Swiss Meringue Buttercream (Sugar & Gluten Free)

4 Feb

Discovering swiss meringue buttercream was a liberating experience. Not only does it have a super-indulgent mouthfeel, but it can be made sugar free so much more easily than your traditional buttercream – you’re sacrificing nothing.

The method behind swiss meringue buttercream is basically that you take perfect meringue and beat an ungodly amount of butter into your sweetened egg whites. The result is a fluffy and creamy cake topper that hardens just a little bit when refrigerated. You’ll want to make sure your pastries are fully cooled before frosting them, since this will melt more easily than traditional buttercream – and you’ll want plenty of time as well.

Martha Stewart’s website probably has the best recipe for buttercream, but be warned – it calls for two pounds of butter. I only made a quarter of that recipe, and it was enough to frost my Secret Ingredient Chocolate Cake from yesterday’s post.

I’ll be making some cupcakes for the Superbowl this Sunday, and I’m going to try making a 1/2 recipe to frost the cupcakes – I’ll also be trying to do a chocolate/vanilla swirl with it.

Here’s my recipe, adapted from Martha Stewart’s Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe:

1 cup of xylitol or erythritol
5 egg whites at room temperature
1 lb (4 sticks) of butter, at room temperature, cut into 1 tbsp chunks
1/2 tbsp natural vanilla extract, add any other extracts or flavorings in limited quantities (remember, you can’t take it out once it’s in!)

A note about the butter: since it’s a main player in this recipe, get good quality butter! Get the best you can afford – Tillamook butter is my standard but if I’m feeling spiffy I use Kerrygold’s Irish Butter. It’s expensive, but its worth the two dollars more when you’re going for a buttercream that isn’t going to be waxy. Check for manufacturer’s coupons online or in the store if you can, and it will help offset those finer food costs.

Simmer some water in a medium sized saucepan. In a non-reactive bowl, constantly whisk the egg whites and sweetener together over the simmering water. As the bowl heats up, the sweetener will dissolve into the eggs. This should take about five minutes, and while you don’t want to cook the eggs, you will want them to be hot to the touch.

A note on meringue: start the whisking out slowly if you want a creamy meringue. What you’re doing is unraveling the proteins so that once you start mixing on high speed, the eggs will have smaller air bubbles and you’ll have a good texture at the end. Throw this mixture right in to your mixer and let it go for 7-10 minutes, or until stiff peaks form and it’s completely cooled. You can add 1/4 tsp of cream of tartar if the eggs aren’t stiffening well – but be sure not to over-beat, or you’ll have a dry, grainy meringue. And we’re making buttercream… you need soft & silky meringue.

And now is the fun part. You can switch the mixer attachment to the paddle now. While beating on medium speed, throw in one chunk of butter at a time. Wait about 20 seconds in between butter chunks. As you add the butter, you’ll probably see your mixture start to curdle – all is not lost! I actually got to this point and threw out a batch, which is not advised. That’s a lot of butter to throw away. Just wait for it to come together – it will eventually.

Troubleshooting: If your butter is too warm it will be harder for it to come together – sticking the bowl in an ice bath may be necessary. On the converse, if your butter was too cold to start you’ll just have to wait until it softens in the beating process.

Once you’ve reached the point where your butter and eggs have harmonized into one delicious whole, you can experiment with colors and flavors until you’ve hit your limit.

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