Eggs, in general, are an essential ingredient in baking. It acts not just as a binder, but eggs also help retain moisture (egg yolks) and act as a rising agent (egg whites). Beaten egg whites help make your cakes and baked goods “rise”. But how do you beat egg whites properly? What are “stiff peaks” and soft peaks”?
Beating egg whites is a tricky technique which, when done right, can help create towering cakes without the help of other leavening chemicals, such as baking soda and baking powder. The technique in itself is simple: whisk egg whites until light and fluffy. Doing the technique, however, is harder to achieve. Many under beat egg whites while others over beat it in their zest to achieve those perfect-looking clouds.
To help you out, this is how to achieve those elusive soft peaks and stiff peaks, and how to save overbeaten egg whites so your chiffon and sponge cakes can still rise:
To Soft Peaks:
In a clean bowl of a stand mixer, add 2 thawed (room temperature) egg whites and 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar. (No cream of tartar? Use 1 teaspoon lemon or calamansi juice instead.) Whisk on Medium until frothy. Increase speed to High and beat until the egg whites have doubled in volume and the mixture has become and looks opaque. Stop the mixer and lift the whisk. There should be no liquid egg whites left in the bowl. (You can tilt the bowl as needed, side to side, to check.) If some egg whites are still liquid in the bowl, keep whisking until all liquid egg whites have been whipped.
To check the consistency of the egg whites, run the whisk through the egg whites and turn the whisk upside down. The egg whites should hold a “soft peak”, where the tip of the egg whites on the whisk should gently droop down, almost like a soft-serve ice cream cone tip would.
To Stiff Peaks:
For stiff peaks, continue to whisk the soft peak whites on High until the mixture has tripled in volume and mixture looks even more opaque. Stop the mixer and lift the whisk to check the consistency of the egg whites. The tip of the egg whites should be firmer than the soft peaks, where the tip of the egg whites doesn’t droop at all when turned upside down. If it droops slightly, this firm peak consistency can be whisked further if desired until the peak holds its shape and doesn’t droop at all. When it doesn’t droop at all, this is stiff peaks.
To Save Overbeaten Egg Whites:
If you discover that the egg whites have begun to clump and is no longer smooth, you may have overbeaten the egg whites.
To save the mixture, add another egg white into the overbeaten egg whites. Whisk again until the additional egg white is incorporated into the rest of the mixture. Check again occasionally, stopping the mixer as needed to make sure the additional egg white has been whisked, until the desired consistency is achieved.
Use whipped egg whites immediately.