Unlike most foods in baking, meringues are not cooked as much as dried out in the oven. A very low temperature should be used when making them to prevent the meringues from colouring in the oven – they should come out a brilliant white. They are also incredibly versatile as meringue can be used not only to decorate other desserts but also as the main base for pudding – for example pavlova and Eton mess. They can be either solid or marshmallowy inside but be careful, if they are undercooked a tasty snack can easily become the equivalent of eating something akin to superglue.
Owing to their minimal list of ingredients, colouring meringues can be a bit of a hassle. Ideally you want to use egg whites which you separate out from the yolk yourself. This is because the egg whites which come in a carton tend to be pasteurised and during this process, some of the proteins are affected so they do not whip up as well as fresh egg whites. If you do have to use egg whites from a carton, you will have to whip the meringue for far longer and should also use half a teaspoon of cream of tartar to help bind them. It is imperative that you use gel food colourings or even better, gel paste as normal water based food colouring can disrupt the balance between the sugar and egg white and lead to the meringues deflating. The same can be said of adding flavourings – if they are liquid based, add them right at the end and add as little as possible. Adding a teaspoon of cornflour can help offset this problem but won’t prevent it entirely.
There are several types of meringue – French, Swiss, and Italian – which are all made and used in different ways. The recipe below is a classic example of a French meringue. The egg whites and sugar are whipped together to form a thick, glossy mixture which holds it shape upon piping. It is then baked to set the proteins in the egg white and drive off excess water. Swiss meringue is similar however it is whipped in a bain marie (over a pan of simmering water) until it is thick. The mixture is then removed from the heat and beaten until cool – the meringue is again baked. The final type is Italian meringue. Unlike the other two, this used hot sugar syrup instead of solid sugar. When it is added, the mixture will go very runny. It is then whipped until cool resulting in a stiff meringue. As the sugar syrup was very hot when it was added, the egg whites are already cooked so Italian meringue does not need to be baked before using. As a result, it is common to put it on lemon meringue pie and baked Alaska before blowtorching the outside to give it a caramelised finish.
I hope you enjoy the recipe and that you end up loving meringue as much as I do!
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 2 hr plus
3 egg whites (room temperature works best)
6 oz caster sugar
½ tsp lemon juice/white vinegar/cream of tartar
Pinch of salt
Method One (with a stand mixer):
Preheat the oven to 85-90⁰C
Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat for around 10 minutes until the mixture is thick and glossy.
Take a tiny bit between your fingers and see if it feels gritty. If it does, continue to whisk the mixture for another minute or two until the sugar has dissolved completely.
Pipe or dollop shapes or piles of the mix onto a lined baking tray.
Bake for around two hours until the meringues come away from the base of the baking tray without breaking.
Method Two (with an electric hand whisk):
Preheat the oven to 85-90⁰C
Put the egg whites in a bowl and beat them until they reach stiff peaks.
Add the sugar in two tablespoons at a time and make sure to keep whisking in between additions so the sugar will dissolve properly.
Once all the sugar has been incorporated, add in the salt and lemon juice and continue to whisk for another five or so minutes until the mixture is very thick, glossy and smooth.
As with method one, use a piping bag or a spoon to make little mounds of meringue on the baking sheet and place into the oven for around two hours.
Serve with cream and fresh fruit.
I hope you enjoyed the recipe; for another sweet treat check out my recipe for apple pie (it’s possible to make this one vegan) or if you fancy something a little more savoury, why not make yourself some red pepper and tomato soup?
Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with an easy recipe for crispy skin salmon and lemon couscous – it’s super fast and utterly divine!