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Mousseline the nervewracking buttercream!
Posted: 11 January 2008 11:38 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I’m working towards a cake pretty much like the lemony one Julius posted recently (since it sounded so tasty!); white choc. whisper, filled with lemon curd, frosted with lemon buttercream. Well last night I made the lemon curd (which was no problem) and a full recipe of mousseline (which was really stressful, as it has been the few other times I’ve done it).

I am sure its easy for all you talented bakers out there and surely gets easier with more experience, but I find myself feeling pretty stressed out when I make the IMBC, especially when working alone. Cooking the sugar to the right temp and dropping little gloobs in cold water to figure out if it is soft ball yet, and at the same time beating the egg whites to the right level, then trying to put small additions of it in to the KA bowl (which takes two hands since I need to hold the measure with one hand and scoop with a spatula with the other hand) while the machine is off, then putting the measure down quickly and turning the KA on for a few seconds before the hot syrup sinks through the eggs and sticks to the bowl, then turning it off, worrying about the syrup getting too cold, etc.

Last night I poured the sugar into a glass measure to stop the cooking, then took it over to the kitchenaid, but the eggs were not quite ready. So I upped the speed and let them go for a little bit longer. But by the time I started putting the sugar in, it was starting to get a bit thick, and was plenty thick by the last addition so a lot of it stuck in the measure and I’m sure it was probably below optimum temperature for adding to the whites. But still, the meringue looked nice and tasted sweet so most of the sugar made it in there I guess.

My real problems with mousseline start when I have put about half the butter in. In the past I have creamed the butter with the paddle in the KA, then scooped it out and washed the KA bowl and paddle well before starting on the egg whites. This seems like kind of a pain, and I’ve definitely heard of people just cutting the butter up and tossing in the chunks albeit with SMBC instead of IMBC. So last night I just cut it up and let it come to room temp, then added the chunks while using the paddle in the KA. The meringue was plenty cool, and things seemed to be going ok. Then it started to curdle at about half way through the butter as usual, and I thought to myself “thats ok, it always does that and it will come back together”. So I upped the speed and let it beat for longer, then longer, then longer. It wasn’t really looking any better or worse so I just continued adding the butter, then upped the speed again. The bowl felt plenty cool and my kitchen is about 65 degrees anyway.

What always happens to me is that it curdles, then just seems to get worse with more beating, resulting in shiny lumps that look pretty much like butter slipping around each other and the bowl in a slick liquid. One time I even threw it out at this point, figuring it was beyond help. It smells strongly of butter in this stage, and all the beautiful egg foam that was there before seems to have completely disappeared. But maybe those lumps are not pure butter as it seems, but proto-buttercream that just needs more beating. Anyway, last night I was at this stage and feeling despair as usual. The beating went on and on and my wife wanted to go to bed, and told me I would be in big trouble if I had to throw out $8 of butter plus 5 eggs! I tried popping the bowl in the freezer for a minute, then continue beating with the paddle at high speed and it finally came together a few minutes after that.

So I can’t help feeling like I am not doing this right. I mean how is it possible that it needs so much beating? How did people make buttercream before electricity? I really beat the bejeezus out of it last night; if you had to do that by hand it could have exhausted the arms of 30 men. Also, it seems wrong that the egg foam seems to vanish and leave behind a slick snot for the buttery lumps to slide around in. And even when it does come together, it looks fairly yellow (other poeple’s pictures on the web make their buttercream look whiter than mine; maybe this indicates I am having some sort of problem?). Maybe my meringue is collapsing and is long gone after all the beating, but my continued beating eventually produces something akin to american buttercream from the wreckage of the ingredients.

But on the other hand, the texture does change drastically when it finally cooperates, the paddle starts making slapping sounds, the cream sticks to the sides of the bowl instead of slipping around on it and looks all satiny and smooth, and it does taste pretty good. So maybe it is working and I just need to fine tune my technique.

I don’t know. I guess I’m just suspicious that what I experience with IMBC is normal and I’m ending up with what I am supposed to get. Maybe next time I’ll give SMBC a try…

Any thoughts?

