Do you know how to beat stiff peaks egg whites? Egg whites have always seemed magical to me. They go from being just blobs of colorless liquid in a bowl to gorgeous light-as-air billows of fluff in mere minutes.
Egg whites also happen to be the essence of many of my favorite things. As a child, I grew up on a farm where we had, among cows and pigs, two hundred laying hens.
There was, subsequently, an over-abundance of eggs. Most of the egg customers did not want cracked eggs, so that meant my mom made a lot of egg dishes. Read more to know how to beat stiff peaks egg whites.
Mom used to make an omelet which was more like a souffle. With beaten egg whites folded into a mixture of yolks and milk, it would rise high in the oven with a beautiful fluffy top. Both the taste and texture were marvelous.
It is still one of my favorite egg dishes. For mom, it was a way to use up eight cracks and feed our family of eight.
If I had to name my all-time favorite cake it would be, hands down, angel food cake. It has also become the requested favorite of a number of my children. It is, in a word, glorious.
Some people like to dress up their angel cake with whipped cream and fresh fruit, and while I can appreciate that, for me it’s just angel cake all on its own that is the most delectable.
With every bite you can savor the flavor. Angel cake calls for about 11 egg whites – Mom made a lot of angel food cakes.
One more favorite egg white-based recipe of mine is Divinity Fudge, and it is divine. This one is reserved for Christmas. It adorns every platter of treats offered to holiday visitors, and is the first to disappear off the plate of all the goodies.
Of course, there are beautiful meringues that rest softly atop a lemon, butterscotch, or any other filled pies.
As well, there are fabulous macarons, made in all sorts of flavors, and when they are made just right, they have that incredible crunchy/chewy texture that is so satisfying.
So let’s dig into this egg white business a little deeper. What are the hows and whys of beating egg whites? What do we need to do to ensure we always get the peaks just right? What is the difference between soft, firm and stiff peaks?
The Science That Changes White To Foam
We’ll begin with looking at the science behind the magic of the transforming egg white. Egg whites look very watery, right? Well, the reason for that is that they are made up of 90% water. The other 10% is protein. Egg whites have almost zero fat.
When you separate the white from the yolk, you get rid of the cholesterol. If you have heart issues, this may be something your doctor recommends.
If you don’t have heart issues, it is still best to remember that everything should be consumed in moderation, and that’s the way to go with eggs.
But back to our egg whites. When you beat egg whites, with a whisk or electric mixer, air gets into the whites. The proteins are disrupted by the act of beating and this causes them to do some cool stuff.
They connect with each other to form new bonds and that creates a foam. The more you beat the egg whites, the more the foam increases, and eventually you will get soft peaks, firm peaks or stiff peaks depending on how long you beat the whites.
The Definition Of Soft, Firm And Stiff Peaks
What Are Soft Peaks?
You know you have soft peaks when you lift the whisk or beater and, holding it upside down, the fluffy white falls over immediately. Soft peaks do not hold a shape. It will take about 5 minutes of beating to attain soft peaks.
What Are Firm Peaks?
You know you have firm peaks when you lift the whisk or beater and, holding it upside down, the fluffy white holds its shape, but the tip curls over. It will take about 8 minutes of beating to achieve firm peaks.
What Are Stiff Peaks?
You know you have stiff peaks when you lift the whisk or beater and, holding it upside down, the fluffy white completely holds its shape, no flopping over, no curling tip.
Moreover, an excellent test is to tip the bowl upside down, and if the whites stay put, you have stiff peaks. It will take about 13 minutes for whites to reach the stiff peak stage.
Tips For Achieving Perfect Peaks
Clean, Clean, Clean
It is essential to achieve perfect peaks that everything you use is perfectly clean. The reason for this is that any residue or fat will inhibit the rise of the whites. So beater attachments or whisk, if you are using that instead of a mixer, as well as the bowl you are using, need to be washed thoroughly with hot, soapy water, rinsed well and dried completely.
Size Of Bowl
If the bowl is too small there will not be enough space for the protein molecules to move around and do their stuff to make a beautiful foam and peaks from the whites.
Remember that you need to leave space for the whites to expand – quite a bit of space! If you are beating only 1-3 egg whites, then a small bowl will be sufficient, however, if you are beating more than 3 egg whites, then use a large bowl.
The whites will expand as much as eight times their size. Keep that in mind when you are choosing your bowl.
To get the maximum expansion from egg whites, it is best to bring them to room temperature. They should sit at room temperature for about 20-30 minutes.
