Want to attempt a chiffon cake, sponge cake, Lemon pancakes to up your breakfast game, or a meringue etc this weekend? What they all have in common, is that you have to beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. What? Why?
(Confession: Actually I was doing a post on the Light as Air Orange Chiffon Cake with Chocolate Icing but it was too long and so I decided to break it up. Hence the random oranges in the pictures.)
Whisked egg whites trap a lot of air and this acts as a raising agent. The result is really light cakes. It is also a great technique for featherlight pancakes.
First. You need a clean dry bowl. Preferably stainless steel or glass. A tip I picked up was to dip a paper towel in vinegar, and do a quick wipe down of the bowl and the beaters.
Next. It helps if the eggs are at room temperature. Most of us store eggs in the fridge, and do not have an hour or more to wait for the eggs to come to room temperature. So what to do? Place the eggs in a bowl with warm (not hot) water and leave for 5 -10 minutes.
Third. Crack the eggs carefully and transfer the yolk from one half shell to another, letting the egg white slide into a cup. It is important that there not be any yolk in the egg white. To help with this, it is easier to break and separate each egg individually into a clean cup. Pour the egg white after into a bowl. Break egg and separate into the cup. Pour into the bowl. Repeat.
Separating individually means that if you mess with one egg, you won’t mess the whole batch.
Next, beat the egg whites on low speed. A tiny bit of lemon juice or cream of tartar helps but it is not a must.
It always blows my mind how you start off with this …
…. to this! I asked the husband how much he would say the increase in volume was. He guesstimates that the first picture is a twentieth of the second.
Notice in the photo above, that the whites are drooping from the beater and even though they are holding their shape, the peak kind of falls over. This is a soft peak. It is suggested that if a recipe calls for adding sugar, this is the stage to start doing it.
Now, for the final step. Increase the speed.
These are firm peaks. They should be able to hold their shape. If you beat for a few seconds longer, they can become even stiffer.
However, if you beat for too long, they break apart. It is easy to rectify overbeaten whites though by adding another egg white and very lightly by hand, whisking it in.
Now back to our chiffon cake. Any interesting tips on how you beat or separate your egg whites?
Parting pics … egrets on Lake Naivasha