Taking care of leftovers: egg whites

The challenge with making mayonnaise, bearnaise or hollandaise sauce, custard or creme anglais or variations of those, is leftover egg whites. There was a time when I would pour them down the drain (quelle horreur!!) but in these waste conscious times, I can no longer bring myself to throw these away.

The only exception to this is if I manage to contaminate them with egg yolk. Then, for anything other than an egg white omelette (what’s the point?) they’re virtually unusable. This is because egg whites are incredible but unforgiving. At their best they can be whipped into desserts lighter than air, frothing up and becoming glossy and delectable when beaten with sugar. At their worst, they won’t froth, they collapse during baking and you’re left with a brown sticky mess.

Some key tips:

  • When separating egg whites from yolks, ensure you don’t get any yolk mixed into the whites. Egg whites hate fat, and won’t froth up the way you need them to if even a small amount of yolk is mixed in.
  • For the same reason, ensure the mixing bowl, whisks or beaters you use are scrupulously clean.
  • Very fine sugar is best to ensure the whites hold up during baking. Caster sugar gives the best results, but brown sugar works well too. Anything too coarse (eg. standard white sugar, raw sugar) is too heavy for egg whites, and will cause it to collapse
  • Egg whites will keep well in the freezer and can be used as usual once defrosted. They should keep for 6 months (label how many egg whites you have in each bag, and the date you stored them)

The recipes I’ve given you below are a couple of my favourite ways to use leftover egg whites. Both are sweet – try this Huffington Post story for savoury ideas.

Meringues.pngOLD SCHOOL MERINGUES
(makes 12 meringues)

2 egg whites
1/2 cup caster sugar

  1. Heat oven to 120°C, normal bake
  2. Line a baking tray with baking paper
  3. Beat egg whites until very fluffy
  4. With beater running, add sugar, 1 Tbsp at a time.
  5. Continue to beat until meringue mix is glossy and very stiff (you could try holding the bowl upside down over your head to test, but this seems high risk to me)
  6. Place spoonfuls of meringue mix onto the baking tray (you can use a piping bag if you want a more refined look)
  7. Bake for around 2 hours, until meringues feel hard.
  8. Cool and serve with cream and fresh seasonal fruit

Note:

  • Meringues will keep indefinitely in an airtight container
  • Fold through 1/2 cup chopped nuts and chocolate prior to spooning out onto a baking tray
  • Beat in 1 tsp of high quality vanilla essence, orange blossom or rose water after adding all the sugar and continue as per the recipe above.
  • Change out the caster sugar for brown sugar for caramel flavoured meringues.

 

COCONUT MACAROONS

These are not the fancy french macaron, that require a masters degree in baking to create. These are the old fashioned cookies made with coconut and egg white that your grandmother used to make. I should note that this is based on a Nigella Lawson recipe.

3 egg whites
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup ground almonds
Zest of 1 lemon or orange
2 1/2 cups shredded coconut

  1.  Preheat oven to 170°C. Line baking tray with baking paper
  2. Beat egg whites until frothy
  3. With beater going, add sugar, 1 Tbsp at a time until combined
  4. Continue beating until egg mix is thick and glossy
  5. Fold through almonds, lemon zest and coconut
  6. Place tablespoon sized amounts onto the baking tray
  7. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden.

 

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