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Kitchen Basics: Whipped Egg Whites

Susan Pachikara of Cardamom Kitchen demystifies essential cooking skills with step-by-step instructions and her own handsome photos. Whether she's showing us how much brown sugar we're meant to "pack"(or is it cram?) into measuring cups or how to detect when our onions are properly caramelized, Susan is the nonna we never had -- until now. Now, go on and get cozy under her wing.

This week, Susan demonstrates how to whip egg whites.

I use my kitchen to travel the world. When I crave the elegance of Europe, I pull out my egg beaters and thumb through recipes for sponge cake, macaroons, and meringue cookies. These confections all possess a wispy weightlessness that comes from whipped egg whites. I avoided baking them for years, afraid that my eggs would never morph from a pool of glassy liquid to satiny white snow drifts. Pestered by a domineering sweet tooth, I eventually faced my fears. What I learned is that it is easy to whip up egg whites if you follow a few guidelines, and downright exhilarating to watch pointy peaks magically appear.

Guidelines

The tiniest smidge of fat or grease will keep whipped egg whites from fully expanding, so be sure that the bowl and beaters that you use are squeaky clean. Also, when you separate the egg whites from the yolks, be sure that none of the yolk ends up in the bowl. (It's easiest to separate eggs when they are still cold, so that's your best bet.)

Cream of tartar and sugar both help the eggs form a sound structure. Use superfine sugar, which dissolves more easily than granulated sugar. You can purchase it, or grind granulated sugar in a food processor until it is just shy of turning powdery.

How to Whip Egg Whites

Place the egg whites in a bowl. They will expand seven- to eight-fold, so use a large bowl if your recipe calls for a lot of egg whites.

Beat the egg whites on low speed until they become frothy on top. 

Add the cream of tartar and beat the eggs on medium-low speed until they form soft peaks, which curl over.

With the beater running, slowly add the sugar. Increase the speed to high and continue to beat the eggs until they become glossy and form stiff peaks that stand erect.

The sugar should be completely dissolved. If you rub a smidge of egg whites between your fingers, it should feel smooth, not gritty. If you beat the egg whites for too long, they will lose their sheen and clump together.

I’d love to see your tips for whipping egg whites! Share them with your fellow cooks in the comments section below.