Today I want to chat a bit about baking basics, one of which is meringue and also about online courses which I started taking recently to improve my baking.
I have been slightly absent from the blog and it is not because I have not been baking. For those who follow me on Instagram (@thelondongal) would have noticed that I have been baking, although not necessarily posting all the recipes – I will correct that. I have also signed up for online baking courses. I know it sounded strange to me as well – online baking, but I have been finding them very insightful and very helpful.
The classes have been set up on the basis of a culinary academy located in Barcelona, Spain. The lady who has set up the academy is Russian, but has been living in Spain for some time and has graduated from Le Cordon Bleu. I found out about her when reading various blogs about baking, I have used her recipes in the past and always found them very accurate and very inspiring.
The basic baking course is set over 12 modules, with 4 weeks in each. You watch the video instructions on each module, then you have to complete a practical assignment and send in the pictures with your results for grading. You also receive detailed comments on your work and can ask as many questions from a teacher as you want.
I am just now on week 3 of the first module. The first week was dedicated to basic creams – creme anglais, creme patissiere, diplomate cream and mousseline cream. I have not posted my picture here, as I think I will post the recipe of not just the cream but in connection with some recipe I will make in the future.
But I did want to concentrate on the lesson from my week 2, module 1: meringues. This week we learned about meringues. There are 3 main types: French, Italian and Swiss. The difference between the 3 is the method of preparation and the use. I have to say that I have made meringue before, but I now realise that I was not using necessarily the proper technique.
For our assignment were required to make either French or Italian meringue. I chose to make French meringue.
- 120g egg whites (approximately 4 eggs). The egg whites should be at room temperature as that makes it easier to whip them
- 75g caster sugar
- 175g icing sugar
Unfortunately, I do not have step-by-step pictures for those meringues, but I think the process would be quite clear without the step-by-step pictures.
- First, place the egg whites into a bowl and using a standing mixer with a whisk attachment and place on the smallest speed possible. The idea is not to start beating the egg whites just yet, what we are trying to do is to swirl them around to break the bonds within them.
2. You swirl the egg whites until you see small bubbles on the sides (how long this will take all depends on your standing mixer). Again, you are not beating the egg whites just yet!
3. When you see the bubbles forming, increase the speed of the mixer to medium (we will continue beating the egg whites on medium speed throughout) – I put the speed at 4 out of 6, but you will have to judge by your mixer. The reason why the speed is not increased to high is because we are trying to get even small pockets of air in your meringue, because that will make it more stable.
4. You beat the egg whites until they are nice and airy and only at this point in time you can start adding the caster sugar. Add the sugar in 3-4 additions, do not add the entire amount of sugar at once, because your meringue may loose volume too suddenly.
5. Now continue to run the mixer and you are looking to the bird beak peaks. What this is: when you lift the whisk your meringue will not run off but will look like it is a soft beak on a bird.
6. Once you have reached this stage you are ready to add the icing sugar. Once again, in 3-4 additions add the icing sugar. And once again continue beating the meringue until you reach bird beak peak stage. Watch the meringue carefully as it is quite easy to over-beat it, which will make it non-usable.
7. Once the meringue is ready, place it on a baking sheet, I used a piping nozzle but you can equally use a large spoon. Bake at 60-90c (depending on your oven, my oven gets quite hot so I bake my meringue at 60c) for 1.5-2.5 hours. The time of baking would once again depend on your oven and also the size of your meringues.
Next week we will be making Dacquise Praline. Join me on this culinary adventure and follow me on Instagram at @thelondongal