Horny & Lonely ~ Episode 1

Updated: Apr 23

Lemon Meringue, Bathing & Shaving


Cooking coitus & collaboration with Annie Maxwell


A Note to our Readers:


EPISODE ONE : Lemon Meringue, Bathing & Shaving

Egg: The Basics


Few (if any) ingredients are as foundational as the egg. The ovum is, in its very nature, full of potential, and this potentiality is best exemplified by the variety of its functionality in the kitchen. The egg isn’t just a perfect pocket of nutrition; eggs can also provide structure, moisture, color and flavor in addition to being used as washes, acting as leavening and binding agents, or used as thickeners, tenderizers or emulsifiers. Your fave could never!

A standard chicken egg is composed of the shell, various membranes, an air picket, egg white, egg yolk and chalazae, pronounced [kuh-lay-zee], which are the helix-spun cords that connect the yolk to the inside of the shell. There is much to be said about each part of an egg, but in this episode we will set our sights on the whites. An egg white, also called the albumen, looks like a cohesive blob, but is actually a series of alternating layers of thick and thin goo. Egg whites are composed of about 90% water and 10% protein. The primary function of the white is to protect and surround the yolk; it also serves as a nutritional layer to support a growing embryo. Take note of the whites’ appearance: cloudy, firmer whites are a product of higher levels of carbon dioxide and indicative of fresher eggs. Older eggs are characterized by clearer and runnier whites as the CO2 gas has slowly been released from inside the shell.


Technique: Egg White S&M

I’ll go ahead and just say it; egg whites are kinky. What other food stiffens up after being beaten for minutes at a time? Foamy goop, vigorous strokes and a ‘firm but gentle hand’ are requisites for any cook hoping to achieve a towering soufflé or delicate angel food cake. This is not an attempt to be clever, this is the truth. Here’s a direct quote from one of the pre-eminent cookbook of our time, The Joy of Cooking:


“Egg whites can be beaten by hand or in an electric mixer... If beating by hand, be prepared to give your forearm a workout—about 300 strokes in 2 minutes for 2 egg whites. Using a thin-wired, flexible whisk, begin slowly and lightly with a very relaxed wrist motion and beat steadily until the egg whites lose their translucency and become foamy. At this point, gradually increase beating tempo, using large hand motions to incorporate the maximum air, and continue without stopping, until the whites are airy and have reached the desired state of firmness. Follow the same principle with an electric mixer, starting on low speed and increasing speed as the whites become foamy and then begin to stiffen. When working with a hand-held mixer, push the beaters around the bowl, moving them up and through the whites to incorporate more air and similarly starting on low speed and progressing to high. The key to a successful egg foam is to stop beating when the eggs are stiff but not dry. Overbeating causes the whites to turn grainy and brittle, making it difficult to incorporate them into a batter without rupturing the air cells… to preserve their volume when incorporating them into a soufflé or batter, beaten whites need a firm but gentle hand.” (Rombaurer and Rombaurer 928-9).


The process outlined above is more than a not-at-all subtle euphemism for an HJ; it’s not alchemy but it is a bit magical. To the naked eye, egg whites literally seem to grow in size. In fact, whipping up the whites can increase their volume by a factor of 8 as the albumen becomes engorged with air. On a molecular level, even more interesting things are going on. As the albumen is beaten, the tightly coiled proteins which make up its structure begin to unravel like an old sweater, a process in chemistry known as denaturation. As the proteins unfold, their surface area increases and they begin to bond with other neighboring proteins. Some areas of the proteins are attracted to the water in the egg whites and are called hydrophilic. Other proteins are repelled by water, facing away from the water molecules and towards the incorporated air. These proteins are called hydrophobic (side bar: even proteins have their kinks!*). What results is an extended network of proteins that hold each other tightly around pockets of air—it’s so metaphorical!** It is also what gives meringue the ability to provide a light and delicate texture to beloved baked goods and meringues everywhere.


Technical Tidbits:

To master the egg white, nuance is needed beyond the flagellation. Here are some other tricks to get your whites right every time:

  • Some Like It Hot

  • Egg whites prefer room temperature. To ensure egg whites reach their greatest volume, separate the whites from the yolks when fresh out the ‘fridge and then let them rest for at least 30 minutes prior to beating.

  • Soft Peaks/Stiff Peaks

  • No mystery here: soft peaks are flimsier and less stable; when you lift a whisk or beater up from the meringue (make sure the beater is off!) the egg white will not hold its shape well. A stiff peak has the shape of Jimmy Neutron’s hair (90’s babies will know).

  • Life’s Short; Lick the Bowl

  • But not just any bowl… choose a glass or metal bowl for best results. Plastic mixing bowls absorb oils and fats, which will inhibit the foaming of the whites. Make sure that your bowls and beaters are clean. Also make sure there are no remnants of the fat-rich yolk in your whites.

  • Don’t Be Salty

  • Some ingredients (usually acids) can help stabilize the egg whites. Cream of tartar, cornstarch, lemon juice or vinegar may be utilized. It is generally advised to forego the addition of salt in your egg whites. Salt adds flavor but causes the egg white proteins to denature more slowly resulting in longer beating times and extra-stretched protein networks. Salt can destabilize your peaks, especially when added too early to the mixture. If salt is a must, add it after the meringue has formed.

