My only food tangent this week is just to declare that brunch is the most superior meal. That is all.
So this week we made meringa con zabiglione, which is an Italian style meringue topped with a pourable wine custard and berries. The first step of this was to make the meringue itself because it needs a long time to bake and dry out before assembly. Italian meringues are interesting because they are made with hot sugar syrup as opposed to the more popular French meringues where you add sugar in its powdered form.
We started by separating our eggs and beating our whites until they formed soft peaks. I got a little nervous and beat them to firm peaks, but it didn’t end up hurting the recipe.
As I whipped the eggs, Amisha was heating up our sugar syrup to the “soft ball stage,” about 240 degrees Fahrenheit, or the temperature at which the syrup is thick enough to be formed into a soft ball when dropped into cold water.
Upon testing if our syrup had reached soft ball status, I discovered that with my long acrylic tips, I couldn’t really grab the sugar strands from the bottom of the cold water without getting them stuck under my nails. As you can imagine, that wasn’t exactly conducive to forming a ball. Nonetheless, Dr. C came over and helped us figure out that our sugar syrup was ready.
We poured our syrup slowly into our whipped egg whites as the mixer ran. We let the mixer go until our meringue had stiff, shiny peaks. We then scooped our meringa onto parchment paper lined baking trays and formed little tart shells with holes in the centers. We had a lot more meringue than expected, so we also made one large tart shell in a circular cake pan. We cooked these for about an hour at low heat, then turned off the heat and kept the oven closed so the leftover heat could dry out our shells for another hour.
As the meringue cooked and dried, we started to make our custard. We used the egg yolks we had separated out at the beginning and added sugar and a red wine and cooked it slowly in a bain-marie over boiling water. We used a glass bowl instead of a metal one, so our custard cooked pretty slowly. We whisked quickly and consistently for about a half hour as the custard thickened into something beautiful.
As I finished off the custard, Amisha beautifully sliced up blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries to top off our tarts.
We pulled the beautifully browned and dried custard shells out of the over and peeled them from their parchment paper to assemble on the cutting board. Our large cake tin shell wasn’t completely dry and so didn’t peel from the parchment paper, but boy was it beautiful.
Finally, we assembled the custard tarts, so here they are:
- What chemical changes occurred when you made the meringue/meringa? What did you observe that told you these chemical changes were happening?
- When we made the meringue, the proteins and amino acid chains were denatured both by the physical agitation and the addition of cream of tartar (tartaric acid). As the proteins unfold and air is pumped into the structure by whipping, you can see the egg whites expand in volume. When we cooked it, the ovalbumin became S-ovalbumin and becomes unable to revert to its previous form, which keeps the meringue permanently inflated.
- What was responsible for the thickening of the zabaglione as you stirred it over the hot water bath?
- The egg yolks are responsible for the thickening of the zabiglione. As the egg yolks are heated and stirred, the protein in the egg yolks coagulate and create a protein matrix that thickens the mixture.
- Overheating (too fast and or too hot) the zabaglione can leave you with “scrambled eggs” – a lumpy grainy mess of clumps in watery liquid. What is happening in this case?
- In this case, the egg yolks cook separately from the wine and the sugar because they cook at a lower temperature and aren’t fully incorporated. In this case the protein doesn’t really form a matrix with the other ingredients.