I’ll be honest- meringue is my arch nemesis. On top of pies, in a buttercream, WHEREVER, meringue is really just kinda no bueno in my book. I have failed time and time again when it comes to whipping egg whites the right way, so much so that I’ve nearly given up. But today, in continuation of our “You Need To Know” tutorials, we’re going to talk the ins and outs of egg whites, how to deal with them, what to use them for, and how to know if you’re doing it all right. Prepare yourself for total domination of the egg whites.
What Is An Egg White?
Let’s put on our nerdy glasses and science caps for a second. An egg white (aka the albumen) is one of five portions of a whole egg and accounts for about 3/5 of an egg’s total weight. It’s primarily made up of protein and water and is viscous in consistency. When beaten, the protein structure of the egg white breaks down, and over time, those unfolded proteins will rearrange into a new, expanded form. Whipped egg whites can increase in size up to 8 times larger than its original volume, and this foaming ability makes it an all-star aerator in baked goods.
How Do You Whip Egg Whites?
Egg whites are most easily whipped with an electric hand or stand mixer, but this process can be done by hand with a wire whisk as well. To whip egg whites, start with a clean, grease-free bowl and whisk attachment and begin to process the egg whites on low speed. Large, foamy bubbles will begin to appear, and once the egg whites transform from viscous liquid to loose foam, you can increase the speed of your mixer. Although the bubbles start out large, smaller, more fine bubbles will begin to appear and the foam will continue to increase in volume. You’ll stop your mixer when you reach the desired level of foam formation. So what if a recipe calls for “firmly whipped egg whites” or “egg whites with soft peaks?” We need to know what we’re looking for! Let’s start by breaking down the stages of egg white foam formation.
Foamy Egg Whites
To prepare foamy egg whites, whip your fresh, room temperature egg whites in a clean bowl until large bubbles begin to appear. At this phase, the egg whites will appear like bubbles in a foamy bathtub and will not hold their shape.
Soft peak egg whites will have a slight sheen to them and fine textured bubbles. At this phase, the whipped foam will still slide around in the bowl, and if you lift a beater out of the mixture, the peak will droop over without holding its shape. The foam is definitely fluffing up at this phase though, and you will likely see a trace of your beater in the mixture.
This is the narrow gap between soft and stiff peaks. Here, a beater lifted out of the bowl will yield a defined tip that may fall over slightly but will keep its overall pointy shape.
At this phase, peaks are stiff, shiny, and stick to the inside of the bowl. If you lift a beater out of the bowl, the peak tip will stick up tall with a slight sheen. If you were to turn your bowl upside down at this phase, the foam would stick to the inside of the bowl without falling out! Avoid beating your egg whites past this stage as you’re likely to create an unstable, overbeaten egg white that will eventually break and deflate.
How Can I Ensure Successfully Whipped Egg Whites?
Starting out with room temperature eggs in a clean, grease-free bowl will begin the process on the right foot. Room temp eggs whip more readily than cold ones and any trace of fat (think butter, cooking spray, egg yolk) will inhibit foaming. For best results, separate your egg yolks from their whites while cold and allow the whites to come to room temperature on their own. You can ensure your bowl is truly grease-free by wiping off the inside of it with a paper towel saturated with lemon juice.
There’s also a few things that you can add to your egg whites to increase stability. Some recipes may call for adding an acid like cream of tartar, vinegar, or lemon juice, and typically 1/8 teaspoon of any of these per egg white is enough to give aid. Sugar also stabilizes egg whites and can be added in little by little near the end of the whipping duration. Avoid adding sugar in too early or too quickly as this can inhibit foam formation. More sugar incorporated into the mixture will result in a mixture that is glossy and shiny.
Is There Anything Else I Need to Know About Whipping Egg Whites?
Even stabilized egg whites are delicate, so take care when incorporating them into baked goods. Most recipes will call for gently folding the foam into whatever batter you’re working with. If you opt to beat your egg whites by hand, consider using a copper bowl or whisk! The copper in the bowl or whisk reacts with one of the proteins in the egg white, causing foamy bubbles to expand. Finally, if you’re looking for a suitable substitute for whole egg whites, consider using liquid egg whites from a carton. Just check to make sure you’re not purchasing one with a bunch of add-ins to the ingredients list.