  • “Suga Suga”

  • Ah, the sweetest thing. Sugar adds sweetness, texture and stability to egg whites. Timing matters with the goods: begin adding sugar after the egg whites have begun to foam but before the meringue has begun to form peaks, about 1 minute into whipping. Add sugar in batches so that it has time to dissolve fully. Sugar absorbs water; avoid whipping up saccharine clouds when humidity is high as egg-white texture and structure may be compromised.

  • “We Only Got 4 Minutes to Save the World” ***

  • Meringue can be stabilized but it won’t last forever. Eventually the protein network surrounding the incorporated air bubbles will begin to collapse. If you plan on incorporating your meringue into another recipe try to whip them up just prior to folding into batter or baking under heat.

  • “Know when to fold ‘em…”

  • If your recipe requires you to fold the meringue into batter don’t just mix it in with reckless abandon; hedonism is encouraged in these parts but save your non-restraint for the eating. Fold your meringue in gently; always by hand, ideally using a rubber spatula. Plop a quarter of your meringue on top of your batter. Slice down from the middle of the bowl and up the sides, using a scooping motion to gently bring the mixture back to the center. Turn the bowl slightly and repeat. Once the first batch of meringue is just incorporated, add the next batch and follow the same process. Do not over mix the meringue into the batter as this will deflate all of those precious air bubbles in your confection.



Egg Whites in Action: Recipe for Satisfaction


Lemon Meringue Pie:


Basic Pie Dough:

2 ½ cups flour

1 tbs. Sugar

1 tsp. Salt

2 sticks butter, cubed (16 tbs.)

1 cup ice water


Lemon Filling:

1 cup sugar

Zest of 3 lemons

8 egg yolks

Juice of 3 lemons

¼ cup cornstarch

Pinch of salt


Meringue:

8 egg whites

2/3 cup sugar

¼ tsp salt

1 ½ sticks of butter


Kitchen Tools:

Pie dish

Parchment Paper

Saran wrap

Mixing bowl (glass or stainless steel)

Beaters (handheld or electric)

Measuring cups

Rubber/metal Spatula and whisk



Crust:

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Whisk flour, salt & sugar. Process/beat in cubed butter to flour mix. When butter is size of peas, add ice cold water, one tablespoon at a time. Mix with hands until dough holds together. Don’t add too much water. Work dough into ball. Wrap in saran wrap. Refrigerate for 30min-2hr. Roll out on floured surface, preferably marble or granite as these materials will absorb heat from the dough and help keep it cool. Shape into pie tin. Cut parchment paper and place on inside of pie crust. Top with pie weights such dried beans/legumes. Blind bake at 425 for 8-10 min. **** Ready for pie!


Filling:

In a saucepan, heat off, whisk together sugar, zest & yolks. Whisk in lemon juice & salt. Place pan on medium high heat, continue whisking, add cornstarch and butter a few tablespoons at a time. Keep whisking, allowing to thicken until mixture is able to coat the back of a spoon, and small bubbles appear around the edge of pan ~ 5 min.

Pour lemon filling directly into blind baked pie crust and place film of saran wrap over lemon filling. Refrigerate for 30 min- 1 hr.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


Place 8 egg whites in a clean dry bowl. Beat on high with electric mixer. After a minute, when foam beings to form, gradually add the sugar. Continue beating until a soft peakage but don’t stop until you’ve whipped out a stiffy. After the meringue has formed, add the salt. Whipping will take several minutes or 4 days at a pace of 1 rotation per minute.


Take the lemon meringue from the fridge and make sure the filling has properly set. If not, return to fridge and wait till your pie jostles gets nothing but a soft wiggle. Then remove the saran wrap and start piling on your meringue with a metal spatula (the sugar sticks to a rubber or plastic spatula) Personalize your peaks! The more bells and whistles the more intricate the pattern once it’s come out the oven. When you’ve created your design place in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes or as long as it takes every peak (just the tips) to reach an attractive caramel singe.


Voilà!



* This may be the nerdiest joke I have ever made. Thank G-d my pre-medical background led to something worthwhile.

** See Bong Joon Ho’s masterpiece, Parasite.

*** Turn of the century Timbaland-produced dance bop about getting in one last good romp as the world turns to ash.

**** “Blind Bake” a term that means baking a pastry without the filling.


REFERENCES

  1. https://www.saudereggs.com/blog/what-are-the-functions-of-eggs/

  2. https://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/eggs/eggcomposition.html

  3. Rombauer, Irma S., and Marion Rombauer. Becker. Joy of Cooking. Penguin Group, 1997. Pages 928-9.

  4. https://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/icooks/11-03-03.html

  5. https://www.marthastewart.com/266449/meringue-guaranteeing-success

  6. https://www.incredibleegg.org/eggcyclopedia/f/foam/

  7. https://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/icooks/3-17-03.html

  8. https://www.cooksillustrated.com/how_tos/9992-whipping-whites-and-sugar-timing-matters

  9. https://www.finecooking.com/article/why-does-marble-keep-pastry-cool






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