BEATING EGG WHITES
If you like meringue then you will need to know how to Beat Egg Whites.
Beating egg whites properly is the key to creating certain extra light cookies, such as meringues or ladyfingers. Beating eggs is a basic baking skill.
There are things to remember before you start:
- The bowl and beaters must be clean and grease-free. Use a stainless steel, ceramic, or glass bowl, not plastic. Egg whites will whip higher if they’re at room temperature before beating.
- When beating egg whites, at first you’ll have a puddle of clear liquid with some large bubbles in it.
- As you continue beating, the liquid will become opaque as it forms many more, smaller bubbles.
There are also three stages you need for meringue, soufflés and sponge cakes.
If a point forms and then falls over immediately, the egg whites are at a soft peak.
From here, 20 to 25 more strokes with a whisk will bring you to a medium peak.
Add another 15 to 20 strokes to stiff peaks.
Beyond Stiff Peaks
It’s extremely easy to go too far. When you start to see grainy white clumps, you’re beyond stiff peaks. Every stroke of the whisk or beater is tearing apart the network of air, water and protein you’ve worked so hard to create. You’ll also see a pool of clear liquid under the foam.
The good news is that the foam still on top of the liquid will essentially still work.
The bad news is that you can’t really fix what’s happened, other than to start over with new egg whites.
Quick Tip for Beating Egg Whites
Stiff meringue, creamy soufflés and pillowy sponge cakes can be particularly aggravating when they don’t go as planned.
Beaten egg whites are the foundation of these recipes and many others.
Whenever you’re beating eggs, start off slowly and gradually work up to a high speed. While you can beat egg whites by hand using a hand mixer or standing mixer does the job in less time and tends to give you a more uniform structure.
Eggs beat best if they are fresh and cold. This produces small, tight bubbles that hold up well and won’t deflate as easily when you’re doing things like piping out meringue or folding whites into cake batter.
When whites are older or at room temperature they will whip up more quickly and to a greater volume, but this produces big bubbles with a less stable structure. While not ideal for meringues, this would be great for a souffle where there aren’t a lot of other heavy ingredients weighing down the egg whites and you’re cooking the dish right away.
Whipping whites in a copper bowl is great if you have one, but metal or glass bowls will work just fine. Never use a plastic bowl because fat particles often get into knicks and scratches in the plastic and interfere with beating the egg whites.
Using the correct equipment will assure the best outcome.
Bowl size (and shape) matters.
For proper aeration, a small mixer bowl is best for up to 3 egg whites. Use a large mixer bowl for 4 or more whites. When beaten, egg whites increase as much as 6 to 8 times in volume. The bowl should be large enough to hold the expanding whites, but not so large that the whites are spread too thin. The bowl should be deep enough for the beaters to make contact with as much of the whites as possible.
Beaters and bowl should be spotlessly clean.
Any residue of fat will prevent egg whites from beating up properly. Use a stainless steel or glass bowl. Plastic bowls can retain a film of grease.
Using an electric portable or stand mixer is easiest. Meringue can be beaten with a balloon whisk, but this requires more than average arm strength and endurance.
Keep the yolks separate from the whites. Fat from egg yolk will prevent egg whites from beating up properly.
When separating eggs, take care that no yolk gets in the whites. To avoid an accident, separate each egg white into a cup or small bowl before transferring it to the mixer bowl.
Discard any white that has even a speck of yolk in it or refrigerate or freeze it for another use.
Here are some tips for for a perfect outcome.
It’s easiest to separate eggs cleanly when they are refrigerator-cold. However egg whites whip up to a greater volume when they’ve had a chance to warm up a bit, 20 to 30 minutes. Before beating egg whites, always begin by separating the eggs. Then let the whites stand at room temperature while you prepare the baking pan, equipment and other ingredients.
Cream of tartar
The air beaten into egg whites can be lost quite easily. A small amount of acidic ingredient, such as cream of tartar, acts as a stabilizing agent. A bit of lemon juice or vinegar will also work.
Salt decreases egg white foam stability, so it is not used in meringues.
Add sugar gradually
For optimum volume and smoothest texture, sugar should be added gradually, beginning only after the whites have been beaten to the foamy stage (about double in volume). Adding some or all of the sugar before you begin beating the egg whites will result in less volume.
To check if sugar is dissolved
After each addition, whites should be beaten until sugar has dissolved before adding more. To test, rub a bit of meringue between thumb and forefinger. If sugar is dissolved, it will feel completely smooth. If it feels grainy or sandy, continue beating. Undissolved sugar can cause sugar spots on the meringue surface.
Does anyone know what this is? BONUS POINTS If you still have one.
Anyone else have any good tips for beating egg whites?
Want to make a lot of poached eggs at once? Learn about Poaching Eggs In Batches
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This article is part of the Tips That Help in the Kitchen Series, Tip Friday.
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