What Do I Use It For?
Whipped eggs whites are used in a number of foods like cakes, meringues, and souffles. The foamy nature of whipped egg whites provides air, height, and a light texture to foods that benefit from the added fluff. You’ll find a small list of recipes at the bottom of this page that contain whipped egg whites, so if you’re in need of inspiration, start there! In the coming weeks, I’m going to be sharing a variety of whipped egg white-containing recipes, starting with today’s crispy Easter meringue cookies.
Easter Meringue Cookies
These Easter meringue cookies are made up of stiffly whipped egg whites to which vinegar has been added for stability and sugar has been added for sweetness. They bake up in the oven into crisp, weightless bites of sweetness that make for a cute and accidentally fat-free snack. The texture and taste of these cookies reminds me of the marshmallows you might find in a box of cereal or a packet of hot cocoa mix, and that is in no way disappointing to me. For a little added flair, I’ve dipped these cookies in chocolate followed by either sprinkles or finely chopped pecans. Both add flavor and texture in a fun and festive way that is sure to add some springtime cheer to your home. If you’re interested in turning these basic meringue cookies into Easter meringues (aka resurrection cookies), check out the link here for a how-to on incorporating the Easter story into your baking. It’s a fun way to engage kiddos in the kitchen and to celebrate Easter beyond the bunny.
I hope you all have found this tutorial useful and that you’ll give whipped egg whites a try! See below for a list of a few airy egg white-containing treats so that you can get some practice ASAP. Happy baking, friends!
If you want to know how to whip egg whites into baked goods, check out these recipes:Print
Easter Meringue Cookies
These easter meringue cookies are light and airy, crispy marshmallow cookies dipped in chocolate and either sprinkles or pecans. A fun and festive fat-free treat for springtime!
- Prep Time: 20
- Cook Time: 60
- Total Time: 360
- Yield: 8 Dozen 1x
- Category: Dessert
- 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- ¼ teaspoon white vinegar or cream of tartar
- Dash of salt
- 2/3 cup (130 gm) sugar
- Food Coloring, if desired
- White Chocolate or almond bark for dipping, if desired
- ½ cup sprinkles or finely chopped toasted pecans, if desired
- Preheat the oven to 250 degrees and line two large sheet pans with parchment paper.
- In a large clean, grease-free bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, use the whisk attachement to whip the egg whites on low speed until foamy bubbles appear at the top. Add the vanilla bean paste and vinegar (or cream of tartar) and continue whipping until really foamy. Increase the speed to medium-high and slowly add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time until it has all been incorporated. Continue whipping until stiff glossy peaks appear (see notes in blog post above for help on this), about 8 minutes. If you’d like to add in food coloring, add a small bit and gently whisk or fold in.
- Outfit a pastry bag or large Ziploc bag with a large piping tip (I used a Wilton 2A) and pipe small 1-1/4”-2” diameter cookies about 2” apart on the parchment paper. Do this swiftly so as not to allow the foam to deflate. Place both sheet pans in the oven and bake for about 50 minutes to an hour. The cookies should feel firm to the touch. Turn off the oven and keep the door closed and allow them to cool to room temperature completely, even overnight. The cookies are done when the bottoms feel fry, pop off the paper easily, and almost sound hollow when tapped.
- If you wish to dip your meringues, gently microwave ¾ cup of white chocolate or almond bark for dipping and in 20 second increments, stirring regularly until melted and smooth. Do not overheat as the chocolate may seize. Quickly dip the bottoms of each meringue in chocolate and then dip in either sprinkles or the chopped pecans. Allow to cool on wax or parchment paper and eat within 1-2 days. Keep in a dry, moisture free place covered and air tight as meringues will get sticky over time, particularly in humid climates.
- To follow the Easter story, check out the link in my blog post.