Egg whites have the amazing ability to hold
voluminous amounts of air when whipped. This makes them a key ingredient
for leavening baked goods and essential for making meringues. Egg whites
(known as the egg's albumen) also help bind ingredients together. And they
can clarify cloudy stocks, broths or coffee when added to the hot liquid
by attracting minute particles like a magnet. An egg white contains no fat
and is composed of mostly protein, water and water-soluble vitamins such
Raw egg whites can be refrigerated in a
tightly sealed container for up to 5 days. Or you can freeze egg whites in
an ice cube tray, adding 1 egg white (about 2 tablespoons) to each
section. When frozen, transfer to a zipper-lock plastic bag. Thaw
overnight in a bowl in the refrigerator or in a tightly sealed zipper-lock
plastic bag set into a bowl of cool tap water.
To choose a bowl for beating egg whites - an
unlined copper bowl is ideal because it will make the whites stronger so
that they can rise for a longer periods of time in the oven before they
dry out and set. If you don't have a copper bowl, use a glass or metal
bowl. Avoid using plastic bowls, which are more porous and tend to retain
a greasy film that can prevent egg whites from achieving full volume.
Aluminum bowls should also be avoided because they will react with any
acid added to the whites and turn them gray.
To prepare equipment for beating egg whites
- make sure that any of the equipment that might come in contact with the
egg whites is absolutely grease-free, including the bowl, whish, beaters
and scraper or spatula. Just a speck of fat can cause the whites to rise
to only one-third of their potential volume, because the fat intervenes in
the formation of protein bonds in the egg foam. Just to be sure, wipe
everything down with a paper towel dampened with lemon juice or vinegar,
then rinse and dry thoroughly. If you regularly use a whisk to beat egg
whites, store it away from your stove top so that it does not collect
Preparing egg whites for beating - bring the
egg whites to room temperature before beating. Warm eggs have a lower
surface tension, allowing bubbles to form more easily. Most recipes call
for egg whites to be beaten last, but separate the eggs first, which will
give the whites time to reach room temperature as you prepare the rest of
the recipe. Of course, you can beat cold egg whites, it just takes longer.
Choose eggs for beating - Any type of eggs
can be beaten, but farm-fresh eggs take longer because they have thicker
whites. However, they will have more structural stability. Thin, runny
whites (usually found in supermarkets) beat up faster than fresh, thick
To choose a beater for egg whites - if
beating by hand, choose a large, well-rounded balloon whisk with many
thin, flexible tines. You can also use a clean, old-fashioned rotary
beater. Or use an electric mixer, making sure that the beaters move
continuously around the edge of the bowl.
To beat egg whites that won't deflate -
begin by beating slowly. Beating too quickly makes large air cells, which
break easily. Once an even foam forms, you can beat more vigorously until
the egg whites are firm enough to hold the desired shape (soft peaks or
stiff peaks). As soon as they do, stop. Over-beaten egg whites can become
brittle and deflate rapidly.
Stabilizing beaten egg whites - add an acid,
such as cream of tartar, lemon juice, or vinegar. The acid helps bond the
protein cells together, so they beat up faster and become more stable and
smooth, When beating 6 egg whites, add a pinch of cream of tartar or 1/2
teaspoon lemon juice after the egg whites form a foam, but before they
hold a shape.
Keeping beaten egg whites moist and elastic
- add sugar just when the whites reach soft peaks. If added sooner, the
sugar may impede foam development. If added later, it may cause the whites
to dry out and lose elasticity. To help the sweetener disperse quickly and
evenly, use superfine sugar, sometimes called bar sugar, instead of
granulated sugar. It also helps to add the sugar gradually, so that it doesn't decrease the foam volume. To
make sure that the sugar has dissolved, rub the egg whites between your
fingers. They should feel smooth. If you feel any grit, continue beating.
Folding beaten egg whites into a batter with
a spatula - use the largest rubber spatula you can find, which will cover
more area in less time. Folding should be done gently but quickly, using
as few strokes as possible to prevent breaking the air bubbles. Lighten
the batter first by folding in about one-quarter of the beaten whites.
Once they have been incorporated, add the remaining whites and fold in
gently. Avoid stirring egg whites, which causes them to deflate. Instead,
use a lifting and rolling motion to fold the whites into the batter.
To save time when folding in beaten whites -
use the beater used to beat the egg whites rather than a spatula. because
a beater has many more surfaces than a spatula, it will break up the
batter more easily, making more spaces into which the egg whites can flow