Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Italian meringue as an ingredient in gluten-free yeast doughs

It's the time of year where people write about all the lovely Panettone they make - a light sweet yeast bread that tears easily between the teeth.  I made one once following an immensely complicated recipe supplied by some official Italian organisation - my recollection was that it took days.

Now, of course, the idea of a light, flexible yeast dough seems very nearly unobtainable.  I am working on a cinnamon bun recipe (did you know Oct 4th is Cinnamon Bun day in Sweden? ) and striving for softness and flexibility.  Holding together is easy, taste is easy, texture is difficult.

I took to wondering what Italian Meringue would be like as an ingredient in a yeast dough. For those of you that aren't sure what an Italian meringue is, you make it by making a sugar syrup - 115C, medium ball stage, and pouring it onto whipped egg while it is hot and then leaving the mixer running while the mixture cools down.  I tried this version as I thought that the meringue would be more robust in the mix than simply adding whipped egg white.  The other possible advantage to using meringue as an ingredient half way through making a dough as it would give the yeast time to work without too much sugar around - I am still trying to find a UK supplier of domestic quantities of osmotolerant yeast.

I spent quite a while hunting on the Internet for any information on this and couldn't find anything.  I ran a quick test.  Here are the results.  For anyone who doesn't want to read the rest of the blog, I have to say that it isn't worth it -  adding meringue to a yeast dough before baking does change the texture but not in any particularly useful way.

I made a yeast dough with:
150g flour (40%urid, 40%tapioca, 40%cornmeal)
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp yeast
20g butter
1 egg
c60ml water to get sloppy dough

While the dough was rising I made the meringue.  You can see from the bubbles in the dough that the yeast was working.  this is a more reliable indicator with my gf doughs than bulk in the early stages.

dough - yeast bubbles
I made a meringue with two egg whites so that I would have enough bulk for the stand mixer to work.  This was 80g.  The sugar syrup was made from 300gm sugar, 25g glucose and 65ml water.  This is enough for a four egg white meringue, but I made a double mixture as my heavy bottomed pan was too large for a half mix.  The spare can be caramelised and made into nut brittle.

Mix the water and sugar and glucose together before applying any heat.  Ideally leave the whole mix to rest for a while to ensure that all the sugar is wet - if you stir once you add heat you will get a granulated mess as I did with my first (half size) batch.  The glucose helps to avoid the crystallisation.  Once you get past the soft ball stage ( a drop of the syrup in cold water forms a ball you can roll between your fingers rather than simply dispersing) whip the egg as in normal meringue.  Then pour the hot syrup in a steady stream into the egg white while the mixer is working, and keep mixing until the meringue is cold.  You will have a lovely glossy meringue that can be used for making Italian ice-creams amongst other things.


At this point I divided the dough into three.  The first batch had 25g of the meringue added to 75g of dough.  This looked like equal amounts in volume.  The second had 10 g of meringue added.  The third was plain dough.  The remaining meringue was baked in the oven after the breads were complete.

dough and meringue
I made a bun shape and a flat disc from each of the doughs.  Ideally the sugar amount in each dough would  have been made up to the same levels to be sure that any changes in texture were due to the meringue not the ingredients, but I didn't do that.

meringue and dough mix
three doughs, baked - plain on left
The meringue did make a difference.  The one with the most meringue in reminded me of the texture of good rock buns - a slightly crisp, slightly cracking texture with adequate cohesion and large air bubbles.  The medium mix seemed promising as a sweet dough when fresh as it could be shaped when raw and had a good even crumb with medium sized air bubbles.  The plain dough was just a plain dough - firm, with irregular sized small bubbles.  

high-meringue mix

medium mix

plain dough

I didn't leave the mixtures to rise after shaping because I had foolishly started this whole process rather late in the evening.  I just put the buns into a cold oven and set it to 170C and cooked for about 22 minutes.

We tested them when they had just cooled and again in the morning.  They seemed more promising when fresh out of the oven, but had staled quickly and seemed a lot more boring twelve hours later.

 I baked the meringue that was left. I simply put the leftovers onto baking parchment, put in the oven at 170C for 5 minutes then turned the oven off and left it overnight.

The meringue was very good - slightly chewy and without that crisp disintegration into shards that normal meringue has.  Trying to think what I don't like about the usual meringue I make or buy Tolerant Taster and I said at the same moment - "they explode all over you". The chewiness was also quite slight, so it wasn't difficult to eat the way some meringues are that really stick to your teeth.  I would make this again.

So, the reason people don't use Italian meringue in yeast doughs is that it isn't worth it - but I am glad I took the time to find out.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I reserve the right to edit or not publish comments