams. They're very different from her Swiss buttercream recipe, with the butter only being double the weight of the egg whites. However the liquid sugar to egg white ratios are fairly similar to what I'm thinking of starting with, and the recipes use all liquid sugars, no granulated sugar, so that's a promising start that my idea won't be too overpowering.
 
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That honey moisture chart is very useful! I do actually have a hygrometer too so that will be very nice for testing the substitutions.

Funnily enough with our discussions on Stella Parks' recipes recently, the motivation behind this were her recipes for maple and honey Italian buttercreams. They're very different from her Swiss buttercream recipe, with the butter only being double the weight of the egg whites. However the liquid sugar to egg white ratios are fairly similar to what I'm thinking of starting with, and the recipes use all liquid sugars, no granulated sugar, so that's a promising start that my idea won't be too overpowering.

Oh I didn’t realize that Parks had a couple of honey and maple syrup meringue buttercream’s. I don’t use any of her buttercream recipes because like most Americans versions, they are too sweet for my tastes.

I noticed that she heats to 250°F which is about 5°F higher than a granulated sugar. syrup.

Her maple syrup buttercream looks very thick, not fluffy in the bowl. Hard to tell with the honey butter cream since it’s already spread on the cake. Will be interesting to see how the texture turns out.

One of the maple syrup brands, Escuminac, she recommends is my favorite. I was in the store one day when a woman was looking over the maple syrup. There was a couple of bottles of Escuminac, and a slew of Vermont maple syrup. I said, “it’s organic; 3rd generation family producer; from mature Canadian maple trees from a family that respects the land and the traditions. Plus it’s the best maple syrup on this shelf.” She bought the remaining bottles.

I don’t know if I would waste good maple syrup in a sugary buttercream. Seems like a waste to me.

 
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I got to try this out recently, so gonna post the results here.

I used the following ratios for my meringue/buttercream:

Egg whites 100%
Sugar 50%
Salt 1%
Honey 200%
Butter 300%

It's a lot of sugar overall but I read that honey loses its flavour when heated, plus I had a prior experience with honey pastry cream not tasting enough like honey even though I used a lot of honey relative to how much sugar I normally use in pastry cream, so I tried to use a substantial amount of honey for this test.

The granulated sugar was used to add to the initial meringue while it was whipping, not for the syrup. I heated the honey to 244F; was aiming for 248F but turns out even a 3 qt saucepan isn't enough to hold 600 g of honey at that much of a boil so I had to pull it off the heat early lest it boil out of the pot. Otherwise making the Italian meringue was very straightforward, and I didn't find any problems with stability. It started out super light but did seem to get noticeably more dense (judging from how much resistance there was when I moved the whisk through the meringue by hand) as it cooled down from the 95F to 85F range.

IMG_20210303_212532[1].jpg


I used part of the meringue to make baked meringue kisses (forgot to take pictures of those, sorry!). These were actually a bit interesting - despite baking at ~200F for several hours, they never fully dried out on the outsides and remained slightly sticky/slightly malleable when pressed. However, they were completely dried and crisp on the insides. So when cooled, the outsides remained very sticky and a bit chewy, while the insides were dried and crispy. After storing outside uncovered for several days, the baked meringues remained like that with sticky/chewy exteriors and crisp interiors. They were extremely sweet and the honey taste was very noticeable.

Note that the ratios I listed above are adjusted for the buttercream, i.e. I made extra meringue to use for the baked meringues and the ratio of butter is in proportion to how much meringue was left for the buttercream. Unfortunately despite the strong honey taste in the meringue by itself, the butter completely overpowered it and despite still being sweet enough, there wasn't any detectable actual honey flavour in the buttercream.

The buttercream was also light enough at exactly 170 g/6 oz per cup, so I can't say that the buttery-ness was an issue of it being too dense. You may notice all the air bubles in it, but that was caused by an unrelated issue where I lost the emulsion due to bad temperature control (neglected it to pipe the meringue kisses), and tried to salvage it by beating at a very high speed (which did re-emulsify it, but ended up creating all these air bubbles which I couldn't get rid of even after beating on lowest/"Stir" speed for 30+ minutes).

IMG_20210305_144803[1].jpg


If I tried this again, I'd reduce the ratio of butter for the buttercream. I think the issue is that honey ends up being a more delicate flavour, so even though it's very strong in just the meringue, it gets lost when too much butter is added. In fact if just making the honey meringue, you could definitely reduce the amount of honey and/or sugar for the initial meringue because it was way too sweet. After this test though, it does make sense why Stella Parks' recipe for honey Italian buttercream has such a drastically lower ratio of butter compared to her Swiss buttercream (200% butter vs. 333.33% butter respectively, while the ratios of sweeteners are basically the same relative to the weight of egg whites). Too much butter will overpower the flavours you get from the flavoured syrups.
 
