Beaten egg whites are an essential ingredient to light and fluffy desserts, cakes, soufflés and meringues. The success of these dishes depends on the correct beating of the egg whites so they form stiff peaks on top of dense, but light foam. It may sound easy, but there are a few steps to follow for best results.
- Pick the right eggs. Most recipes are based on medium sized eggs. Eggs bring the best results when they are a few days old.
- Take the eggs out of the fridge a couple of hours before use. The whites beat better and faster at room temperature because the proteins can expand better when lightly warmed.
- Pick the right bowl. Use a glass or metal bowl to beat your whites. An unlined copper bowl is ideal but not always available. Avoid plastic bowls as they often contain residues of oil in their porous walls that would compromise your efforts. Make sure that your bowl is meticulously clean.
- Separate the yolk. Use the hand method by cracking the egg and balancing the yolk between the shells while releasing the whites. Easier is the use of a store bought egg separator.
Caution: no matter which technique is used, make sure that not a single drop of egg yolk falls into the egg white. The oils in it will sabotage the project and prevent the egg whites from stiffening up. Any contact with fat is deadly for your egg whites, so make sure that every utensil they get in touch with is super clean and dry. A good trick to avoid this is to separate the egg into a small cup before adding it to the bowl. This way, in case of an accident, only one egg is lost and not the whole batch. Add a pinch of salt and start beating. Always use an electric mixer. The salt aids in the stability of the foam as it reacts with the proteins and makes them more firm.
- Firm them up. About halfway through the process a couple of drops of lemon juice or a tiny sprinkle of cream of tartar also aids in the stability.
- Do not overbeat. The egg whites are done when you can cut through them with a knife and a line remains or when removing the mixer perky peaks should appear.