Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Egg Yolks In Meringue

I've always been under the impression, based on dire warnings from many sources, that even the tiniest speck of egg yolk will keep egg whites from beating to a stiff peak. "Oh, it just won't work if there's any fat in the eggs", we've all been told. This is beaten into the heads of every baker, and we all live in fear of getting yolks in the meringue.Well.....

I have wondered about this many times as I killed myself trying to get out a tiny speck of yolk that made its way into the egg whites before making meringue-based buttercreams. What would happen if I DIDN'T manage to get every speck out? I'm sure that it's pretty much impossible to do, anyway, so what the heck, I decided to try it out.

I made a batch of Italian meringue buttercream using the recipe from The Cake Bible (which, incidentally, also says that you have to get every bit of fat out of the egg whites.) I deliberately left a pretty good-sized blob of yolk in the whites, about the size of a pea. This wasn't a lot, but it's a lot more than I would have left in the whites if I ever had an egg break in the process of separating them.

After whipping it up, it looked perfectly fine, and unless I was hallucinating, it was holding a stiff peak.

Figuring that the horrible effect might happen after the butter was added, I went ahead and finished the icing. The butter went in fine, and I didn't see any difference between it and other batches I'd made ever while sweating about a speck of yolk.

Now I can't vouch for other things made with a meringue, and if you're making something that needs to hold the shape it might be different. But for IMBC, this is proof that if you get a tiny bit of egg yolk in the whites it isn't going to kill it. I don't recommend adding half a yolk, but a pea-sized bit per batch apparently makes no difference at all.



 Kara Buntin owns A Cake To Remember LLC in Richmond VA, and cake supplies online at www.acaketoremember.com and www.acaketoremember.etsy.com

11 comments:

Jo said...

I have discovered the same thing when by an accident some of the egg yellow ended up in my egg whites while making swiss butter cream. It turned out just fine and I was very happy that I didnt have to make a new batch. Uff! :)

Anonymous said...

thanks kara, great to know!! i've about been in tears trying to get that tiny little dot of yolk out of the whites. this was like an episode of food dectectives :D
cindy/cindy's cakery

Promise said...

Other fat residue, such as butter or vegetable oil, can absolutely prevent egg whites from whipping. I've found this out the hard way. Which is why I always rinse the (clean) bowl and beaters with super hot water and then vinegar before whipping egg whites, just for insurance.

Veronica Yoshida said...

I've been there and done that and can vouch safe that even a portion a bit bigger than a pea will not kill your IMBC. I have found that I might have to beat it a little longer just to make sure but it never fails to perform! It even retains it's pure white color. Glad I'm not the only only occasional clutz! :)

Kara said...

Good to know, Promise. I don't go so far with the vinegar rinse, but I usually put the whisk attachment through the dishwasher, so I figure they're pretty grease-free. I won't do the butter-in-the-egg-whites experiment!

Promise said...

I started doing the vinegar rinse after I had trouble even with bowl and whisk fresh from dishwasher.

Kara said...

@Promise-- So now you've made me paranoid, and I'll probably start doing the vinegar rinse too!

Michaela said...

The "absolutely-no-yolk-in-eggwhite" thing is kind of an urban myth, originating from the times when beating the egg-whites was done by hand. Then you had to be careful because it was difficult enough to get a stiff peak in the first place when doing it with a wooden whisk by hand. These days with electric mixers this is not a problem anymore as long as it is not too much egg yolk. Saves us all a lot of time an trouble!

Anonymous said...

yep, i always vinegar rinse too :\
cindy/cindy's cakery

ycknits in MN said...

I made a to-die-for Lemon SMBC that called for whole eggs. It was so delicious that I decided to try adding whole eggs to other SMBC and IMBC recipes. If the recipe calls for 6 egg whites, for example, I use two whole eggs plus 2 whites. It works just great and I prefer the taste of the buttercream with yolks included. I'd have NEVER attempted this if it weren't for the one recipe that I ran across. I'll never fear egg yolks again! At least not unless I'm making a simple meringue for a pavlova, etc..... A great subject... thanks for posting!

Sarah said...

I also make Swiss meringue buttercream with whole eggs whenever I don't need it to be as white as possible. It is so much more delicious! I use 1 whole egg to 1/4 cup sugar to 1 stick (8 tablespoons) of butter.