Sweet, Light Meringue


Filled with nothing more fattening than air, meringues are a sweet, heady mixture of egg whites and sugar.

By FamilyTime

 

Whether meringue is swirled and twirled atop a lemon meringue pie, used to frost a cake, or piped into individual cookies, its light texture and intense sweetness are seductive.

Meringues may be crisp or soft. Hard, crunchy meringue is found more readily in Europe – in any number of desserts and cakes – while soft meringue is more common in the United States – spooned on top of pies or similar desserts.

Regardless of the final product, all meringue is made the same way: by beating egg whites until they increase in volume and adding sugar to sweeten the whites as they expand. Its texture is determined by the amount of time the meringue is permitted to dry (usually in a low oven).

Tips for magnificent meringue:

  • Let egg whites reach room temperature before beating them. It’s easier to separate cold eggs, but once you do, let the whites sit out for about half an hour.

  • Make sure no egg yolk is in the whites. The fat in the yolks will prohibit expansion during whipping. If a speck of yolk is in the whites, scoop it out. (Some cooks find that a piece of broken egg shell attracts the slippery yolk better than a spoon. Take care that no shell gets in the whites!)

  • Begin with spotless clean and dry bowls and beaters. Even a speck of fat or excess moisture can prevent the whites from expanding to glorious snowy mounds.

  • It’s true: unlined copper bowls are the best for whipping egg whites. French cooks have been using them for years. A chemical reaction between the copper and the whites guarantees dizzying volume!

  • If you don’t have a copper bowl, whites will expand in any bowl. For guaranteed success, add a little cream of tartar to them, which stabilizes them.

  • Add the sugar once the whites start to foam. Ordinary granulated sugar works very well, although some home cooks prefer superfine because it dissolves more readily. If you want to use superfine but don’t have any, grind granulated sugar in a blender.

  • Don’t let much time elapse between whipping the whites to magnificent peaks and baking. Check the oven temperature with an accurate oven thermometer. If the oven is too hot, the meringue will not cook properly.

  • Make sure the filling is warm or room temperature before spooning the meringue on it. You will be tempted to overcook the meringue to insure the filling gets heated, and overcooked meringue may bead with moisture.

  • On the other hand, undercooked meringue will weep. This, too, is caused by mounding meringue over a cold filling. The low temperature can cause the meringue to undercook so that moisture seeps from the bottom.

Don’t be afraid to make meringue. Follow our tips and be patient. In minutes, you will have a cloud of sweet, glossy meringue!