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I got to try this out recently, so gonna post the results here.

I used the following ratios for my meringue/buttercream:

Egg whites 100%
Sugar 50%
Salt 1%
Honey 200%
Butter 300%

It's a lot of sugar overall but I read that honey loses its flavour when heated, plus I had a prior experience with honey pastry cream not tasting enough like honey even though I used a lot of honey relative to how much sugar I normally use in pastry cream, so I tried to use a substantial amount of honey for this test.

The granulated sugar was used to add to the initial meringue while it was whipping, not for the syrup. I heated the honey to 244F; was aiming for 248F but turns out even a 3 qt saucepan isn't enough to hold 600 g of honey at that much of a boil so I had to pull it off the heat early lest it boil out of the pot. Otherwise making the Italian meringue was very straightforward, and I didn't find any problems with stability. It started out super light but did seem to get noticeably more dense (judging from how much resistance there was when I moved the whisk through the meringue by hand) as it cooled down from the 95F to 85F range.

View attachment 3910

I used part of the meringue to make baked meringue kisses (forgot to take pictures of those, sorry!). These were actually a bit interesting - despite baking at ~200F for several hours, they never fully dried out on the outsides and remained slightly sticky/slightly malleable when pressed. However, they were completely dried and crisp on the insides. So when cooled, the outsides remained very sticky and a bit chewy, while the insides were dried and crispy. After storing outside uncovered for several days, the baked meringues remained like that with sticky/chewy exteriors and crisp interiors. They were extremely sweet and the honey taste was very noticeable.

Note that the ratios I listed above are adjusted for the buttercream, i.e. I made extra meringue to use for the baked meringues and the ratio of butter is in proportion to how much meringue was left for the buttercream. Unfortunately despite the strong honey taste in the meringue by itself, the butter completely overpowered it and despite still being sweet enough, there wasn't any detectable actual honey flavour in the buttercream.

The buttercream was also light enough at exactly 170 g/6 oz per cup, so I can't say that the buttery-ness was an issue of it being too dense. You may notice all the air bubles in it, but that was caused by an unrelated issue where I lost the emulsion due to bad temperature control (neglected it to pipe the meringue kisses), and tried to salvage it by beating at a very high speed (which did re-emulsify it, but ended up creating all these air bubbles which I couldn't get rid of even after beating on lowest/"Stir" speed for 30+ minutes).

View attachment 3911

If I tried this again, I'd reduce the ratio of butter for the buttercream. I think the issue is that honey ends up being a more delicate flavour, so even though it's very strong in just the meringue, it gets lost when too much butter is added. In fact if just making the honey meringue, you could definitely reduce the amount of honey and/or sugar for the initial meringue because it was way too sweet. After this test though, it does make sense why Stella Parks' recipe for honey Italian buttercream has such a drastically lower ratio of butter compared to her Swiss buttercream (200% butter vs. 333.33% butter respectively, while the ratios of sweeteners are basically the same relative to the weight of egg whites). Too much butter will overpower the flavours you get from the flavoured syrups.

@Cahoot
I have to say the buttercream in the bowl is beautiful. You got really good volume and no bubbles. So now that you made it, what do you think the ratios of sugar, honey, and butter should be to egg whites? Of course with less butter, there will be less volume. But for better flavor, that is worth the trade off.

What temperature was the honey when you removed it from the heat? Even though you took it off early it doesn’t seem to have had any adverse effect on the finished buttercream.

That is interesting about the meringue kisses not drying out. I wonder if it’s because honey is an invert sugar? Or if it’s because the honey didn’t go to temperature?

Did the baked kisses have the buttery taste? I couldn’t tell from your write up if the strong buttery taste was just in the butter cream or in the baked meringue as well.
 
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@Cahoot
I have to say the buttercream in the bowl is beautiful. You got really good volume and no bubbles. So now that you made it, what do you think the ratios of sugar, honey, and butter should be to egg whites? Of course with less butter, there will be less volume. But for better flavor, that is worth the trade off.

What temperature was the honey when you removed it from the heat? Even though you took it off early it doesn’t seem to have had any adverse effect on the finished buttercream.

That is interesting about the meringue kisses not drying out. I wonder if it’s because honey is an invert sugar? Or if it’s because the honey didn’t go to temperature?

Did the baked kisses have the buttery taste? I couldn’t tell from your write up if the strong buttery taste was just in the butter cream or in the baked meringue as well.
Just to be clear, the first picture is just the meringue, not the buttercream. That was after the meringue had cooled to about 85-90F, and I feel like it had actually lost a little bit of volume by then, but no way to tell for sure.