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Posted: 11 January 2008 01:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Holly,
  I read through your detailed post.  I agree that IMBC isn’t the simplest thing to throw together, but I think there are a few things you are doing to make it more difficult on yourself.  This is how I make it:

1.  Place butter slices on plate and bring to room temperature.
2.  Get eggs ready to beat, syrup ready to boil, and measuring cup ready.
3.  Beat eggs
4.  Bring syrup to a boil
5.  Pour into measuring cup and wait just a few seconds if anytime (it cools very quickly)
6.  Hold hand mixer with left hand and pour syrup in constant stream with right hand
7.  Add butter one or two pieces at a time until fully incorporated
8.  If room is cool and mixture is curdling, I use a microwave safe bowl, and microwave it for 10 seconds at a time and rebeat.  This always brings it together quickly.

Few pointers—get a thermometer-I would be annoyed too if I had to stop and check in a cup of water.

I know the stand-mixer people won’t agree, but from what I can tell the hand mixer is easier (I’ve seen a couple of videos on youtube of people making butter cream with a stand mixer and it just looks like slightly more work).  If you’re just making a single batch, I think it is the way to go.  I realize if you are making a larger cake, then the stand mixer is a must.

Don’t let the syrup cool too much, or it won’t pour easily or incorporate well into the eggs.

Have your eggs whipped before you make the syrup—they can hold for the few minutes it takes to heat the syrup.  Sometimes I heat it enough to dissolve the sugar, then whip the eggs, then finish heating as that is even faster.

I think curdling is primarily a temperature concern.  When you’re in a cool room, trying moving the temperature slightly higher (microwave or dip in bowl of warm water) and vice versa for a hot room.

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Posted: 11 January 2008 02:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Thanks for the suggestions Matthew. Actually the very first time I made IMBC I did only a half recipe and used a hand mixer. It seemed pretty reasonable and was easy to pour in the syrup with one hand while moving around the mixer with the other hand as you said. Emboldened by my initial success, the next time I made it I figured it would be easier to do a whole recipe in the stand mixer. But of course I found adding the syrup much trickier and also experienced the nasty and persistent curdling I described earlier (this is the batch I threw out, though in retrospect it could have probably been rescued).

I do have a thermometer, but I’m not convinced it is very accurate so I like to check it with the soft ball. But this significantly ups the stress factor so I should just figure out a better thermometer solution.

Also, maybe next time I’ll move back to the hand mixer if I’m working alone. And its probably best to do the eggs before starting to cook the syrup; I was concerned they would deflate but they can surely survive 10 minutes before the syrup goes in.

thanks for the thoughts,
-Holly

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Posted: 11 January 2008 02:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Holly, have you seen this post?

http://www.realbakingwithrose.com/2006/05/at_last_a_terrific_affordable.html

I have it and I like it a lot.  It seems to be very accurate too, plus it is very affordable and easy to use.  I think I bought mine from amazon and got free shipping.

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Posted: 11 January 2008 02:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Holly:
Relax my friend…it isn’t as tricky as it seems.  I am going to give you some tips as to how I do it…and they do run contrary to some of the instructions in the cake bible…but I have never ever had it fail. 
1) I start by cutting my butter up into little pieces and then beating the egg whites before I start the syrup.I stop beating the eggwhites when they are almost ready.
2) I make about 1/4 more syrup than the recipe calls for (I increase both the water and the sugar by 1/4…so 1 1/4 cups sugar - i don’t have my book with me…so I don’t remember the amount of water)
3) Use a thermometer…don’t bother with the dropping the syrup in water routine (I used to do that too…I gave up)  The accuracy doesn’t seem to be as crucial as I thought…just don’t be way under temp)
4) I cook syrup ...and when I am at about 240 I start beating my eggs again…I know, I know…you shouldn’t stop and restart the beating of egg whites…but I don’t seem to have a problem doing it.
5) At 248 degrees I stop the kitchen aid and pour some of the syrup right from my little pot into the egg whites, beat for a few seconds….stop mixer, add some more syrup…etc.  until most of the syrup is in the egg whites….and I don’t worry about getting every bit out of the pot…since I’ve increased the water and sugar by 1/4. I never bothered with the measuring cup…and have never had a problem
6) Make sure you beat well, well, well after the addition of each piece of butter.

