Problems with getting sugar syrups for buttercreams properly dissolved…
Posted: 18 January 2010 08:20 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Hello, smart baker people. Longtime reader and follower of la RLB here, delurking to ask a burning question that’s plagued me for years of buttercreamery: When making the Neoclassic Buttercream, I always have difficulties getting the sugar to completely dissolve prior to beating it into the egg yolks. I usually have to overcook it to get the sugar all dissolved and thus I leave a lot in the measuring cup and end up with less stable buttercream as a result. *grrr* I always weigh the ingredients, and I’ve tried using superfine sugar, covering the pot, adding a little extra corn syrup and/or water… to no avail. I either end up with a syrup that’s not overcooked, but crunchy, or a smooth syrup that’s too overcooked to blend well. Apologies if this has been addressed before, but I’ve rummaged around the Cakes Q & A and not found this issue addressed. Thanks so much in advance!!

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Posted: 18 January 2010 08:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Welcome, PFLuke!  In my experience, buttercream sugar syrups need to be gently stirred in the period leading up to a boil, and as it first starts boiling.  Are you stirring? 

Another thought, are you boiling the syrup on high?  You could lower the heat as it approaches a boil to give the sugar time to dissolve.  I find with all the buttercream syrups that if I lower the heat leading up to the target temperature, then I don’t have to pour it into a pyrex, I can pour straight from the pan to the eggs. 

Remember, the neoclassic syrup needs to be thickly bubbling all over, not just a few bubbles in the center. 

We’d love to see some pics if you’re so inclined…

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Posted: 18 January 2010 10:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Thanks, Julie! I definitely stir to get things going. I’ve also fiddled with the heat to lengthen the time I have to give the sugar to dissolve before it comes to a rolling boil. My fear is that a longer, lower cooking time still overcooks the syrup. But I haven’t tried reducing the heat closer to target temperature.  I’ll try that and the no measuring cup approach. Maybe that will work…

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Posted: 18 January 2010 11:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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PFLuke - 19 January 2010 02:43 AM

Thanks, Julie! I definitely stir to get things going. I’ve also fiddled with the heat to lengthen the time I have to give the sugar to dissolve before it comes to a rolling boil. My fear is that a longer, lower cooking time still overcooks the syrup. But I haven’t tried reducing the heat closer to target temperature.  I’ll try that and the no measuring cup approach. Maybe that will work…

Hi pfluke,

Maybe when you say you stir to get things started you are not aggitating the water enough. Sugar dissolves faster in water when the water gets warmer and when it is aggitated. This way the molecules can break down faster. I constantly stir the sugar and water with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula until it starts to boil. The sugar is not completely melted until the liquid becomes clear (no longer that white cloudy liquid). Usually the liquid turns absolutely clear at the same time it starts to fully boil. You probably need to wait a bit longer until this point. If the liquid is crystal clear and boiling you should not have any sugar crystals left. If you do, then maybe its the crystallazation that happens when you are pouring the syrup into the egg yolks. If the sugar cools too quickly this can happen and you may be getting sugar crystals in the eggs as you beat which may be causing the gritiness.

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Posted: 18 January 2010 11:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Hi pfluke,

I have made the neoclassic buttercream a few times now without any problems.  Are you using superfine sugar in the syrup?  That is all I use and it seems to dissolve fine.  And like the others mentioned to stir very well on low heat until it is dissolved.  You can take a little of the syrup and rub it between your fingers to check for any grittiness.  Just be careful,  its hot.  Burnt my finger once doing that.  But it lets me know if the sugar is all dissolved.  then I turn the heat up, but not to high until there are big bubbles all over the top of the syrup.  Good luck with your baking endeavors.

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Posted: 19 January 2010 08:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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How are you measuring out the sugar and corn syrup to begin with?

Start with the liquid in the pan and then add the granulated sugar.  Stir at this point until they are well mixed and then put them on the heat.  If you add a lid at this point, you don’t have to worry about the sides of the pan because the steam will wash down the sides of the pan.  (Even though I say this, I don’t do it.  I only had a syrup crystallize on me once - in an unfamiliar kitchen using a banged up pot with lots of pits in it.  I don’t do it when I’m making mousseline either.  And I pour the syrup directly from the pot into the running mixer in a slow, steady stream.  You’ll see steam rising from the mixer - that’s typical - but I’ve found that my success with the neoclassic BCM is directly proportional to how long I mix the yolks (I start them even before I start the heat under the sugar) and how cool the butter is.  Too soft butter or not enough time beating the yolks and sugar and the buttercream is very soft.

Welcome to the forums!

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Posted: 19 January 2010 11:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Jeanne - 20 January 2010 12:52 AM

You’ll see steam rising from the mixer - that’s typical - but I’ve found that my success with the neoclassic BCM is directly proportional to how long I mix the yolks (I start them even before I start the heat under the sugar) and how cool the butter is.  Too soft butter or not enough time beating the yolks and sugar and the buttercream is very soft.

Jeanne, thank you so much for that great tip! I don’t make the Neoclassic that often as it’s not as stable as the Mousseline in my tropical weather. But maybe the reason mine were always a bit soft is because I didn’t whip the yolks enough. That’s good to know.

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Posted: 20 January 2010 08:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Yes, great tip Jeanne, thanks for sharing!

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Posted: 20 January 2010 03:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Hi PFLuke - I didn’t take the time to read all of the comments above, but have you tried using superfine sugar?  It dissolves much faster than regular granulated sugar.  Stir until it dissolves, then stop stirring and bring to a full rolling boil.  Hope this helps.

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Posted: 26 January 2010 04:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Thanks so much, everyone, for all the excellent advice. Big takeaway is that I was doing everything right, just not right ENOUGH. How often that’s true! I’ll be baking for several events this weekend, and it looks like I’m making a chocolate cake with a PERFECT orange buttercream. Hooah!

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Posted: 31 January 2010 02:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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If you really want to get technical, sugar absolutely dissolves in water when the mixture is heated to 140 degrees while stirring. When it reaches this point, stop stirring, put the lid on the pot, turn the heat up, and bring it to a fast boil for at least 2 minutes (to wash down the sides of the pot), take the lid off, and boil it till it reaches about 234 degrees (soft ball stage). With the NCB, this happens almost immediately because of the corn syrup (when it produces large, slow popping bubbles all over its surface), which is why a thermometer isn?t really necessary for this one; the visual cues alone are enough. However, if you?re worried about overcooking it, just check the temperature with a digital instant read thermometer.

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