I remember the first time I tried to beat egg whites by myself. I beat and beat and beat (with a whisk), and nothing happened. Luckily, Mom came into the kitchen right before I broke into tears and started questioning me about what I had done thus far.
“Did you dry the bowl before you put the egg whites in?” “No.” “Well, that’s your problem. They won’t whip up if there is any water at all in the bowl or on the whisk”
Mom was kind enough to separate more egg whites for me and wash and dry my bowl. I started beating again and soon had lovely white peaks =)
Beaten egg whites are a common leavening agent in gluten free cooking. Even if that’s all they were used for, it would be a technique worth learning. However, once you’ve learned to beat an egg you’ll be able to make souffles, meringues, Pavlovas, and mousses too.
Gluten Free Mommy just posted a recipe for Chocolate Marble Bread with Chocolate Ganache and it calls for two beaten egg whites, so head over to her site for some additional egg white beating homework.
How to Beat Egg Whites
1. Separate the egg whites from the yolk and pour the egg whites into a clean, dry bowl*. If the yolk breaks and gets into the egg whites, just use part of the shell to scoop the yolk out.
2. Allow the egg whites to come to room temperature before you start beating.
3. With the mixer on low, begin beating the egg whites. The first change that you should notice is that the eggs will start to froth.
4. Keep beating and begin to turn up the speed. Soon you will notice that the mixer is leaving tracks in the egg whites. This is a good sign =)
5. Keep beating. After a minute or two turn the mixer off and lift the beaters out of the whites. If the eggs pull up into a peak (like a mountain peak) and then curl over, as in the picture below, then you’re at the soft peak stage. Congratulations! If the peaks collapse back down, then keep beating a bit longer.
6. If the recipe specifies that the egg whites should be beaten until they hold a stiff peak, then you’ll continue beating until the tip of the peak no longer curls over.
If you’d like to practice, try my recipe for Forgotten Cookies.
* Copper or stainless steel bowls work best, but I often use a glass bowl and get good results.