Whipping Egg Whites. Frothy to Stiff Peaks-Baking Basics, Volume #2

Baking has some common terms that may seem confusing at first, but truly gets easier as you practice.  Many recipes with baking require some form of eggs to be used.  Understanding HOW the eggs will be used can be the confusing part.  

Eggs can be used completely, meaning you just crack the egg and put the whole egg in the recipe. 

Some recipes will require you to separate the egg white from the yolk. Once separated, the recipe may have you just mix the white or the yolk in (without anything further required).  Whew!  These are the easy ways that eggs can be used.

It starts to get confusing when the recipe says, frothed, soft peaks, stiff peaks.  What does all that mean?!?!  Truly, it's not that hard.  

All three of these methods require you to separate the egg white from the yolks.

A few things to note before starting: 

  • use the freshest eggs possible.  As eggs age, their whites and yolk start to break down and they are not as easy to separate or give the consistency you want.
  • you must keep all oil, butter, broken yolks, and other fats from touching  the whites or they won't stiffen up.
  • do not over beat the whites or they will separate again.
  • try to beat eggs are at room temperature (not cold-fresh out of the refrigerator) for maximum "fluffiness". 

Frothing eggs means putting the egg whites in a mixer on a low setting for a minute of two.  Here's what they will look like:


This stage has some air whipped in to the whites, but it is still very "loose" in its consistency.

To get stiff peaks, beat the egg whites on a high speed for several minutes.  The egg whites will start to have a fluffy appearance, with a little bit of "looseness".  The term "soft peak" comes from the appearance of what happens should you pull your beater straight out of the whites.  The whites will start to make a peak, but the tip bends over and won't stand tall.  Here's a photo:


Notice there are marks left in the egg whites where the beater went through, but the path isn't well established.  To get them to stiff peaks, beat them on a high setting for a few more minutes.  You will have stiff peaks when you get a defined markings left in the whites.  The white will be very light and fluffy in appearance.  Here's a photo of how they will look:


I HIGHLY recommend you use 2 bowls (or drink glasses are what I use), if more than 1 egg needs to be separated.  By doing so, this will avoid you having to throw all the whites out, should you break one yolk during separating.  Here's how I would prepare for beating egg whites:


A final note: don't be nervous trying new recipes when you see these terms.  Some of the BEST recipes that I have tried are when they have eggs with stiff peaks.  Hoping you will share some of your best recipes below.  Here's to Happy Baking!