Peak Performance

Egg whites are the key to cloud-like souffles, silky meringues and delicate cakes. But many home cooks worry about beating egg whites because of the precarious line between beating them just to the proper consistency and over-beating. But mastering the technique of proper beating is easy. See Chef’s Tips, right:

Mandel’s latest book is “Celebrating the Midwestern Table” (Doubleday & Co., 1996).


1 1/2 cups superfine sugar


3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour

3 tablespoons instant espresso powder

1 tablespoon ground coffee

2 cups egg whites (about 16 large), at room temperature


1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, finely chopped


1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Sift 3/4 cup superfine sugar and set aside. Sift remaining 3/4 cup sugar with flour and espresso powder. Stir in ground coffee. Set aside.

Beat egg whites in large bowl with electric mixer on low speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. Add cream of tartar, vanilla and salt. Increase mixer speed to medium and add reserved sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue beating until egg whites hold soft peaks but are still shiny and moist, about 3 minutes. Gently fold in reserved flour mixture and chopped chocolate in 3 batches.

Transfer batter to ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Smooth surface with spatula. Cut through batter in 5 or 6 places to break any large air pockets.


Bake at 375 degrees on center rack until well browned and toothpick inserted in center comes out dry (except for melted chocolate), about 30 minutes. Invert to cool.

When cake is completely cool, separate from sides and bottom of pan with flexible knife.

Press powdered sugar through fine sieve over cake. Slice with serrated knife.

12 to 14 servings. Each of 14 servings:


178 calories; 123 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 3 grams fat; 28 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 0.01 gram fiber.


3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour, plus extra for preparing souffle dish


1/2 teaspoon salt

Pinch cayenne pepper

Freshly ground black pepper

1 1/4 cups milk


1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

4 egg yolks

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus 2 tablespoons for preparing souffle dish

1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese


2 teaspoons snipped chives

6 egg whites, at room temperature

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Other cheeses of choice may be substituted for the Parmesan and Cheddar; just be sure to have a total of 1 cup or 4 ounces.


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat butter in small saucepan over medium heat. When hot, stir in flour, salt, cayenne and black pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low and let mixture bubble, stirring constantly, until thickened and smooth, about 3 minutes.

Vigorously whisk in milk and mustard. Cook, stirring constantly, until smooth and thick enough to coat back of spoon, about 4 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time, until well blended. Stir in Parmesan, Cheddar and chives. Mixture will not be smooth.

Beat egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat until whites hold soft peaks but are still moist. To test, carefully tip bowl. If whites shift, they need more whipping.


Stir 1/4 egg whites into cheese mixture to lighten consistency of souffle base. Gently fold in remaining whites. Do not over-mix; a few streaks of egg white should still be visible.

Transfer to buttered 6-cup souffle dish that has been sprinkled on bottom and sides with 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese. Smooth surface with spatula.

Put souffle in oven and reduce heat to 375 degrees. Bake until golden brown and still wobbly, not firm, in center, about about 25 minutes. For firmer texture, bake 5 minutes longer. Serve immediately.

4 servings. Each serving:


349 calories; 918 mg sodium; 328 mg cholesterol; 25 grams fat; 9 grams carbohydrates; 21 grams protein; 0.03 gram fiber.



1 large pineapple, about 3 1/2 pounds


2 cups sliced or diced mixed fruit, such as strawberries, bananas, unpeeled apples, melon, grapes, raspberries or orange or grapefruit sections

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons kirsch or dark rum



3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup water

3 egg whites, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract



1 pint raspberry, lemon or strawberry sorbet

A ripe pineapple is the key to this dessert.

FRUI Split pineapple lengthwise, cutting through leaves. Cut flesh from each 1/2 in 1 piece, leaving 1/2 inch of fruit in shell. Set shells aside.


Remove and discard core from each 1/2 pineapple. Cut each 1/2 into quarters, then into 1/8-inch slices. Put pineapple slices and mixed fruit in large bowl and toss with sugar and kirsch. Taste and add more sugar if needed; keep in mind meringue and sorbet will be sweet.


Stir sugar and water in small saucepan over medium-high heat just until sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Clip candy thermometer to side of pan and boil syrup until it registers 240 degrees, about 3 minutes. As temperature approaches 200 degrees, begin beating egg whites with electric mixer until they hold soft peaks but are still moist.

With mixer on, slowly pour hot syrup into egg whites and beat until meringue is thick and and outside of bowl is cool to the touch, about 5 minutes. Stir in vanilla.


Transfer meringue to pastry bag fitted with medium star tip. Alternately, meringue can be spread with flexible spatula.


Sprinkle pineapple leaves with water and wrap in foil. Fill shells with fruit mixture. Top fruit with scoops of sorbet, mounding slightly.

Pipe or spread meringue over each shell, completely covering sorbet and fruit. Seal edges of meringue to pineapple shells.


Bake at 425 degrees on baking sheet until lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove foil from pineapple leaves and serve immediately.

8 servings. Each serving:

261 calories; 24 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 1 gram fat; 61 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 1.62 grams fiber.



Chef’s Tips

*Let the egg whites come to room temperature.

*Be sure there is no yolk in the whites.

*Use grease-free, spotlessly clean utensils.


*Beat egg whites with a large balloon whisk or whisk of electric mixer.

*Cream of tartar, lemon juice or vinegar added at the beginning of beating creates a stable egg white.

*When sugar is an ingredient in the recipe, it too makes for a stable egg white when added in small quantities as soft peaks form.

*Avoid over-beating egg whites by stopping when they slip just a tiny bit as the bowl is shifted. Properly beaten egg whites look moist yet form a soft peak; they should never appear dry and stiff.


*Use a copper bowl if you have one. Without question, egg whites beaten in a copper bowl stay soft and elastic and are almost impossible to over-beat.