The only time I had a problem was one time when I tried to do it in 85 degree weather with my air conditioning not working…other than that one time…It has never failed.

Hope this helps..

Good luck

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Posted: 11 January 2008 04:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Dear Holly Gates, THANK YOU for taking the time to write your experience with MBC with all details.  It is a BC that is perhaps the best in the world, therefore the time taking discussing is WORTHY.  Be sure to read Patrincia’s entry Mousseline The Magic…

Matthew, and Bill, glad you love MBC, too!

Ok, here my 2 cents:

1- What Holly Gates describes is EXACTLY what I’ve gone thru.  I don’t see a better way to master MBC.  In fact, if I don’t whip MBC for a while, I find more difficult to come back to baking magic.  After 2 months of whipping MBC for Hawaii Way (9677 gr of butter, 102 ea egg whites), I was whipping the last batches with eyes closed.

2- It is soupy with butter because butter/whites is too warm.  From what you describe, it doesn’t seem to be so bad.  You could continue to use your current method (cut up butter, let sit at room temp), provided you expect to freeze/refrigerate before finishing beating.  It is fine.  The first time I had soup MBC, I almost killed my mother blaming all possible factors of witchery, but now I don’t because the freeze/refrigerate is the solution.

3- Using the hand mixer is more ergonomic to add the butter.  But I don’t have one.

4- I always cream my butter.  Now I use a second mixer.  Having to wash one-mixer/one-bowl is a pain, not to say that a drop of oil will affect the whites.  It also works using a plastic bowl and cream the butter under the KA with paddle attachment by holding the bowl with your hands; handy but do at your own risk!!!

5- Before my second mixer, I would cream the butter with an immersion hand blender, loved-it.  Wait until the butter is really soft room temp, cubed or whole, then hand blend it creamy, then place it in the fridge covered with film (if not covered, it colds too fast); by the time the white/syrup is done, the butter was at the right super cool temp but because it was creamed the consistency was still somehow malleable.  This creamy-super-cool butter is a bit colder than recipe calls for, but works great as I don’t have the weather and time to let the whites/syrup cool completely.  Note, if you are making 1/2 recipe, you can hand blend the butter cold straight from the refrigerator, do it carefully as I burned my hand blender once when doing 2x recipe.  Note 2, if you use a plastic bowl (step 4 above), be sure the butter is really soft, then re-refrigerate, it will cream easier, specially with having to manually hold the bowl.

6- I would say, the MOST important thing for MBC is to reach the correct syrup temp and to quickly expose the whites to this hot syrup.  I have an accurate CDN Quick Tip, and I use a small CDN infra-red, also.  I use the infra-red at the beginning, to keep things mess free, when it is near temp then I do the final readings with the quick-tip.  I always read a few degrees under, since sugar continues to heat after removing from the heat source.  This has been discussed on the blog.  The infrared is also great to check the creamed butter temp.

7- I use a small ceramic bowl to hold the syrup.  The ceramic bowl retains the heat much longer than a pyrex measuring cup, thus less waste stuck on the bowl.  I add the syrup in 2 halfs without fear.  I stop the mixer, dump a big half chunk at once, then re-start the mixer at the highest speed.  After a few seconds, I repeat with the second half.  With this ‘big-dump’ method, adding the syrup slowly has no benefits because it gives enough time for the syrup to sink at the bottom!  It is also easier to do big dumps with thickening syrup.

