In whisking them, what you're actually doing is incorporating air, and as you do so, the original volume of the egg white can actually be increased by up to eight times. As you whisk in the air, tiny air bubbles are formed.
The three most important factors to be considered while whisking egg whites are ;
- The use of Appropriate Equipments
- The Purity of the Egg Whites
- The Technique
Have a bowl in the shape of a hemisphere and without an angle at the bottom, and one that is big enough to allow the whisk to work easily, which means that as much air as possible can circulate around the egg whites as you whisk them.
The whisk that you choose to use should be one that you are very comfortable with, as whisking eggs can be a long n tedious process. Balloon Whisk works perfect for a meringue
The Equipment that are goin to be used for whisking the eggs need to be absolutely clean of any greasy residues. Wipe the inside of the bowl and the wires of the whisk with a lemon wedge, or with a little vinegar and salt. Dry them with a clean towel.
The one thing that will prevent whisked egg whites from reaching their full-blown potential is the tiniest presence of grease. That's why the merest trace of egg yolk in the white means you are done for. The most experienced professional would never manage to whisk egg whites properly if they had retained the least bit of yolk, or if they had been put into a greasy receptacle.
Thus it is essential to take great care and avoid any contact with a greasy substance or object. It should be noted that the yolk is particularly oily. Make sure that not even the slightest bit of yolk has fallen into the bowl. Should that happen, use a bit of eggshell to carefully remove it.
As for freshness, it is not very important. We could even say, for the benefit of those who might hesitate to use egg whites that are several days old, that they are whisked more easily and remain firmer than whites separated from their yolks just before being whipped.
It is exactly at this moment that the movement of the whisk must, gradually, increase in breadth,
in power, in speed.
You will see, little by little, the foam will begin to swell more, become more homogenous, and whiten.
Do not stop for a second. Continue to beat with larger strokes, faster, more vigorously, until the foam, constantly increasing in volume, becomes absolutely smooth, like whipped cream, a stunning white in colour with a very firm consistency.
To gauge when it has reached the correct consistency, take the whisk out of the bowl and turn it over. The foam should stay attached in a solid block, forming a tassel, like that on a clown's wig.
But do not spend too long on these observations, given that the whites must always be used as soon as they are whisked, otherwise they might become grainy. Since they can be worked beyond the right point without spoiling, you can, should you want to, give them a couple of extra strokes, to be certain that they are completed adequately.
NOTE: When the preparation that the whites are intended for, contains sugar, you can add a bit of powdered sugar to the whites, if you think they might go grainy, but only toward the end of the process. Be sure to continue whisking vigorously when you do this.
STAGES OF EGG WHITES
The first stage of beaten egg whites is the foamy stage. In this stage, the bubbles form on the surface, but not all the white is broken up. The foam is unstable, still fluid, and it starts to become opalescent. The air cells are variable in size but are generally quite large. At this stage, acid salt and vanilla are added.
The second stage is soft peaks. The air cells are medium fine and all the white exists as foams. The foam is fairly stable although slight drainage is possible. The mixture is shiny and flows readily in the bowl. The mass is elastic and soft peaks fall over to near the base of the foam as beater is lifted from the foam. More sugar is added during after this stage.
Knowing when you've reached the right stage is tricky, and all the cook can do is follow the tried and trusted guidelines, namely, to stop when you reach the stage at which the egg white stands up in well-defined peaks. If the egg white is for a cake, mousse or soufflé, where it has to be folded into other ingredients, the peaks should be soft (so that when you lift the whisk the peaks drop slightly).
If it is for a meringue, where sugar is going to be incorporated, it should stand up in stiff peaks.
INCORPORATING THE WHITES
Once you have beaten the whites into a firm and robust state (neige ferme), you are still far from done. In order for this result to be maintained in the final preparation, the whites must remain in this state after they are incorporated.
Proceed with the mixing "with caution, so you don't flatten the whites."
First of all, you should have a spatula, thin and wide. If we are dealing with a substance heavier than the whites - for example, a mixture for a soufflé, rice or semolina for a pudding, or cake batter - proceed as follows:
With the spatula, spread the whites on top of the material to which they are to be incorporated. Cut into the whole mixture with the spatula, so that you pass under the mass, turning it and placing it over the whites.
In other words: Put the spatula straight through the middle of the whites, right to the bottom of the bowl. Having reached the bottom, push the spatula underneath the mass and take up as much as you can carry on the spatula. Deposit all of this on top of the whites, to your right. With your left hand keep turning the bowl. This movement of placing the mixture from below on top is the only technique that you should use, continually turning the bowl on the table. Any other kind of movement would flatten the whites by expelling the air they have absorbed. Furthermore, it would prevent them from rising properly when cooked.
WHISKING EGG YOLKS
How to Achieve the Ribbon Stage
Some recipes, especially a number of desserts, require an egg yolk mixture in which the yolks are blended with sugar and beaten until the mixture reaches the "ribbon" stage. This helps to prevent the yolks from becoming granular when heat is applied.
The ribbon stage refers to a phenomenon in which the egg yolk and sugar mixture forms a slowly disappearing ribbon on the surface of the mixture when some of it is lifted with a utensil and is allowed to fall back into the bowl. The ribbon stage can be achieved by beating the egg yolks and sugar by hand using a whisk or by beating the mixture with an electric mixer.
Add the required number of egg yolks (depending on the recipe) to a large bowl constructed of stainless steel or glass and begin to beat the yolks. It is not necessary to beat the yolks too vigorously.
Add a small amount of the total quantity of the sugar that will be used in the mixture and begin to beat the yolks and sugar more briskly than before. The total quantity of sugar depends upon the amount called for in the recipe, as well as the number of egg yolks that are used. While beating the mixture, gradually add the remaining sugar. The mixture should become thicker and the color should lighten considerably.
Continue beating until approximately 3 minutes has elapsed from the time when the beating process was begun (when using a whisk). Do not over beat the mixture; otherwise, the egg yolks may become granular. The mixture should be thick and the color should be pale yellow.
If the procedure is done correctly, a ribbon will form on the surface of the mixture within the bowl when some of the mixture drops from a coated utensil held above the surface.