Sunday, 10 February 2013

Buttercream: The Dream Cream

Buttercream is a classic, versatile, and widely used complimentary component to make up various pastry dishes like cookie sandwiches, desserts, and cakes. Needless to say that cakes are the most common pastry products that married well with buttercream. Either to frost, ice, sandwich, or décor a cake, buttercream alone gets all the jobs done. How versatile is that? Of course you can flavor it with any flavor your heart desires. Additional flavoring may be from essences, extracts, emulcos, concentrated fruit purees and essential oils which all are potent in concentration. Adding too much liquid to buttercream will compensate the overall texture of the buttercream. Same principle goes to liquid food coloring. Nonetheless, any food enhancers of flavoring or colorant which are dry (powder form) in nature or even viscous liquid (gel or paste) will work immensely without compromising the texture.
Some examples of Flavored Buttercream: (Left to right) Chocolate Fudge Buttercream, Coffee Buttercream, Rose Buttercream, and Vanilla Buttercream
To date, buttercream recipes have been tweaked, improvised, and innovated with newly engineered ingredients. This is due to the quest of researching substitutes to the actual butter in the recipe since butter cannot hold it shape in room temperature (talking about Malaysia). The earlier recipes of buttercream incorporate 100% pure butter and as the time goes by, some recipes offset a little amount of butter with other fats like vegetable shortenings and margarine. In contrast to butter which derived from dairy origin, margarine and shortening come from plant origin widely from palm oil (unless stated otherwise in the packaging). The oils from the plants are hydrogenated to change the consistency to the one that we know – solid in room temperature. Another food innovation of the same category is “Krimwell”. It is a special type of margarine that is used widely by Malaysian bakers and cake decorators as it serves exceptional quality in buttercream consistency. Also, Krimwell is the plant derived (palm oil) substitute for butter. However, there’s always a catch in substituting ingredients, in this case it will compromise the taste of the “Butter”. Some people will never trace any difference but for some others, butter emulco or butter flavoring might do the trick to get the “almost” authentic taste of butter.

Vanilla Buttercream, Rose Buttercream and Coffee Buttercream may have a little softer of a consistency since they are flavored with essences. In contrast to the Chocolate Fudge Buttercream that uses Cocoa Powder for flavor and color, it has a rather firmer consistency.
The easiest buttercream recipe on earth is just icing sugar, butter, milk or water, and vanilla essence. I’ve read somewhere online that this recipe is also known as the “American Buttercream” (please don't quote me on this). Other traditional ones can be categorized by the method of preparing, which are the Italian Method, Swiss Method and French Method. One thing they have in common is that they incorporating either egg whites, egg yolks, or even just yolks. Italian Method uses the Meringue technique by whipping egg whites with hot sugar syrup, Swiss Method also uses Meringue technique but with tempered egg whites and fine granulated sugar, and last but nut least the French Method which uses the technique similar to the Italian Method but instead of just egg whites, it calls for only yolks or the whole eggs. Too much of a hassle aren't they? For domestic bakers, I can assure you that the so called "American Buttercream" serves just as effective and more importantly fool-proof.

Slight differences may be noticed in the texture of buttercreams. The grains of icing sugar may not be fully dissolved and cause little tiny grittiness to the texture. I believe that there is the 10X grade of icing sugar (the finest), but sadly in Malaysia, we can't easily find icing sugar with various degree of fineness (it's okay though, it's not the end of the