8- It is important for the syrup to reach the correct temp because of two reasons.  Think of spun sugar in suspension and think of cooked-settled whites.  This is what gives the MBC extraordinary hold at room temperature.  The spun sugar in suspension is almost like hard candy filaments, micro, that holds the whites and butter together even when it is warm!  Don’t over heat, because the whites can get killed (break), although I mostly notice because the syrup become brittle and you end up with candy pieces on your MBC (you can hear it when beating).

The comment about making BC without electricity?  My answer is NO, you can’t make MBC w/o electricity!

Keeps us posted, and I hope everyone in your family agrees that MBC tastes and feels great!  Hey, it also freezes well!

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Posted: 11 January 2008 06:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Hi Holly,

I haven’t tried IMBC (though I have made Italian meringue), but should you want to give SMBC a try, check out this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBBoRMWcfNc

Dyann from Dyannbakes shows how curdled SMBC becomes silky again after a thorough (prolonged) beating.

It is often said that it is the temperature difference among the components that make the buttercream curdle, and it makes sense that after a lot beating that the whole slew will eventually have a homogeneous temperature throughout.  The problem with prolonged beating is that it can introduce a lot of air bubbles in the buttercream, which show when you spread it.  To get rid of these bubbles, I usually either fold my slightly warmer flavourings last (e.g., melted chocolate, espresso) or warmer the bowl very slightly until some buttercream melt on the side and then stir with a spoon… or I just run the beater on slow for a couple minutes.

In answer to your question about how this was done in the old days - people were more careful about the temperature differences in the old days (anecdotal, as said by a colleague of mine).  They made sure that the optimum temperatures of the components are reached to avoid curdling, which would mean a lot more work to fix.  Noting how much work the KitchenAid does to reconstitute curdled buttercream, I imagine that people in the old days would probably rather avoid the entire task.  Today the fix means flicking a button and letting a machine rip for a few minutes.

BTW, your buche is fantastic!

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Posted: 11 January 2008 06:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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PS - smaller batches of Mousseline are less tempermental than larger batches, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be wishing you owned a 20qt hobart!

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Posted: 11 January 2008 06:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Thanks for all the great advice everyone, I really appreciate it!

I actually have a scientific thermocouple reader with a stainless K type thermocouple probe that I use for brewing and cheesemaking, so I will use that next time I do the syrup. Hearing about different people’s methods has been very helpful.

Julius, I actually watched that video linked off your blog yesterday morning and had resolved myself to try it out. But then last night I thought “the IMBC is better for temp stability, etc., why not just make it? I’ve done it before after all…”. Anyway, I think next time I will give the SMBC a try for variety even though I think my IMBC process could improve based on the feedback and ideas in this thread.

Hector, from your previous efforts it is clear you are the absolute _king_ of the Mousseline! I can only hope to approach your obvious mastery of it with a lot more practice. Thanks for the tips on your methods.

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Posted: 11 January 2008 06:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Patrincia, I’m not sure my wife would be on board with using even more butter! We already need to go on a diet after the holidays.

Its mind boggling to think how much butter would go into a 20qt mixer bowl full of buttercream. Yum. It does freeze well after all…

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Posted: 11 January 2008 06:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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This will be my third attempt at posting to this thread… ARG!


Holly - I wrote a loooong response and thought it posted, but alas it is lost forever…. so I’ll try to give you a very brief rundown of what I said.

First let me say that I had the same experience as you when I first started making mousseline.  Don’t worry, you’re doing fine.  Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:

Butter should be room temp, but not overly so (a few hours on the counter is good, but overnight might be too much)... it should look like a stick of butter straight from the fridge, but be soft enough that you can easily squish it with your finger - it shouldn’t look greasy or “separated” (you can use butter that is too warm, but you will definitely need to chill the mixture before it will “come together”).

I pre-whip my whites until they are almost done (using the wire whip attachment), then turn the mixer off and wait.

I always use a thermometer to check my sugar syrup temp - you can test the accuracy of your thermometer by seeing if it reads 212F at the moment water starts to boil (at sea level).

When the syrup is a few degrees below my target temp, I start whipping the eggs in the mixer again.