I really don't think the ratio of honey needs to be increased any more than it already is. If anything 200% honey was higher than I'd initially planned, but I increased it last minute after reading about how honey loses flavour from being heated. The sugar that's gradually added to the initial meringue could probably be decreased - what's the lowest amount that would still provide good stability?

I'm planning on decreasing the butter to 250% if I make this again. The problem with the buttercream isn't that it's not sweet, but rather that the actual honey flavour isn't distinctive enough. So with these new ratios, the buttercream will definitely be on the sweet side, but that might be an inevitable sacrifice for a stronger honey taste.

I don't really think the honey not getting to temperature had a big adverse effect. It still reached a final temperature of 244F, which is well in the range used for Italian meringue. I just normally use 248F for buttercreams, which is on the higher side but my intuition is that the higher temperature stabilizes the meringue more and reduces the amount the meringue will collapse when the butter is added. Not sure if that's correct at all, but just my own reasoning.

I think the meringues being sticky is almost certainly due to honey being an invert sugar. Normally with baked meringues, the outside will cook before the inside, so if there's any stickiness or chewiness it'll be the center, not the exterior. Since the centers were completely dried out and crisp, it really had to be the due to the honey. And no the meringues didn't have a buttery taste, they were extremely sweet with a very strong honey taste. It was just the buttercream that was more buttery.

And to clarify, it's not necessarily that the buttercream was too buttery itself, since 300% butter is the ratio I normally use, and normally I don't think my Italian buttercream is too buttery. Rather, it's that the honey flavour got lost with the addition of butter, so it just tasted kind of like a normal Italian buttercream instead of a honey buttercream.
 
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Just to be clear, the first picture is just the meringue, not the buttercream. That was after the meringue had cooled to about 85-90F, and I feel like it had actually lost a little bit of volume by then, but no way to tell for sure.

I really don't think the ratio of honey needs to be increased any more than it already is. If anything 200% honey was higher than I'd initially planned, but I increased it last minute after reading about how honey loses flavour from being heated. The sugar that's gradually added to the initial meringue could probably be decreased - what's the lowest amount that would still provide good stability?

I'm planning on decreasing the butter to 250% if I make this again. The problem with the buttercream isn't that it's not sweet, but rather that the actual honey flavour isn't distinctive enough. So with these new ratios, the buttercream will definitely be on the sweet side, but that might be an inevitable sacrifice for a stronger honey taste.

I don't really think the honey not getting to temperature had a big adverse effect. It still reached a final temperature of 244F, which is well in the range used for Italian meringue. I just normally use 248F for buttercreams, which is on the higher side but my intuition is that the higher temperature stabilizes the meringue more and reduces the amount the meringue will collapse when the butter is added. Not sure if that's correct at all, but just my own reasoning.

I think the meringues being sticky is almost certainly due to honey being an invert sugar. Normally with baked meringues, the outside will cook before the inside, so if there's any stickiness or chewiness it'll be the center, not the exterior. Since the centers were completely dried out and crisp, it really had to be the due to the honey. And no the meringues didn't have a buttery taste, they were extremely sweet with a very strong honey taste. It was just the buttercream that was more buttery.

And to clarify, it's not necessarily that the buttercream was too buttery itself, since 300% butter is the ratio I normally use, and normally I don't think my Italian buttercream is too buttery. Rather, it's that the honey flavour got lost with the addition of butter, so it just tasted kind of like a normal Italian buttercream instead of a honey buttercream.


Ahh, This really clarifies things now.

For a stiff meringue, a 1:2 egg white to sugar ratio is standard. You could probably reduce the sugar when beating the egg whites. You’re using cream of tartar, so that’s a stabilizer. With both less butter and less sugar you might be able to taste the honey.

Remember sweet is one of the basic tastes that’s tell us if something is safe to consume. So we will detect sweet before we detect the unique flavor of honey.

I’m really intrigued by this honey flavored buttercream. I’ve had a few questions about flavoring butter creams and icings. So I may do a posting. But I’ve not been well for the last couple of weeks.
 
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Ahh, This really clarifies things now.

For a stiff meringue, a 1:2 egg white to sugar ratio is standard. You could probably reduce the sugar when beating the egg whites. You’re using cream of tartar, so that’s a stabilizer. With both less butter and less sugar you might be able to taste the honey.

Remember sweet is one of the basic tastes that’s tell us if something is safe to consume. So we will detect sweet before we detect the unique flavor of honey.

I’m really intrigued by this honey flavored buttercream. I’ve had a few questions about flavoring butter creams and icings. So I may do a posting. But I’ve not been well for the last couple of weeks.
Sucks to hear that, I hope you get well soon!
 
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