2 c sugar (375g), divided
2/3 c water (150g)
5 large egg whites (150g)
pinch salt, optional
pinch cream of tartar, optional
2 c butter, cubed (4 sticks or 1 pound), Cool but not cold
2 t vanilla extract
Chocolate Version: 1 1/4 c semi-sweet chocolate, melted but not hot
You want to make sure that you have everything measured out and ready to go. This recipe is simple but it does require seamless execution.
You also want to make sure that your mixing bowl is clean (glass or metal, not plastic) and free of any residual fat, or your meringue will not mix up.
Mix half of the sugar with the water in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir just until the sugar dissolves.
When the pan heats up, brush around the sides of the pot with a clean pastry brush dipped in water to dissolve any sugar crystals adhered to the sides of the pot. You can also use a paper towel that you roll up.
When your sugar starts to bubble, begin whipping your egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
You can add a pinch of salt and/or cream of tartar for stability if you wish.
When your eggs begin to look frothy, slowly begin adding the second half of the sugar, whipping constantly on medium-high.
Continue whipping your egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
Ideally, your meringue should reach stiff peaks at the same time that your sugar syrup reaches 235 degrees F.
If your egg whites are whipping too fast, reduce the mixer speed to medium.
You can also adjust the heat on the sugar syrup to make it cook faster or slower.
To test your syrup, you can either use a candy thermometer, or you can do it the old-fashioned way.
Take a tiny bit of the syrup on a spoon and dip it into ice water, reach in and grab the sugar. If it dissolves, it isn’t close to ready; if it forms a little malleable ball, it’s ready.
Turn your mixer up to high and SLOWLY pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl. Be very careful not to hit the whisk.
Ideally, you should pour it in one solid stream down the edge because it will solidify where it hits the bowl, so if you pour it in three different places, you will be losing sugar.
Keep whipping the Italian meringue on high until it forms stiff, but what is more important than the stiffness of the meringue is the temperature of the meringue.
Before you begin adding the butter, the bottom of the bowl should feel barely warm.
When the bowl feels just slightly warm, switch to the paddle attachment and begin adding your butter a piece at a tie.
Take your butter out of the refrigerator when you begin measuring the ingredients.
Before adding each piece, squeeze the butter.
Continue to beat the butter on medium-high until the buttercream is smooth and there are no remaining pieces of butter.
At this stage, switch back to the whisk, add flavorings and beat it until it is light and fluffy.
Pipe or spread as desired.
When your butter has been completely incorporated, pour your chocolate in all at once and immediately fold it in with a spatula or beat it in with the paddle attachment.
You want to make sure that your chocolate is melted but not hot and it is also still warm enough to flow freely in a continuous stream.
If your chocolate is too hot, you will melt your butter cream; but if it is too cool, then you will have pieces of chocolate in your frosting.