Meringue, whipped with sugar, binds nuts and dried fruit/photos by Donna Turner Ruhlman

 

I’m doing a lot of interviews regarding my new book, Egg: A Culinary Exploration of the World’s Most Versatile Ingredient, and one question is persistent: What did I uncover that surprised me about the egg?

I was surprised—very surprised—once, and that was when I began to write about meringue. The proteins that make up the egg white have the remarkable capacity to unwind and form a kind of mesh that traps air bubbles. Once it begins to trap infinitesimal and countless bubbles, the white expands to five or more times its initial volume, becoming completely opaque and about as white as anything one can imagine.

The above photo is of nougat, a French confection of egg whites and sugar, that bind a combination of nuts and fruit (photo by Donna, of course). It’s chewy. If you were to bake the meringue it would be a crunchy, cookie-like confection. Poach it and it becomes Île Flottante, floating island. Add melted sugar and it becomes a beautiful icing. Add flour and it becomes an angel food cake. Not to mention the egg white’s capacity to enrich a cocktail or clarify a stock or bind a mousseline.

I had a high regard for the egg white to begin with. But writing this book magnified my respect to the point of astonishment. And astonishment in the kitchen is always good fortune.

 

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© 2014 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2014 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.

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10 Wonderful responses to “The Miraculous Meringue”

  • Sue

    Too funny! Reading this while I’m munching on chocolate-almond meringue cookies.

  • Carolyn Z

    Waiting for the hard cover book to arrive, but have the iBook. It was great to buy it at the promotional price. I think you and Alton Brown should write the Turkey book together somehow, after listening to the Nerdist podcast. You apparently have a lot in common.

  • Ronda Snyder

    Yum. I can’t help but wonder who thought of making a meringue, and what purpose was served by the egg having the ability to do this, the unwinding of the proteins in embryo development.

  • Victoria

    I was away for three weeks and thrilled to find upon my return my pre-ordered copy of Egg, which is a splendid and beautiful book. Your instructions for how to cook soft-boiled and hard-boiled eggs resulted in eggs that were spot-on perfect. I am looking forward to working my way through the book as I did through Twenty.

    Thought you would like to know that a stack of copies of Egg are sitting front and center on a table in the cookbook section of the East 86th Street Barnes & Noble. What a perfect gift to bring to someone on Easter Sunday!

    Congratulations to you and DTR.

  • Beachfinn

    yummy :)
    finally received the book; any idea when the signed posters for pre order clients will arrive? I have a space reserved on my kitchen wall….

  • Keith

    I have nine egg whites in my fridge, left over from all the yolks that went into pecan pies yesterday. This might just be the inspiration I need to use them (not that I need more sweets around the house while I still have those pies!)

  • Wilma de Soto

    Reminds me of Turrón Alicante we eat at Christmas. Do you have a recipe for this in your book?