Thursday, January 24, 2008

Meringues a pastry delight

Swiss maringue garnish over tarts and blowtorched
Piping of Maringue before baking in oven

Whipping egg whites and sugar together creates the light yet stable aerated mixture known as a meringue. Meringue is commonly used for topping and filling cakes and pastries. It can also be flavored and or dried in a low oven to make cookies, containers (which can be used to hold fruit, mousse, or sorbet) or layers for cakes. Meringue is also used as an ingredient in mousses and batters to lighten, aerate, and leaven them.

A basic ratio for a meringue is 1 part egg whites to 2 parts sugar. As the egg whites are whipped, air is incorporated and the whites break into smaller and smaller globules to form bubbles. When sugar is whipped into the egg whites, the agitation of the mixture and the moisture of the whites begin to dissolve the sugar, which in turn surrounds the air bubbles, coating them and making them more stable.

There are a few basic rules to keep in mind for making a successful meringue. All utensils must be impeccably clean and dry. Make sure that no traces of fat of any kind come in contact with the egg whites, whethere in the form of grease on the utensils or other equipment or from traces of egg yolks in the whites themselves. Fat will interfere with the protein stands which will prevent the egg whites from developing into a foam. A small amount of an acid (cream of tartar, lemon juice, or vinegar) will relax the proteins,helping to stabilize the meringue. You can introduce an acid simply by wiping the bowl clean with lemon juice or vinegar before adding the egg whites or by adding a small amount of cream of tartar to the whites just as they begin to foam. Never use cream of tartar when whipping in a coppor bowl, as it will cause a toxic reaction, turning the whites sightly green. Room temperature egg whites will whip up more readily. Be careful to use sugar that is free of impurities such as flour or other ingredients. Whip the egg whites on high speed until they are frothy, then gradually add the sugar while continuing to whip to the desired consistency (soft, medium, or stiff peak). Avoid overhwipping egg whites, as they become dry and lumpy, making them difficult to incorporate into other ingredients. Prepare meringue (espcially common meringue) just before you intend to use it, because it will begin to collapse if it stands for long time.

There are three types of meringue: common (french), swiss and Italian. Simply whipping the egg whites and sugar to the desired consistency makes common meringue. This is the simplest type of meringue to prepare and the least stable. Also, unless pasteurized whites are used, because of the potential danger of salmonella, uncooked or unbaked common meringue should not be eaten. Therefore, it is most often used in batters to provide leavening. It can also be used for making merinuge shells, bases or layers for cakes, and for piping simple decorations that are baked.

Swiss meringue is made by stirring the egg whites with sugar using a whip ove a hot water bath until they reach a temperature between 115*F and 165*F/46and 74*C, depending on the intended use. The whites are then whipped in a mixer to the desired peak. The meringue can be piped and baked, or dried, in the oven. Swiss meringue can also be used for the same preparations as common meringue to lighten mousses and creams, to fill various cakes, or to add a delicate piped shell border or other decoratie element. Swiss meringue is more stable than common meringue.

Italian meringue is made by whipping the egg whites in a mixer and then adding a cooked sugar syrup. The sugar is cooked to the soft ball stage (240*F/116*C) and added in a thin, steady stream to the whipping egg whites when they have reached the medium peak stage. The whites are then mixed on a medium speed to the desired peak. Italian meringue is the most stable of the meringues and is used in various mousses, buttercreams and for decor work.(above topic taken from baking and pastry)


Sunil said...

Interesting read on meringue...

Sujith said...

Thanks, I loved working on it too. It is a wonderful experience.