If you’re making an angel food cake, meringue, soufflé or other baked good that requires the egg whites to be whipped separately, you need to do it correctly in order for your recipe to rise.
Here are some tips from Lauren Chattman, author of one of our favorite baking books, The Baking Answer Book (for $9.73 on Amazon.com, a great small gift or stocking stuffer).
1. DON’T OVERWHIP. Because of the protein structure of egg whites, it’s crucial, says Chattman, not to overwhip the whites. Overwhipping separates the water molecules from the egg whites, rendering them less capable of expanding (rising).
2. USE AN ABSOLUTELY CLEAN BOWL AND BEATERS. Even a speck of grease or oil in the bowl or on the beaters can spell disaster. It will prevent the strands of egg white protein from linking up with each other to create the foam that traps the air bubbles needed for the recipe to rise.
Lemon meringue pie. Photo courtesy American Egg Board.
3. SEPARATE THE WHITES INTO SEPARATE BOWLS. When cracking the egg, don’t use the one handed technique. A speck of egg yolk that sneaks in with the whites creates the same problem as oil. Instead, first separate the egg whites into a small bowl or cup. If some yolk ends up with the whites, don’t fish it out; use that egg for another purpose (scrambled, perhaps?). Wash and dry the bowl thoroughly, and start again.
4. ADD THE EGG WHITES ONE AT A TIME. Avoid the problem above by separating each egg into a small bowl or cup; then add it to the mixing bowl before separating the next egg. This way, if you end up with some yolk with your white, only one egg is impacted.
5. USE ROOM TEMPERATURE EGGS. The coiled proteins in egg whites are more relaxed at room temperature. You can whip cold eggs from the fridge, but it will take more time to achieve the volume.
6. DON’T USE VERY FRESH, EGGS. Most of us don’t have access to freshly-laid eggs. But contrary to what you might think, just-laid eggs are not the best for whipping whites. Eggs need to be 3-4 days old so their coiled proteins will relax for optimal whipping.
Now that you’ve got the technique, make this delicious key lime meringue pie.
Need an egg separator? Here’s a very spiffy one.
Related Food Videos: For more food videos, check out The Nibble's Food Video Collection.