By beating air into an egg white you can increase it’s volume by a factor of approximately 8. Hervé This has shown that water is the limiting component. By adding more water you can significantly increase the volume. Addition of sugar further stabilises the foam by increasing the viscosity of the water. A very simple dessert kan be made by whisking egg whites with sugar and berries of your choice. In Norway we refer to this as “Troll cream”. There’s more on this over at eriks-food-ucation.blogspot.com. An interesting question for you to ponder upon is in what order egg whites, berries and sugar should be mixed to maximize the volume!
But there is more to such a foam than trolls! For the following experiment, use one eggwhite and a berry syrup of your choice – I used a blueberry syrup (approximately 1,5 dL). Start by whisking the egg white. Add the syrup slowly over 5-10 min while constantly whisking. Observe how the volume increases dramatically. When I did the experiment I got roughly 2 L of foam (which corresponds to a 40-50 fold increase in volume). Make sure you use a clean bowl, preferably one of metal as fats and oil cling very well to plastic bowls.
Now comes the fun part: Put some of the egg white foam onto a plate and place it in a microwave oven to make the proteins set! Hervé This described this in a recent article and decided to name this dish “Vauquelin” after the french pharmacist and chemist Louis Nicolas Vauquelin. It does take some experimentation to find a proper combination of the power setting and the time needed for the Vauquelin to set. If you overdo it, the foam will just collapse. I used the 360W setting and 4 seconds for the Vaquelin in the picture below.
Cutting through the Vauquelin with a knife leaves a trace which does not refill.
Scooping out with a spoon also gives you an impression of the texture.
Instead of blueberry syrup you can try other liquids. Hervé This suggests orange juice or cranberry juice (both require addition of sugar). Liquours also work fine (although my experimentation suggests that the volume increases somewhat less), but remember to add sugar as this stabilises the foam and rounds of the taste.
experiments, molecular gastronomy, recipe