It is easier to separate the yolk and the white when the egg is cold, so plan to separate your eggs, and then let the whites sit at room temperature.
How To Separate The Whites From The Yolks?
It is essential to learn how to effectively and cleanly separate the white from the yolk. If any yolk at all gets into the white, the white will not form into peaks.
When you first begin, it is handy to put the white into a dish rather than separating the eggs into the bowl where they are to be beaten.
If some yolk spills into the white, simply wash it down the sink, get a new dish and try again, adding each success to the beating bowl.
Follow these steps to effectively separate the yolk and white
- Crack the side of the egg on the counter.
- Gently pull the two halves apart, letting the yolk drop into one side of the shell.
- Alternate the yolk between the two halves of the shell allowing the white to fall into the bowl below.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is There A Correct Way To Beat Egg Whites?
Whites should be beaten moving the beater or whisk in a circular motion. This allows the air to move freely and will create the biggest volume.
Does The Type Of Bowl Used Make Any Difference?
The type of bowl does matter. Glass, glazed ceramic, or metal bowls all work well. Avoid using a plastic bowl as plastic has a bit of oily residue that will keep the egg whites from beating up well.
Is It Possible To Over-Beat Egg Whites?
Yes, it is possible to over-beat egg whites. If you beat egg whites too long, the protein molecules start to break down, and can no longer be fluffed up.
Your lovely, fluffy egg whites fall apart, and will be replaced with a watery, flat, grainy substance. At this point, the whites cannot be rescued.
Can Egg Whites Be Left To Sit For A While After They Have Been Beaten?
You will never see in a recipe requiring egg whites to be beaten, the instruction to beat the egg whites and set them aside while you work on other parts of the recipe for however long.
It is best if the egg whites are used as soon after they are beaten as possible. If they are left to sit they will begin to disintegrate and collapse. You will also notice that they begin to ‘weep’ – moisture will become evident.
How Do You Add Ingredients To Beaten Egg Whites?
Beaten egg whites can be temperamental, so if you are adding any ingredients, you should do so gently, using a folding motion with a spatula, never stirring.
In addition, you should keep the number of times you fold to a minimum. This will ensure that your volume is maintained. It’s all about keeping the integrity of the beaten whites. Think gentle and as little mixing as possible.
What Ingredients Are Commonly Added To Egg Whites?
Three ingredients in particular are often called to be added to egg whites, cream of tartar, salt, and sugar.
Cream of tartar helps to stabilize the egg whites. A recipe will call for cream of tartar to be added prior to beating or in the early stage of beating.
Salt is also a stabilizer and will often be added in addition to cream of tartar. Just a small amount is sufficient, but the amount of cream of tartar and salt called for will depend on the number of egg whites you are using.
Sugar is another ingredient often called for when you are beating egg whites. If you’ve ever tasted beaten egg whites that do not have sugar added to them, you know that they taste very bland.
Unlike salt and cream of tartar, sugar is added part way through the beating process. It is critical to add the sugar in small amounts, gradually. If you add it all at once, it will cause the whites to collapse.
Sugar makes the whites look glossy. It also makes them taste way better!
Does It Matter If The Eggs I Am Using Are Not Super Fresh?
Fresh ingredients are always best to use, however, if you are not in the practice of getting your eggs from a farmer, you may not be able to know exactly how old they are.
Older eggs may change from being somewhat acidic when they are fresh to being somewhat alkaline. The alkalinity will make the proteins in the whites less stable. To reverse this, add a small amount of salt or cream of tartar as discussed above.
Is There A Difference In The Volume Whites From Brown Eggs Produced From White Eggs?
There is absolutely no difference in the volume you will achieve from the whites of brown eggs and those from white eggs. While some people believe that brown eggs are healthier than white eggs, this is not true.
The amount of protein in brown eggs and that in white eggs is the same, about 6 grams.
What Size Of Egg Should Be Used If You Are Beating The Whites?
Typically, recipes call for large eggs. Many recipes will call for a certain measurement amount of whites, such as a ½ cup. This allows you to use any size of egg. You can simply use as many as necessary to get the required amount.
What Can Be Done With The Leftover Yolks?
Keep the yolks after you have separated them from the whites. There are many recipes which call for yolks only. Whether you are looking for something sweet or something savory, you can find a recipe that will use up those yolks.
Some popular sweet choices are pound cake, cookies, breads, custards, and ice cream. Some savory options include omelets, and fancy potatoes.
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