Making Swiss Meringue Buttercream with the Breville Control Freak

The Breville Control Freak is an arguably over-engineered induction cooktop that excels at precise regulation of temperature with a surface sensor (used to measure the pan) as well as a probe-style sensor. You can easily switch between the two, and the probe has both oil and non-oil setttings. Since receiving one as a gift a year and a half ago, I have gradually explored its potential. I regularly use it for making a yukone (cooked flour/water paste) for Japanese-style breads and bagels. It’s a joy to use for deep frying, as it automatically maintains the correct temperature as you add and remove foods from the pot.

I typically use an American-style buttercream for cakes and cupcakes. Essentially a mixture of butter and powdered sugar with a small amount of milk or cream to reach the desired consistency, American buttercream is quick, easy, and generally well-loved, particularly by children. Since so much of the structure is supplied by powdered sugar, it tends to be on the sweet side, sometimes cloyingly so. Swiss meringue buttercream is a popular alternative. It’s decidedly less sweet, as it adds egg whites in place of some fo the sugar. It has a butter-forward taste with a smooth texture that is also more visually appealing. However, it can also be a bit of a pain to make, as it requires low-temperature cooking of the egg whites to avoid potential infection risks (e.g. salmonella). Egg whites and granular sugar (with a bit of salt and cream of tartar) are heated to 185 °C, then whipped off heat into a glossy meringue. Afterwards, cool butter is mixed in to yield the final, stable product. 

Heating the egg whites to the right temperature can be finicky, and trying to coordinate adjusting a gas stovetop while stirring constantly and holding a probe thermometer can feel like a circuit act. The Control Freak greatly simplifies this. I clip the probe thermometer onto the side of my pot, set the target temperature, and stir the egg whites and sugar until the temperature is hit. I then transfer the mixture to a stand mixer and proceed with the recipe as normal. The Freak-enhanced frosting came out better than any of my previous attempts, and the whole experience was easier and less stressful.

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