Once upon a time a chemistry geek friend of mine tried to explain me that meringues are a due to a chemical change of structure of the egg whites that has something to do with adding hydrogen bubbles to their protein solution.
I have to admit that chemistry’s not appealing to me, although I consider cooking a true alchemy.
Here there are some tips for a perfect meringue, you can either consider them a sort of scientific support or part of a magic spell… It’s up to you, the only thing I now is that they work, for real.
And if you are a chemistry geek, experiment the chemical reactions by trying to bake a perfect meringue!
Choose a large bowl, as the egg whites when whisked will inflate significantly. It’s chemical: copper bowls give perfect results for whipping egg whites. A chemical reaction between the copper and the whites guarantees dizzying volume, but do not ask me which one: I will not be able to answer!
Let egg whites reach room temperature before beating them, they will inflate more.
Make sure your mixer and bowl are spotless and greaseless, as fat will inhibit the egg whites from whipping into snowy clouds.
Under beating will cause the meringues to collapse or shrink and have a slick surface. For a perfect meringue of soufflé whisk the egg whites into firm peaks. While talking about peaks I mean that when the beaters are lifted, the egg whites form stiff, pointed peaks that do not fall over. In other terms white eggs into firm peaks are similar to my boyfriend’s shaving cream… Got the concept?
Beat to exactly the right stage is really important as overbeating could reduce the volume, so stop beating when the egg whites start turn a bit glossy and the egg whites will stand up on their own and remain in the bowl, as a unique piece.
Incorporate sugar and other ingredients, once whisked to perfection, adding a tablespoon at a time. While folding, avoid over stirring, as the egg whites can fall over.
Cream of tartar is used in the whipping of egg whites to stabilize them and allows them to reach maximum volume. This is because potassium bitartat (the proper name of cream of tartar) is an acidic salt that changes the pH of the egg white turning to an acidic range by boosting the number of free-floating hydrogen ions in the egg white. Wow: that was clever! Nonsensical but clever!
Check the oven temperature properly. If I want to be sure that your meringues cook perfectly, preheat the oven start out with the oven 25 to 50 degrees higher than needed, and turn it down after adding the meringues (the heat lost caused by the door opening will be compensated). Baking the meringues in a slow oven allows for gradual evaporation of the moisture from the meringues, prevents that the outside of the meringue separates from the inside.
To prevent cracking of the meringues, do not open the oven door during the first half of the baking time.
Check the baking continuously. Overcooked meringue may bead with moisture, or the sugar can caramelize, and become brown. On the other hand, undercooked meringue will weep. The meringues are done when they are pale in color and fairly crisp.