Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Basics : Meringue

If you make custard or my mayonnaise recipe on a regular basis you are going to have lots of egg whites, and since we don't make egg white omelettes when we eat Paleo what do you do with them?  Here is a great way to use them up and create some tasty desserts as well. (Remember, if you aren't using your egg whites right away you can always freeze them for later use.)

How to beat egg whites

To beat egg whites you need some kind of mixer.  You can do this by hand but it's very time consuming and very hard on your arms.

Some consider the best way to beat egg whites is with a stand mixer.  Add the salt to the whites in the bowl and beat for one minute at medium low speed.  Add the acid, then beat for three minutes at high speed.  If you add sweetener do so and beat for an additional 15 seconds at high speed

This works for up to 4 whites.  If you're beating five or more, the first stage should take 2 minutes and the second 3 to 4 at a slower setting (medium/medium-high).

If you're using a hand mixer, beat the whites and salt for two minutes at medium speed, add the acid and beat for two minutes more at high speed.  Then add the sweetener and beat for 30 seconds.
Oster 2500 Inspire 240-Watt 5-Speed Hand Mixer, White
Cuisinart HM-70 Power Advantage 7-Speed Hand Mixer, Stainless and White

Since I am simplifying as much as possible, I now use my Cuisinart hand emersion blender with the whisk and chopper attachments. I find it does a very decent job and allows me to get rid of a lot of different appliances that have been crowding my kitchen cupboards.
  Cuisinart CSB-77 Smart Stick Hand Blender with Whisk and Chopper Attachments

An ideal bowl for beating egg whites is an unlined copper bowl because the reaction between the copper and the whites generates a much more stable foam with 1/3 more volume than you will get in a standard bowl.  Many professional chefs won't use anything else.  If you have one, scour it with a mixture of 1/4 cup vinegar and a tablespoon of salt, rinse it, and dry it thoroughly with paper towels before adding the eggs.  Also omit adding any salt.
Old Dutch Solid Copper 2-1/4-Quart Beating Bowl
Mauviel M'Passion 2191.26 Copper 10-Inch/4.6L/4.9-Quart Egg White Bowl with Ring

As for beating the egg whites, it's an easy process as long as you remember a few basics :
  • Make sure that the bowl and beaters are absolutely clean.  Make sure there is no oil residue in the bowl or even a hint of yolk in the whites because this will seriously interfere with the formation of air bubbles.  The bowl should also be completely dry.
  • Make sure the egg whites are at room temperature because the proteins in the whites expand better when warm and you will get more volume from your eggs.  Also older eggs whip more easily because of the chemical changes that have taken place as they age.
  • Add a pinch of salt to the whites to help firm up the proteins, then once a foam starts to form, add some kind of acid to stabilize it and help keep the bubbles from bursting when you stop beating.  The usual thing to use is cream of tartar, but one or two drops of lemon juice or vinegar will work as well.
  • If you find that you have overbeaten your egg whites, you can beat in a tablespoon of sugar to restabilize the foam, but only beat for a few seconds and stop immediately once the whites are firm again.

Lemon Meringue Pie

Now that I've given you a recipe for lemon custard, you can easily turn this into a lemon meringue pie by using the egg whites to make your topping.

If you wish to use a nut crust, bake this first.  Then prepare your lemon filling, fill the crust or just pour into a pie plate and allow to cool.

Preheat your oven to 350'F.

Now prepare your topping.  In a large glass or metal bowl, whip the 3 egg whites with 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar until foamy.  Add 3 or 4 tablespoons of sweetener (coconut sugar or other granular sweetener works best here) one tablespoon at a time, continuing to whip until stiff peaks form.  1/2 a cup of sweetener is the usual amount recommended in most recipes, but I find this too sweet so you need to sweetened to your particular taste.

Spread the meringue over your pie, making sure you cover all of the filling.  Then bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes or until the meringue starts to brown.

Meringue Torte

You can also use meringue to create cake layers for a delicious fruit torte.

-  Preheat the oven to 300'F
-  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Draw a 9 inch circle on the parchment.  An easy way to do this is to draw around a 9 inch cake pan.
-  Make your meringue as described above.

-  Spread the meringue to fit the circle on the parchment.
-  Bake for 1 hour.  Turn off the oven and leave the meringue in the oven for another half an hour.
-  Then cool on a rack.  When it's completely cool it should be hard on the outside and slightly moist on the inside.
-  To make a torte, you will need to make at least 2 layers.
-  Spread the layers with whipped cream and fruit, then refrigerate your torte until you are ready to eat it.  Preferably the same day as over time the meringue will get soggy.

You can also freeze the baked meringue and just thaw and fill when you want to use it.


Yet another option is to create a crust with your meringue and filling it with custard and fruit. This dessert is called a Pavlova and was created in honour of the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova when she was on tour in Australia and New Zealand.

When you bake your meringue base, spread enough meringue to create a layer approximately 1/4 inch think.  Use the remainder of the meringue to pipe or spoon swirls around the edges to form a shallow bowl shape. When your meringue is cool, fill with custard and top with fruit.  You can also make individual meringues with this method, and personally I find these are a lot easier to serve as meringue can be difficult to cut.

Meringue layers and pie forms can be wrapped and frozen for later use.

Finally, you can also make small individual meringues - either plain or flavoured with chocolate and/or chopped nuts - and these make a nice cookie to have with coffee or tea.  Bake them exactly the same way and for the same amount of time since you want these to be crispier so they will keep longer.  When dry, these meringues can be kept in a tin for several weeks.  (will freeze)

 “Life isn't about finding yourself.  Life is about creating yourself.”   - George Bernard Shaw

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