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Rose Knows: Stabilizing Egg Whites

Rose Levy Beranbaum - December 2nd, 2013

Rose Levy Beranbaum—award–winning author of The Cake Bible, The Pie and Pastry Bible, The Bread Bible, A Passion for Chocolate, and many more—will be answering baking- and pastry-related questions in her new column on FoodArts.com, “Rose Knows.” Her latest cookbook, The Baking Bible, is due to hit the shelves in fall 2014 but in the meantime, read more on her blog, Real Baking with Rose Levy Beranbaum.

Question: When I make ladyfingers, they tend to spread. What is the best way to stabilize the egg whites and prevent this from happening?

Answer: When making ladyfingers, it is essential to beat egg whites to very stiff peaks to maintain an attractive shape for the baked ladyfingers. Underbeating or overbeating whites will cause the batter to spread sideways and the ladyfingers to be flat. It is often difficult to determine just how much to beat without risk of overbeating. Using the correct amount of cream of tartar, however, makes it possible to beat whites to the stiffest possible peaks without risk of “drying” or breaking down the structure.

It is important that the ratio of cream of tartar to egg white be exact. The proportion of yolk to white varies from egg to egg, so it is necessary to weigh or measure the egg white to maintain the correct ratio. Note: the weight is exact and the volume is rounded down very slightly, but both will work.

Use 1 tsp. of cream of tartar for approximately 8 egg whites (or 1/8 tsp. per white).

• Weight of 8 egg whites: 8.5 oz. (240g)
• Volume of 8 egg whites: 1 cup (or 8 fl. oz.*) (237ml)

The cream of tartar can be stirred into the egg whites before beating.

Note: The metric system is based on water, not egg whites, so 1 cup of water weighs 8.4 ounces (237g), even though people refer to the 8 ounce cup, which is actually 8 fluid ounces.

“As the weight of the eggs and thickness of the shell can vary a great deal even within a given grade (from 1.75 ounces to 2.5 ounces for large eggs), I find it safer to weigh or measure even when using large eggs... Egg whites contain 87.6 percent water and 10.9 percent protein. Egg yolks contain 51.1 percent water, 16 percent protein, and 30.6 percent fat.” —The Pie and Pastry Bible