When the syrup reaches the target temp, I pour the syrup directly down the side of the KA bowl (being careful not to let the sugar syrup spin all over the place by the whip).  I don’t like transferring the syrup to a Pyrex cup first - I find it cools too quickly and doesn’t fully incorporate into the buttercream.

Continue whipping the eggs with the wire whip attachment until the mixture is cool (can use a fan, water bath, or freezer packs to speed this along if needed).

When the mixture is completely cool you can start adding your butter - I’ve done this in small 1 tablespoon increments as well as larger 2-3 tablespoon increments…. either seems to work equally well. 

If the buttercream doesn’t come together right away you can try ice packs, but I find it’s easier to just pop the bowl in the fridge for 5 or 10 minutes, stirring once or twice, and then try again.  The buttercream will come together when it’s at the right temp, just don’t let it get so cold in the fridge that the butter solidifies before can whip it. 

Here’s another fantastic tip:  make your Mousseline in advance and freeze it for future use - it freezes beautifully as long as you take the necessary “air-tight” precautions.  Thaw it either in the fridge or on the counter (still sealed tightly).  Bring to room temp before you re-whip slightly to restore it’s consistency.

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Posted: 11 January 2008 06:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Yeah - it worked!  So glad I copied it the second time just in case.  Anyone else having this problem?

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Posted: 11 January 2008 06:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Re the 20qt Hobart:

haha - I wouldn’t suggest eating all that buttercream, but it sure would make large special occasion/wedding cake preparations faster and easier.

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Posted: 11 January 2008 07:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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quickly:

the king of mousseline is Rose for sharing/inventing/co-inventing the recipe with the commoners near 20 years ago.  can you imagine how much work Rose must had done to write it on book?

Julius, thanks for the video!  I think Rose’s new book will include video of making MBC.

regarding whites, fluffy, whipping/deflating.  I wonder what is the ‘correct’ amount of air on the finished MBC?  If any?  From what I suspect, I almost come up with the same volume or pretty close, even when things has gone soupy, or after freezer storage.  Is it safe to assume, that once whites ‘cooked’ with hot syrup, things can’t deflate totally?

oh, I wanted to reply to your first post, that I also agree with Patrincia, that you can pre-whip the whites, after certain point, the whipped whites ‘can’ wait for you.  Also, like Patrincia’s idea of pouring syrup directly from the pan, as I’ve tried it before, almost touching the walls of the KA bowl.  Perhaps using a copper pot will prevent the syrup from over cooking, as copper cools immediately?

Holly Gates, envious about your thremocoupe!  the only coupe I have is my mini coop-er. 

SMBC, somewhat easier to execute, does not hold as well as IMBC (aka MBC) at room temp because the syrup is not heated as high.

Also, I love all the fruit variations of MBC, and I consider the Silk Meringue Buttercream a variant of MBC, too.  The best is the Caramel Silk Meringue Buttercream.  When I made the Copper Topper Mountain Cake (search blog for post/pic), I still have the taste recorded on my tongue.  I say it is amazing how complex and multidimensional you can get from different prep version of eggs and sugar!

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Posted: 11 January 2008 07:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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I totally agree Hector - I seem to get the same finished volume whether the BC starts off soupy and needs additional chilling, or it comes together immediately.  I also agree whole heartedly that Italian Meringue BC has superior stability at room temp to Swiss Meringue. 

What size dollops of butter do you incorporate, and how long do you wait before the next dollop?

I really must try the Caramel Silk BC - your description is too good to pass up!

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Posted: 11 January 2008 08:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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I dollop butter according to TCB… Chinese soup spoon full at a time…

When doing the huge batches where literally the pouring shield is popping upwards from the always growing whipped whites overflowing the bowl, I do spoon full at a time, too, but continually without pausing to wait until incorporated.  Adding the butter makes the BC deflate, very much appreciated by the overflowing 6 qt bowl!

Caramel Silk Meringue Buttercream….......... make ahead the caramel creme anglaise, it is so wonderful on its own that it deserves its own day of work and appreciation!

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