In the July 2009 issue of Downhome, Everyday Gourmet columnists Andrea Maunder and Mike Barsky offer up an exquisite recipe for a tasty summer dessert: Pavlova with Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote. To make this recipe, you'll need to know how to make a tasty meringue. Here are Andrea and Mike's tips on how to make a perfect meringue:
• Eggs whip best at room temperature so either remove your eggs from the fridge an hour or so before starting or use our quick method: Put the eggs in a bowl and cover them with hot tap water. Leave a few minutes until they no longer feel cold and then proceed with recipe. (Eggs tend to be easiest to separate when they’re cold but whip best when warm, so there’s the paradox. However, if you use the hand separating method below, you’ll have no trouble even when they’re warm.)
• Egg whites will not whip if there is the tiniest speck of fat present. That means a scrupulously clean mixing bowl and beaters, and not a single molecule of egg yolk can get into them. Also don’t flavour egg whites with oil-based flavourings (such as candy-making flavours). Use alcohol-based ones such as vanilla extract.
• When separating eggs, use three bowls – the larger one you’re going to whip them in, one for keeping the yolks and one small one (such as a ramekin or teacup) for whites in process. As you crack each egg, separate the white into the small one, inspect it for shell or yolk, and then transfer into the large whipping bowl. That way, if your yolk breaks, you can discard that egg (use it for other baking or eating). Make sure to wash out the little egg white bowl or get a fresh one before proceeding!
• The best tool you have for separating eggs is clean hands! Give the egg a quick, solid tap on the flat counter (not the edge of the bowl where you could force shell inside the egg) and open the shell. Over your egg white bowl, simply empty the egg into your cupped hand and let the white slip through your fingers while keeping the yolk in your hand. Transfer back and forth between your hands a couple of times to separate fully. Then drop the yolk into your other bowl.
Have a look at the fourth tip. Do you normally try to keep your fingers out of your ingredients while preparing a recipe? Well, Andrea says she actually enjoys the slippery feel of the yolk in the palms of her hands - and finds it kind of therapeutic!