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Val123's avatar

Were cooks able to make meringues before we had electricity?

Asked by Val123 (12679points) June 13th, 2010

I was beating egg whites stiff for some waffles this morning and I thought, “There’s no way you could do this without an electric beater.” Is there?

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31 Answers

downtide's avatar

My mother used to make wonderful meringues, always whisked by hand. Lemon meringue pie is still my favourite dessert.

I’m not sure that meringues could be cooked without a temperature-controlled oven though. I think Victorian style coal-burning ovens probably wouldn’t work so well.

CMaz's avatar

Butter was made without electricity too.

Val123's avatar

@ChazMaz Butter is a different thing. You just have to churn it. Meringues have to have the crap beat out of them!

How long did they have to whisk, @downtide? 30 days and 30 nights?

CMaz's avatar

You have to churn butter all day. Same arm breaking process.

Val123's avatar

@ChazMaz Yes, I can imagine it is hard, hard work, but I’m thinking the secret to getting a meringue is the speed at which you beat it. But maybe not. I dunno.

dpworkin's avatar

I prefer to use a whisk and a copper bowl for meringues.

Val123's avatar

@dpworkin I’m learning something! How long and how fast do you have to whisk to get the texture you want?

dpworkin's avatar

The trick is to use a large balloon whisk, and to keep as much of the egg mass in motion as possible. It’s not that hard to learn, and it doesn’t really take that long, nor is it onerous when you do it right. I would hate to do it with a little kitchen whisk.

Val123's avatar

I see. What does the copper bowl do for it?

Val123's avatar

Also, that’s what I was thinking…I only have a little kitchen whisk, and I couldn’t imagine either.

dpworkin's avatar

The copper does the same thing that cream of tartar does: it stabilizes the eggs so that they don’t “leak”. You know, get liquidy after they are whipped.

prescottman2008's avatar

My mom and her mom had one of those hand crank whisks. The gearing on those things got a lot of speed, though not much torque. My grandma had a cast iron and enamel wood oven/range which was very precise. There were numerous compartments, each maintaining a certain temperature depending on how much and what type of wood she used in the firebox. She always knew exactly which one to use to cook whatever it was she was making. Years of experience was the key.

perspicacious's avatar

Yes. With a whisk you can beat egg whites sufficiently, but it takes stamina.

Val123's avatar

So does churning butter and chopping wood. That’s why previous generations were stronger and skinnier.

perspicacious's avatar

But they died at 45.

Val123's avatar

Well, that was probably due to lack of medical knowledge and accessibility, more than anything else. Staying in shape can’t kill you!

prescottman2008's avatar

@perspicacious 45 was an average life expectancy. people living into their 70’s, 80’s and beyond were offset by the extremely high infant mortality rate.

dpworkin's avatar

Actually, it is an extremely interesting question that probably deserves a thread of its own. Since the end of the Industrial Revolution the world wide trend has been toward longer life-expectancy, but no one knows exactly why. (Medicine is discounted because it had a relatively small influence before sulfa drugs came along during WWII) Demographers all over the world are actively working on an answer to this fascinating question.

jerv's avatar

I have yet to see a meringue made any way other than with a whisk and bowl. Personally, I’ve done in in under ten minutes… though t seems a hell of a lot longer.

And I think that @prescottman2008 has it exactly right; there were a lot of people living a long time, but there were also a lot dying during childbirth both infants and women so the average was kind of shitty.

Val123's avatar

@jerv I use a beater.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I agree with the folks who mentioned the larger whisk rather than the ones you see in a grocery store gadgets aisle. .

jerv's avatar

@Val123 That’s as may be, but I haven’t seen you make a meringue.

nomtastic's avatar

i put the bowl in the freezer before i start. i don’t know why this helps, but it does.

janbb's avatar

Cold everything helps with whipping cream too.

jerv's avatar

@Val123 “I have yet to see…” Get it?

YARNLADY's avatar

What? I don’t use electricity – what an odd thing to think. We use arm (woman) power.

Val123's avatar

No @jerv! I don’t get it!
Well, @YARNLADY, you live and learn. I didn’t know, but now I do. And I don’t think it was odd at all, when you compare the speed of the mixer with the fastest possible motion of a person’s arm. They don’t even come close.

RocketGuy's avatar

Yep, hand crank whisk for speed, copper bowl for stability.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Val123 I haven’t found that speed is required, but simply steady pressure.

Val123's avatar

@YARNLADY You found that out, I hadn’t.

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