Making Italian meringue. Syrup went completely crystal before I got it added to egg whites. What to do?



Reiney May 2, 2012
I'd also suggest that 244 F is a bit high - I learned to take it to 114C (237F) and it works very well as the original response suggests.

In addition to stirring it, other things that can go wrong with sugar and lead it to crystallise:
- not fully hydrating the sugar in the water before heating (you should stir it together to get all the sugar wet before putting it on the heat)
- if the pan, thermometer or sugar is contaminated (speck of something)
- sometimes it just happens

(Here is an account of my first 4 attempts at Italian Meringue in pastry school:

hardlikearmour April 30, 2012
The pan retains heat so the temperature of the solution continues to rise. Have a glass measure at the ready when you're cooking the syrup. The recipe for Italian Meringue in the Cake Bible calls for bringing the sugar syrup to 248-250º, then in italics is written "Immediately transfer the syrup to the glass measure to stop the cooking."
sophdobe April 30, 2012
Hi - I also had this problem and I was trying to achieve softball stage - I'm not sure what went wrong as I had a thermometer!
I took the sugar syrup off the stove at 244 degrees (that's what it said on my recipe) but the temperature kept increasing even after I took it off the stove (The final read was around 257 degrees).

I stirred the syrup hoping to cook it back down to 244 degrees faster but it started bubbling and crystalized!

What did I do wrong???
boulangere April 30, 2012
Your mistake was in stirring it. I set a large bowl of ice water right next to the stove and gently lower the pan into it to stop the cooking process.
workingstiff March 13, 2011
Thanks for all your help. I started over. I think the problem was that the recipe said to go to the hard ball stage, not soft ball and from there, all was lost. Worked the second time.
boulangere March 12, 2011
I agree with hla, and adding some invert to cooked sugars is generally a good idea. I use it with everything from caramel sauce to caramel candies. Invert sugars (corn syrup, honey, invertase) contain a small amount of acid which acts quite literally as an "interfering agent," causing sugar molecules to spin around and attempt to bond with like poles, rather than opposite poles. Imagine trying to force 2 magnets together, as we all did as children. They literally cannot join and crystallize in the mode of "she told to friends, and she told two friends....." The moral of the story: corn syrup can be your friend. And bravo to you for trying to make Italian meringue! Not for the faint of heart! Fortunately, sugar and eggs (whites) are relatively cheap. It's all a science experiment!
hardlikearmour March 12, 2011
Start over. Maybe add a tablespoon of invert sugar (like corn syrup) to the syrup to help inhibit sucrose crystal formation. When making a saturated solution of just sucrose, any little nidus can start the crystallization reaction. When you add a different sugar into the mix (like fructose) the fructose molecules will mix in with the sucrose molecules, making it harder for the sucrose molecules to glom onto one another forming crystals. Also make sure your cooking vessel is clean, and free of any sugar crystals clinging to the sides. Hope your second attempt goes better.
yesplease March 12, 2011
Do you have a candy thermometer? If your syrup passed soft ball stage, I think you have to start over on that part.

If you do have a thermometer, aim for 235 degrees. If you don't, have a bowl of very cold water next to the stove while you're stirring. After about 15 minutes of simmering, drop a little bit of the syrup into the cold water. It should form a ball on contact, but it should not keep its shape when you pinch it with your fingers.
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