Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Meringue mystery solved
Ignorance, really, isn’t bliss. For the longest time, I assumed that making a meringue (and derivatives of it) requires super chef skill. Although "whip egg whites till they form firm peaks" doesn’t sound remotely like "remove the starter motor from the engine. Bolt the bellhousing to the engine block, and torque to the manufacturer’s recommendations ..." (that’s for installing your car’s engine, btw); I was still certain it was a complicated process.
Anyway, since our theme for this month's Don't Call Me Chef (a monthly column in The Star) was centered on eggs, I decided to be brave and make some meringue cookies.
Being a little clumsy, even the idea of having to separate the egg whites from the yolks was daunting enough. I have done it before but it hasn’t been pleasant. Often, a little of the yolk seeps through and sometimes I let it be. Of course, when more than a little yolk gets in, I end up having to start from scratch and use the contaminated batch for something else ... like an omelette or such.
Once I had to two contaminated batches, which made my neighbour quite happy to have a batch of egg tarts for no rhyme or reason. Anyway, that’s why I hesitate when a recipe calls for egg separation. With the meringue there is no escape. You use only egg whites and no contamination is allowed.
Thankfully, I came upon a tip on separating eggs: it’s easier to separate the eggs when they’re chilled. Ah, so! They were much easier and I got it right my first attempt.
Next the whipping. Thanks to my new toy — the Kenwood Pattisier — this was a cinch. Start with the egg whites — I used three for a batch of 10 meringue cookies. Whisk the whites (speed 12) till they become firm but not too stiff. They should still be a little liquid-y. Add 1/4 tsp cream of tartar into the whites.
Now, add the sugar in gradually — I used about 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp. (the recipe called for 3/4 cup but I find this too sweet). Continue whipping till it becomes really firm — when you lift up the paddle the mixture should stay firm and not drip from the whisk.
Spoon mounds of the whipped whites onto a lined baking sheet. They’ll form nice wave-like mounds: it’s ok if they are irregular in shape.
Bake at 105 C for about 90 or 105 mins. When they’re done they should be crusty (but not dark or even browned, just a shade pale yellow and sport a pearly glow) and the inside a little soft. It should come off the sheet easily and when it goes in your mouth, it should melt.
The cookies can be eaten alone, or with some fruit or cream and nut crumble. Yummm