The french meringue is a baker’s secret weapon. It’s our magic capturing air and incorporating it in our desserts. Light fluffy cakes, mousses, soufflés and the Aussie’s much loved pavlova, they’re never the same with out the texture that a successfully made meringue creates. Ingredients, equipments and procedure all come into play. Read on my 7 steps as well as the guidelines in picking the right equipment and ingredients and you’ll get french meringue making skills up your sleeves ready for your next baking adventure.
Equipment and Ingredients:
- Eggs: Pick the freshest eggs that you can get from the market. The fresher the egg, the stronger the lining is that protects the yolks from breaking. You will also notice that the yolks are round, plump and easier to handle. This makes separating the whites a breeze. Chilled eggs from the refrigerator are easier to separate than those at room temperature although the greatest volume can only be created with whites at room temperature.
- Sugar: French meringue is created mostly using granulated white sugar. Fine caster sugar is best because it can easily be incorporated in the whites and dissolves faster. some recipes call for powdered or confectioners sugar. Pass this type of sugar through a sieve to remove lumps before adding it in.
- Acid: The addition of cream of tartar or lemon juice at the beginning of beating helps strengthen egg white foams.
- Whisk: The best type of whisk to use for aerating whites is the balloon whisk especially If you are whisking by hand. For machine whipping, the planetary motion of a whisk that spins on a shaft and traces a circular path around the bowl provides for superior results. If your out shopping for a mixer, choose something like this.
- Bowl: make sure your bowl is pristine, and free from traces of fat and moisture and that you have enough space for the whites to expand. Copper bowls are ideal but are prohibitively expensive so the next best bowl to use are metal ones.
Why are copper bowls better than other bowls for whipping whites?: Because they release copper ions that bind with conalbumin (type of protein found in eggs). This marriage creates a stronger protein structure that is more resistant to breaking.
- Carefully separate the whites from the yolks. Make sure no traces of yolks are present. A drop of fat in the whites will inhibit the formation of air pockets. For starters, use 3 pristine bowls, one working bowl where you do the separating, one for the whites and one for the yolks. This ensures that in case you break a yolk, you don’t contaminate the rest of the perfectly fat-free whites that you have collected previously.
- Make sure the mixing bowl and whisk are pristine and free from fat and moisture.
- Whip your french meringue last: Depending on what you’re making wether it is cakes, macarons, or simply meringue kisses, prepare all your other components, tools and equipment first. Even with sugar, eggwhites are very delicate. Leaving them on the bench affects the texture. Make sure you have prepared everything before starting to whisk your meringues.
- Start by whisking your meringues at medium speed. Large bubbles will form and eventually become small finer bubbles.
- Once fine bubbles are created, start sprinkling the caster sugar lightly while continously whipping the whites at the same speed. If it is less or equal the amount of whites in volume, you can sprinkle it all in continue whisking until the volume of the whites increase to double its original size. It will look more stable and has a glossy finish on the surface.
- This is the stage where you have to decide when to stop. Soft peaks is when a glossy foam is created but droops upon lifting the whisk from the meringue. Where as firm peaks are created when stiff spikes such as the photo below appear upon lifting the whisk. Once the desired stage is almost achieved, and you have more sugar at hand ( for recipes that calls for sugar that’s more than the weight of the egg whites), sprinkle the rest of them and continue whisking until the desired peaks are reached. Most cakes and meringue preparation would call for firm peaks. Be careful not to go over firm peaks, as you will then create a dull grainy appearance where the water separates from the whites and will be unusable.
- You have now created a successful french meringue! Fold it onto your cakes or fill your piping bag and pipe it on a tray immediately. Don’t let it sit, it won’t last long.
Now that you know the secrets of creating a perfect French meringue, check out my recipe and try it with a big chocolate kiss!