In one of her early TV appearances in the 1960s, Julia Child came on the set with a copper bowl, a whisk and eggs. She was promoting her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which would go on to become a bestseller, having never been out of print since 1961.
Her goal was to demonstrate how to whip egg whites by hand, taking them from liquid to foam to stiff, pillowy peaks in just minutes. This technique is required for light-as-a-feather souffles, though most of us are more likely to use an electric beater today. It's also how Child made her rich chocolate mousse.
The copper bowl keeps the egg whites from overheating, but you can use other types of bowls just as well. I like to put a metal bowl and the beaters in the freezer for 30 minutes before I whip eggs.
The trick with beating egg whites is to stop as soon as they reach the consistency your recipe calls for. If you overbeat them, they will revert to liquid. Make sure your bowl and whisk (or beaters) have been washed thoroughly in hot, soapy water. Any greasy residue will keep the eggs from whipping.
Also, use them immediately after whipping. They will not keep in the refrigerator.
Today would have been Julia Child's 100th birthday.
We toast her memory and all she brought to the American kitchen with a spoonful of delicate chocolate mousse, its flavor deepened with brewed coffee and dark rum.
And the consistency? As airy as a celebratory balloon.
Happy birthday to the French chef!