Tips for stand up egg whites

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Executive Chef
Jun 3, 2004
Stand-up egg whites need good whipping

There's one thing about chiffon cakes: You've got to whip egg whites.

We'll give you a minute to stop trembling.

Really, there's nothing to fear. Whipping egg whites is as simple as blowing up a balloon. That's all you're doing, after all: putting air into something that holds air. There are just a few things you need to know.

• First, separate an egg. This is easier if the eggs aren't refrigerator-cold. Let them sit on the counter for about 30 minutes, or put them in a bowl of tepid water for a few minutes.

• Crack the egg and separate the white and yolk. We still rely on the old favorite, slipping the yolk from one half of the shell to the other while catching the white in a bowl. Some health experts don't like this method because of the risk of picking up bacteria from the shell. If you're nervous, pick up an egg strainer at any kitchen gadget store. Or pour the egg into your cupped palm and let the whites slip through your fingers.

Always use the three-bowl method to separate eggs. Use one bowl to catch the white from one egg, then pour the white into a second bowl and the yolk into a third. Use the empty first bowl to separate the next egg before adding the whites to the second bowl.

It dirties an extra bowl, but that's better than ruining five or six egg whites with a broken yolk. And a single drop of egg yolk will keep egg whites from whipping.

• Oil will keep whites from whipping. Pour a little white vinegar into a paper towel and wipe the bowl and beaters or whisk before you start.

• Whip the whites. An electric mixer is the easiest way, but you can do it with a whisk and elbow grease. Adding a little cream of tartar will stabilize the egg whites and help them hold air.

When you whip egg whites, they go through several stages: First, they get foamy with air bubbles. If you're adding cream of tartar or sugar, add it after this stage. As you keep beating, the mixture will turn white and increase in volume. Finally, it will get stiff.

• How stiff you need depends on the recipe. If a recipe says "soft peaks," it means that when you lift the whisk or beater, the eggs will come up in points that curve over at the top. "Stiff peaks" mean the points will stand up straight or almost straight. Egg whites are overbeaten when they look dry and curdled. The only cure is to add another egg white and beat until they come back together.

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