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Thread: Egg whites and stiff peaks?

  1. #1

    Question Egg whites and stiff peaks?

    Hi everyone,
    I have finally decided to post this question since I see this all the time in baking recipes.
    I am going to make a cake and it states to "beat 6 large egg whites until stiff peaks form. It is always followed by "DO NOT OVERBEAT!"
    Now the peaks form, but what exactly makes it a stiff peak. I guess what I am really looking for is a time frame. I usually beat about 4-5 minutes, is this too much, too little? I also use a hand mixer on the high setting (still longing for a KA mixer!)

    Thanks in advance, everyone is always sooo helpful on this board!!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2001
    Location
    L.A., CA
    Posts
    265

    Sherri

    I just had this experience. I had to beat a plethora of egg whites into peaks for a baked apple recipe that entails pulling out th apples, making a meringue, topping them and baking them in the oven a few more minutes.

    My first batch was really stiff. I'm no egg expert but I discovered that I just beat the hell out of them courtesy of my kitchen aid mixer. When I went to scrape the bowl, it was like working with styrofoam. It was really tough and there were peaks allright but amn, it was too stiff nd very tough to handle, let alone dispense properly.

    I put them aside and later baked them in small forms t o make mini cookies. In the interim, I threw together yet another bacth of egg whites.

    Beat them and just don't leave. I mean it. Check the consistency a few times. They will suddenly take off. If you overbeat them you get tough egg whites. Just pay attention. I had success with medium speed and constantly observing the texture. Peaks will suddenly arrive and if you keep going it gets really tough.

    I overexplained once again but hey - try it, you'll be fine.
    In the beginning, God created man, but seeing him so feeble, He gave him a dog

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    1,242

    Experience actually is the best teacher...

    Unfortunately, the best way to recognize overbeaten egg whites is to have created them in the past. Perhaps you could "waste" 2 egg whites by overbeating them on purpose. They will look almost chunky, crumbly and dry definitely not resembling the smooth, shiny result achieved by perfectly beaten egg whites. They don't have any effect when whipped to this stage if they are used in a recipe which is why you're advised not to overwhip them.

    Soft peaks...to recognize soft peaks, hold the whisk upside down so the whipped egg whites are pointed up. If the little point sort of droops over but remains in its shape, you've got soft peaks.

    Stiff peaks...to recognize stiff peaks, hold the whisk upside down so the whipped egg whites are pointed up. If the little point stands straight up looking almost like a candle flame, you've got stiff peaks.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2000
    Location
    Lenexa, KS
    Posts
    1,338
    Sherri -

    I just saw an Alton Brown "Goods Eats" show that featuring angel food cakes (its called "let them eat foam"). In this episode, he explains AND DEMONSTRATES what soft, medium, and stiff peaks look like. I found it very informative. It's airing again on Sunday ... check out the foodtv website for specific information if you are interested.

    http://www.foodtv.com/foodtv/show/0,6525,EA,00.html

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2001
    Location
    MA
    Posts
    3,799
    I recently took a class about egg cookery at a local cooking school. The instructor gave us this tip about beating eggs until "stiff" :

    After beating your egg whites to what you think is the proper consistency, place a whole, uncooked egg into the bowl with the beaten whites. If the egg sinks to the bottom, the whites are not stiff enough. If it sinks just a little bit -- say, no more than a third of the egg is submerged -- then the whites are perfect. If the egg rests entirely on the top, you've overbeaten.

    I have to admit I haven't had a chance to try this myself, except in class, where it seemed to work pretty well.

    Helene
    "We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake."
    --President Barack Obama, 1/20/09

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