I’ve been enamoured of royal icing ever since one of the chef/instructors in culinary school taught me “the love of the royal”, as she called it. Royal icing, at its core, is nothing more than egg white and confectioner sugar. In its stiff stage, royal icing is the confectionery equivalent of super strength concrete, able to support all kinds of sugar showpieces and gingerbread skyscrapers. In its flood stage, it’s the paint we cookie makers use for our creations.
For many years, I used liquid pasteurized egg whites in my royal icing. Even buying in bulk from my purveyor, I still wasted a lot of those whites. And that’s like throwing money down the sink. That’s when I began using egg white powder.
Now, egg white powder is just that. Dehydrated egg whites. They’re available in supermarkets under the brand name “Deb-El Just Whites”. Again, I buy mine from my purveyor in large quantities. They’re great…I hydrate the amount I need, if it’s too much I can store in the ‘fridge for a few days. No more waste! And, there’s a substantial shelf-life for the whites, so I don’t worry about them going bad on me.
The thing is, I see that many of my cohorts in cookiedom out there are using meringue powder. The meringue powder ingredient list begins with cornstarch. Cornstarch is a thickening agent, I’ll give you that. Then comes the egg white powder. Next up is gum arabic, an emulsifier, calcium sulfate (?), citric acid, cream of tartar, silicon something or other (as a whitening agent) and, last but not least, artificial flavor.
Maybe I’m missing something? IF the recipe for royal icing is, as I stated earlier, egg whites and confectioner sugar, why bother with the meringue powder? Cornstarch is already in my confectioner sugar; that’s what makes it confectioner sugar. Citric acid? I add fresh lemon juice. Cream of tartar? I skip it. Whitening agent? I don’t think so….keep beating enough air into royal icing and it’ll whiten on its own. Artificial flavor? Not on my watch. Again, I’ll add lemon juice for a bit of flavor, not to mention that the citric acid in the lemon juice acts as a speed dryer in the royal, too.
I will grant you that the meringue powder is a bit less expensive than egg white powder. I’ll be happy to be proven wrong, but I think you may end up using more of it than the egg white powder. Which makes it a non-money saver in my humble opinion.
Here’s what I do: I measure out 1/3 c. dried egg white powder and add 1 c. of warm water to reconstitute. Let the water sit for a bit to fully hydrate the powder, then whisk gently to dissolve. Then, use 3 oz. egg whites for a pound of confectioner sugar. Add a teaspoon of lemon juice. That’s it. Now, I grant you, that the humidity level in your area will determine how much egg white you use.
Try it yourself and let me know if I’ve been helpful or just a royal pain.
POST SCRIPT: Please use 3 oz. reconstituted whites per one pound of confectioners sugar. Reconsitute the dry whites according to the manufacturer’s instructions.