“The French cook; we open tins.”-John Galsworthy.
Off late ,I have been trying to make macarons and meringues , and thanks to several not-too-successful attempts, I have more egg yolks than I know what to do with. So I finally decided to try my hand at French buttercream…
French buttercream is a silky smooth buttercream made with an egg yolk foam (pate a bombe).
I had my reasons why I had kept away from French buttercream until now. Like most people, I am wary of using raw eggs in my food. In French buttercream , a sugar syrup is added to whipping yolks and the heat from the syrup is expected to cook the yolks. Of course , I have read extensively on the matter , so I am aware that a temperature of 238 F / 114 C (that the sugar syrup is at) is sufficient to cook the eggs but not enough to pasteurise them. Another argument in the matter is that the proportion of sugar syrup is a lot more to that of yolks, hence the heat in it is enough to cook the eggs enough. Also, the risk of actually contracting a Salmonella infection from an egg of a good source, stored well and handled well is quite small. Then there’s the matter of the millions of people who eat egg based mousses , ice creams , royal icing , raw cookie dough etc and lived happily to tell the tale?
If you aren’t convinced , just skip this.. the worry over health isn’t worth a little buttercream 🙂 .
If you are semi convinced, use the freshest eggs you can find. You can even pasteurise them yourselves if you have a thermometer. Just heat eggs in some water and bring the temperature to 140 F , and keep heating between 140-142F for 3 minutes. Wash with cold water, refrigerate and use the eggs how you normally would !
Now that we have talked food safety , lets talk about pouring a hot sugar syrup into the eggs while whipping ? At the best of times , I am borderline uncoordinated. But I managed to get a few batches of the buttercream done without any splatters or scalds. So I am sure you can too !
Like all my frosting tutorials , I will go into some detail here . The ingredients are simple .. yolks , sugar , butter. So it’s important to give them the respect they deserve.
The butter : make sure you use a good quality butter. It should be at room temperature , soft enough to take an impression of your finger but not so soft it becomes all mushy. Cut it in cubes and keep ready before you start
The yolks : again at room temperature . I used yolks from regular sized eggs we find everywhere in India. You need to whip them up for few minutes before adding the sugar syrup.
The sugar syrup : a thermometer is very useful here , but not essential ! You heat the sugar and water without swirling or stirring until it hits 238 F/114 C . If you are not using a thermometer , heat until the sugar melts .Once the syrup is on a rolling boil , continue heating until 1 minute. Now with a spoon , take a little syrup and drop into a glass of cold water. Roll with your fingers , it should be a soft ball. Do this every 15 seconds or so until I get this soft ball stage.
Pouring the syrup : once you get the soft ball stage ,or 238 F , immediately start pouring it into the yolks that are whipping. This can easily be done with a hand mixer. Pour in a continuous drizzle while you are whipping . If you do it too slowly , the sugar syrup will harden and you do not want sugar crystals in your yolks. Besides you want the syrup to be hot , as this is basically cooking the yolks !
Adding the butter : add the butter only when the yolk and syrup mixture has become completely cool. Or else the mixture will get soupy. If it looks soupy, chill for 5 minutes and continue beating.
Beat away and you will soon be rewarded with a glorious yellow buttercream !
The best thing I like about this French buttercream is the lovely yellow colour. The texture is super creamy and luxurious like the italian and swiss buttercreams. The taste of course is rich , buttery and it isn’t too sweet. Needless to say , it pipes like a dream and lasts for a while at room temperature. It is supposed to have less stability than the meringue based buttercreams though.
This is a great versatile buttercream that I understand isn’t for everybody . All I can say is that if you can ensure the safety of the eggs you are using, its one you should try ! But at the very least , it was a great culinary experiment with tasty results!