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Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafes of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague


By Rick Rodgers

Published 2002

Use large Grade A eggs for baking. Substituting another size will cause trouble. Size variations with eggs may not be apparent to the eye, but the difference in volume between six large eggs and six jumbo (or small) is enormous.
Eggs brought to room temperature will beat well because they incorporate the most air. On the other hand, chilled eggs separate most easily. (In recipes in which the eggs will be heated over hot water, as in Biskuittorten [sponge cakes], the temperature is immaterial, so use chilled eggs if you wish.) For room-temperature whites, separate the cold eggs, opening the eggs over a heatproof bowl so the whites can fall into it. Place the bowl in a larger bowl of hot tap water and let stand, stirring occasionally, until they lose their chill, about 2 minutes.
Fat inhibits the aeration of egg whites, so when beating whites, be sure that not a speck of fat comes in contact with the whites. The beaters and bowl must be absolutely clean, so wash them in soapy water and dry well. Never use a plastic or rubber bowl for beating whites, as they retain grease, even after washing. If I am using a bowl that has been washed already, I pour a splash of vinegar into the bowl and wipe it out with paper towels. This will cut through and remove any grease, and the tiny amount of residual vinegar will help beat the whites, replacing or complementing the acidic cream of tartar or lemon juice that you will find in some recipes.
To beat egg whites to their optimum height, they need to be gradually inflated. In most cases, a handheld electric mixer is best because it allows you to observe the process; it’s easy to overbeat with a standing mixer. Start beating at low speed and beat until the whites are foamy. (If the recipe uses cream of tartar, add it now.) Increase the speed to high and beat until the whites form soft peaks. (When the beaters are lifted, the peaks of whites will bend at the tips). If beating to the stiff stage, keep beating, gradually adding sugar if the recipe directs, just until the whites stand in pointed peaks when the beaters are lifted. Don’t overbeat the whites. If they are beaten past the stiff peak stage, they will look clumpy, and there’s no way to save them.
Egg whites can be frozen for up to 3 months, so save them in an airtight container to use for meringues and desserts. (Egg yolks do not freeze well.) One large egg white equals 2 tablespoons. Allow the egg whites to defrost overnight in the refrigerator, but bring them to room temperature before beating.

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