Citric Acid and The Science of Meringue

The World of Meringues

There are three different methods for combining the two ingredients in meringue. Of course. The differences are in the relative strengths of the final meringue, and in their cooking applications. French meringue is made by beating egg whites with sugar. It is the easiest way to make meringue, but also the most fragile. It’s also the driest. Italian meringue is made by beating egg whites with boiled sugar. It’s the best method to use when you want to caramelize it using a direct flame or grill in the oven or broiler for desserts such as Baked Alaska or Lemon Meringue Pie, and also for buttercream frosting, mousses and dessert soufflés. It is the most difficult meringue method because you need to be able to measure the temperature of the boiling sugar. Swiss meringue is made by beating egg whites with sugar on a warm water bath and finishing in a mixer. It is a little heavier than French meringue and it is also less crispy. This meringue is mainly used to ice cakes and desserts.

Easy to whip up, this meringue is light, fluffy and fast.

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Servings

Ingredients

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 125 grams sugar
  • 1 teaspoon citric acid

Directions

  1. Put the egg white and a pinch of citric acid in the a bowl of a mixer or food processor.
  2. Beat the egg white for one to two minutes on a medium-low speed until foamy.
  3. Set the mixer on its lowest speed and pour in the sugar a little bit at a time allowing for the sugar to incorporate between additions.
  4. Beat the egg whites and sugar at maximum speed for 3 to 4 minutes, or until desired consistency. Test to see if the sugar has dissolved by rubbing a pinch of meringue between your fingers.
Boiled sugar makes this meringue creamy and dense, able to withstand the direct heat of caramelization.

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Servings

Ingredients

  • 400 mililiters water
  • 100 grams sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 pinches citric acid separated

Directions

  1. Put the sugar, water and one pinch of citric acid into a small saucepan.
  2. Cook the sugar until the thermometer registers 102°C-106°C (215°F-222°F).
  3. Beat the egg whites on medium with a pinch of citric acid in a mixer until foamy.
  4. Pour the cooked sugar in a thin thread into the egg whites while continuing beating them at medium speed.
  5. Increase the mixer to maximum speed until stiff peaks form at the edge of the bowl.
The best meringue base for delicious cake frosting.

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  • Ready Time : 0 min

Servings

Ingredients

  • 100 grams sugar
  • 8 large egg whites
  • 1/8 teaspoon citric acid
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. In a heatproof bowl, begin whisking the egg whites and citric acid.
  2. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water. Add sugar. Continue to beat the eggs using a lifting motion.
  3. When the foam is lightweight, just before it begins to form peaks, remove from heat.
  4. Pour egg mixture into a mixer bowl and whip on high until desired consistency.

 

Things to Remember

  • If you’ve uses only a touch of corn syrup when working with melted sugar, it’s because corn syrup has an acidic pH of 5. You can use a pinch of citric acid instead.
  • Fresh eggs have a higher acidity than older eggs, which helps loosen the proteins. How do you know if it’s fresh? Put it in a tall cup of water. If it sinks, it’s fresh. If it floats, it’s not.
  • Baking soda + acid = bubbles. Heating makes more bubbles. For baking recipes that use baking soda and milk, you can’t simply substitute soy milk; it’s alkaline and won’t make bubbles with baking soda, so your cake won’t rise. Substitute 150% baking powder. Or add 1/4 tsp. to 1/2 tsp. citric acid per teaspoon of baking soda. So if your recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and has milk in it, use soy milk instead and add 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon citric acid to it.
  • Milk is a weak acid. Vinegar is a strong acid. Soy milk is a weak base.
  • Baking powder = baking soda + acid. Wetting it activates it. Heating it activates it more.

Comments

comments

4 thoughts on “Citric Acid and The Science of Meringue”

  1. Brilliant, thank you! I love marshmallow frosting but it's very tricky to work with and doesn't usually come out the way I want it. I'll try using swiss meringue. Can I use a hand mixer instead of a mixer? Can I add vanilla extract or use vanilla sugar?

    1. In general yes, you can use a hand mixer for batters and foams. Swiss meringue is the basis for 7-minute frosting.

      Vanilla sugar is usually synthetic, and tastes as such. You *can* make your own by burying a vanilla bean in sugar for a few weeks, but stick with real, pure vanilla extract for the best flavor.

  2. Yes – I tried being cute and making "Lemonade Meringues" using lemonade mix. Due to high acid, they came out more like mentos. I guessed a base, like baking soda, might counter. They'll make gas, also.
    But just 3 eggs to 2 1/4 cups sugar works w/o the tartar or other leavening.

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