This is not really news to me, I've come across this before, but never really fancied trying my hand at Italian meringue in the first place, let alone then shoving in loads of butter. A long time it may be, but I still shudder at the word "buttercream" from memories of Bulgarian patisseries in the early 1980-s where they had dispensed with the whisking the butter up with sugar and just piped pure butter onto the cakes. Disgusting!
But I know my friends Dr Cutie and Patsy both are practised hands at making Italian meringue, so I though I should give it a go as well. Add to that the fact that I managed to get hold of large quantities of unsalted butter from France - had to be done. I prepared each part separately, not like in the video, I don't feel confident when making caramel, so wanted to be able to focus entirely on the caramel. In fact I even bought a stainless steel saucepan for this purpose. All my other saucepans are non-stick and almost back in colour and this makes it impossible to tell the colour of the caramel. Stainless still is better.
4 large egg whites
1 ml salt
¼ tsp cream of tartar
200 g + 67 g granulated sugar
80 ml water
5 ml vanilla extract
454 g unsalted butter at room temperature and diced
- Place the egg whites, salt and cream of tartar in a large metal or glass bowl and using an stand electric whisk, beat to soft peaks, while slowly adding 67 g of the sugar.
- Place the remaining sugar in a small saucepan along with the water and place on medium-low heat and stir until all the sugar has dissolved and the mixture becomes clear.
- Up the heat a little and put a sugar thermometer into the mixture, then bring up to 115 °C.
- Start beating the egg whites again and slowly drizzle the caramel into the foamy mixture.
- The caramel will cook the egg whites, so keep beating until the mixture has cooled down completely to room temperature. This can take up to 20 minutes or so. To speed up the cooling, place a bag of frozen peas up against the side of the mixing bowl and keep beating.
- If there is a paddle attachment, switch to it, then add the diced butter, a few cubes at a time. Do not despair, there is a lot of butter and the mixture will only go nice and smooth once all of it is in.
- Add the vanilla extract and beat until the mixture is really silky smooth.
The butter cream will hold reasonably well for a few minutes, but for longer, it might need "rejuvenation" by a quick whisk-up. It's really good for piping, so I did just this on my rhubarb muffins. The piping held well throughout the whole day, even though I had to drag it through a train journey of over an hour to get it to the office the following day.
Lundulph's verdict was heaven light as air. My colleagues concurred and several came back for seconds and even thirds.