I'm relatively new to this site and this is actually my first post.
I have been reading threads about different recipes for royal icing, other types of icings for cookies, etc.
The one thing that caught my attention is that a number of people mention making sure your equipment is clean of any type of grease because it will ruin the royal icing, but then I look at some of the cookie icing recipes and there is shortening in them. For example, Karen's Cookies Meringue Powder Buttercream.
So I guess I'm a bit confused at the difference between her recipe and other royal icing recipes?
Also, in her recipe she whips 1/2 the sugar, meringue powder and water until peaks form, then changes to a paddle attachment for the remainder of the mixing. I've seen a lot of people mention to mix royal icing on a low speed so there isn't too much air incorporated into the icing. That confuses me a bit as well.
Would someone be able to explain the differences to me and if it would make a difference if you mixed Karen's recipe on a low speed?
AThe difference between buttercream and royal icing is the same as the difference between cotton balls and concrete. Totally different mediums, reasons to use each type of icing and ingredients.
if there is shortening or butter in the icing then it is not 'royal icing'
I think you've really confused yourself with this :-)
Royal icing is, in its simplest form, egg white and icing sugar. It's mixed slowly to avoid incorporating air as you often use it for piping, and air would cause your piping line to break. If we're talking cookies, it can also be used for flooding, which is where you pipe an outline with stiff RI, then fill (or 'flood') it with the thinner RI. It can also be used to cover cakes with, and is a very traditional medium.
RI dries rock hard if it doesn't have glycerine added.
It's the same ingredients as you would use in a meringue, and this may be where your confusion lies, as obviously your aim with a meringue is to whip as much air as possible in. You want the opposite for RI.
Meringue buttercreams are just that - meringue whipped up which then has butter added. These are light and smooth, and don't set hard. The reason for changing to a paddle is to try and reduce the amount of air added. You want the air to whip the meringue up, but once that's done you want to keep your buttercream smooth and silky, not airy. It's for the same reasons really, as if you try and pipe or spread a mixture with plenty of air you will have to deal with lots of little bubbles and air pockets.
I'm an old fashioned girl and I learned how to make royal icing in the 80s! As Lizziebug says above - it's a slow process - definitely no grease should ever come in contact with the bowl or paddle. As a rule of thumb, I set my mixer to its slowest speed and gradually add the icing sugar to the powdered albumen (I prefer it to fresh) in small stages over a period of 20 minutes.
As said above - buttercream is kind of descriptive in its name anyway - it's creamed butter with icing sugar (or whatever type you are making).
If you are looking for something where you can do really fine work - then royal icing might be what you are looking for - but it takes a bit of practice to get it right otherwise you will be throwing the bowl out!