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Browned Butter Bliss

Do you know browned butter yet?

If not, might I introduce you?

Browned butter takes butter to a whole new level…think nutty, toasty and buttery – those are all very good qualities in a food, don’t you think?

One of my favorite things is to make chocolate chip cookies with browned butter – and I also know of a fabulous recipe for Browned Butter Cookie Dough Truffles, which, by the way, are DELICIOUS.

PSA: If you’re going to make egg-less cookie dough for eating “raw”, please take the step of baking your raw flour.  Yes, I said bake your flour.  There have been recent outbreaks of e.Coli that have been linked to eating raw flour, and isn’t it better to be safe than sorry?  Just take your flour and put it in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.  It will also have a nice toast to it, and it will be safer to eat.

Well, with the knowledge of what browned butter makes better (everything), I decided I wanted to see what happened when I browned the butter for swiss meringue buttercream.   Seemed like an easy enough process… I’d just brown the butter and go forward as always.

First the butter – 1 lb of yellow goodness

butter melting

Now, when you’re browning butter, you want to brown it to an amber color – not a black color.  There is such a thing as beurre noir (black butter) but that’s not what we’re going for here.  We needed to get a golden color on the butter liquids and a deep brown on the solids that would come out of the butter and stick to the bottom of the pan.  Kind of what is happening here:

Browned butter bottom of pan

You can see here that the liquid is a nice golden amber color and the bits stuck to the pan are a dark brown (not black!).  You want to cook the butter over medium heat and swirl it occasionally to get to this color. I dumped out the liquid into a bowl to stop the cooking and allow it to cool.  I sped it up by putting it into the fridge until it solidified.

If you’re familiar with making swiss meringue buttercream, you know that you ideally want your butter to be at room temperature but not droopy or melty.  I figured if this butter was hard enough to scoop with a spatula, it would be good enough to use, so I went ahead with my usual method (you can read about how to make the recipe below).

So, how did it go?

Well, to my surprise, the buttercream did NOT come together like my SMBC (yes, nice acronym in place of the whole buttercream name) – while the butter did emulsify into the meringue, it was soupy and despite continuing to beat it, it was still very, very soft.

What I realized (because, science) is that losing the milk solids that were left behind in my saucepan during the browning process likely had an effect on how the butter and meringue would emulsify together and make a good solid frosting.   To help replace some of that lost milk solid, I added another 2 sticks of whole butter, but it still was a loose buttercream.  I knew I didn’t want to add any more butter, because that’s just not my taste.  So – I waited.  I let the buttercream sit for about 8 hours at room temperature, and voila – it was the perfect consistency.  In the future, I will allow my melted butter to harden up for longer, and also not expect to use it right away, like I might usually operate.

How did it taste?

Um…. amazing!

Oh, and I also added in some egg-less cookie dough to the frosting to make a chocolate chip cookie filling for a cake, and let me tell you how amazing THAT was. Well, you’ll just have to trust me.

I hope you’ll give this recipe a try and let me know how it goes.

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Print Recipe
Browned Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream
A delicious toasty note is added to a typical swiss meringue buttercream. Lovely and subtle on its own, but a great platform for adding other flavors as well.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20-40 minutes
Servings
batch
Ingredients
  • 1.5 lb good quality butter divided - 1lb for melting, .5lb (or 2 sticks) for holding at room temperature
  • 1 lb granulated sugar
  • 8 Egg whites From 8 eggs you can use pasteurized egg whites, but the meringue doesn't tend to get as voluminous
  • 1 tsp salt popcorn salt works good here
  • 1 TB vanilla vanilla paste also works well here
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20-40 minutes
Servings
batch
Ingredients
  • 1.5 lb good quality butter divided - 1lb for melting, .5lb (or 2 sticks) for holding at room temperature
  • 1 lb granulated sugar
  • 8 Egg whites From 8 eggs you can use pasteurized egg whites, but the meringue doesn't tend to get as voluminous
  • 1 tsp salt popcorn salt works good here
  • 1 TB vanilla vanilla paste also works well here
Instructions
Make Browned Butter
  1. Melt 1lb (4 sticks) of butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Swirl occasionally and cook until the butter liquid is amber colored and the milk solids have started to stick to the bottom of the pan and get dark brown. Don't let it get black. Pour butter into a heatproof bowl and put in the refrigerator to cool.
Make Meringue Buttercream
  1. Heat an inch of water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. In a heat safe bowl (glass or metal), place the sugar and egg whites, and cook over the water bath, whisking constantly, until the sugar has completely melted into the egg whites. If you are concerned about food safety, use an instant read thermometer and cook the egg white mixture until it reaches 160 degrees before removing it from the heat.
  2. Once the eggwhites and sugar have come together, pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Beat at high speed until the meringue becomes thick, white and glossy and the bowl feels cool (room temperature) to the touch. Depending on the weather and heat of your kitchen, this can take 10-30 minutes. TIP: Put your mixing bowl in the freezer while you're cooking your egg whites, that way the cool bowl will help the temperature come down a bit quicker.
  3. With the mixer now on low speed, once the meringue is cool, start adding the browned butter a little at a time. Once the browned butter is all incorporated, add the two sticks of room temperature whole butter, a chunk at a time.
  4. Once all the butter is added, turn up the mixer to medium high and beat until somewhat fluffy. Add the salt and the vanilla. Frost your cakes, and enjoy!
  5. Depending again on the heat of your kitchen, the frosting may seem very soft, even after 10 minutes or so of beating. If it is still soft, set the bowl aside, covered with plastic wrap and check on it in a few hours. Do not put in the fridge if you are planning to use it within a day. TIP: If you refrigerate the mixture, take it out of the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature before re-beating. If you beat it while it is cold, the result will be lumpy.
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