Why It Works

  • Slowly including the sugar to the egg whites whereas whipping ensures it’ll dissolve correctly.
  • Whisking the meringue at a decrease pace for longer ends in a stronger, extra secure foam that’s much less prone to deflate.
  • Baking the meringues at a low temperature and permitting them to totally cool within the oven prevents them from cracking.

In each season of the Nice British Baking Present, there’s virtually all the time a second when the contestants try and fail to make a meringue. Generally the egg whites deflate earlier than they’ve even made it into the oven, and generally the baked confections crack and collapse after they’ve come out of the oven. Although meringues have a popularity for being tough to drag off—they will go from lofty to flat in just a few seconds, ruining any dessert plans you’ll have had—they’re actually only a whipped foam of egg whites, sugar, and an acid like cream of tartar. With a bit know-how, you can also make spectacular meringue for cookies that gained’t break or weep on you.

The Origins of Meringue

As is usually the case for traditional dishes with a protracted historical past, no one is aware of for sure the place or when meringues have been first made. Due to outdated cookbooks like Hannah Woolley’s 1670 guideThe Queen-Like Closet, we all know that there have been many iterations of meringue-like desserts in England by the seventeenth century, together with “snow,” a dessert of cream, egg whites, and rosewater whipped collectively. The primary identified recipe for meringue, nevertheless, could be present in François Massialot’s 1691 guide Le Cuisinier Royal et Bourgeois (The Courtroom and Nation Cook dinner in English). It’s potential that “snow” was the precursor to oeufs à la neige (“snow eggs”) or île flottante (floating island), an analogous dessert of poached meringues suspended in a pool of crème anglaise, a French vanilla sauce. 

As we speak, meringues are a vital part of many desserts. Bakers incorporate meringue into batters to make macarons and chiffon desserts, and use it to organize mousses, buttercreams, and different confections like pavlova. The best option to take pleasure in it, nevertheless, often is the meringue cookie: a French meringue that’s piped and baked at a low temperature for a number of hours till it’s dry and crisp. These cookies could be eaten plain or integrated into different desserts, akin to Eton mess, mini pavlovas, or used to garnish pies, tarts, and ice cream sundaes.

Critical Eats / Amanda Suarez

Forms of Meringues: Italian, Swiss, and French

There are three varieties of meringues: Italian, Swiss, and French. The primary two strategies are a bit extra hands-on. To make Italian meringue, you pour a scorching sugar syrup (normally 240ºF or 115ºC) into whipping egg whites, which you then proceed to beat till fluffy and doubled in quantity. Although Swiss meringue doesn’t name for a syrup, it does require whisking egg whites and sugar in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water till the froth reaches 140ºF (60ºC). Each these strategies prepare dinner and coagulate the egg white proteins, leading to a extra secure foam. Of the three strategies, French meringue often is the most simple, because it doesn’t require any syrup or double boilers. You simply whisk egg whites with sugar till you attain your required stiffness: delicate, medium, or stiff peaks.

Critical Eats / Amanda Suarez

Suggestions for Making Foolproof Meringues

Use Room Temperature Eggs

Chilly eggs could also be simpler to separate, however room temperature eggs whip up quicker. As former Critical Eats contributor Marissa Sertich Velie famous in her Italian meringue recipe, the perfect temperature for whipping egg whites is about 70ºF (21ºC). Not solely do room temperature egg whites foam quicker, however additionally they assist dissolve the sugar quicker.

For a Extra secure Meringue, Whisk Slower for Longer

It could appear counterintuitive to whisk on medium pace when you possibly can make a meringue a lot quicker by beating the egg whites on excessive pace for much less time, however the important thing to a meringue that gained’t deflate is to go slower for longer. As I wrote in my chocolate mousse recipe, the bubbles in egg whites develop into smaller and extra secure the longer we whip them. As Hervé This explains in his guide Kitchen Mysteries, the method of whipping helps to unfold egg white proteins and join them with each other, making a community that protects the tiny bubbles. Whisking for longer additionally helps to make sure your sugar is correctly integrated, which reduces the chance of weeping.

This can be stunning, however whipping your eggs slower for longer additionally helps forestall overbeating. Whisk your egg whites too lengthy, and the proteins will bond too tightly, primarily “cooking” the whites. An overbeaten meringue will lose its sheen and develop into a lumpy, uneven foam, and fail to rise within the oven when baked.

Add Your Sugar Regularly

It could be tempting to start out by whisking your egg whites with the sugar, however it’s crucial that you just slowly add the sugar as soon as your egg whites have gained some quantity. In his guide On food and Cooking, science author Harold McGee notes that incorporating sugar too early can delay foaming and cut back the meringue’s “final quantity and lightness,” which “comes from sugar’s interference with the unfolding and bonding of the proteins.”

Make Buddies With Acid

You may make meringue with out cream of tartar (which is tartaric acid in powdered type), lemon juice, or vinegar, however acids assist to coagulate the egg whites whereas additionally stopping the proteins from tightening an excessive amount of, which might result in an overbeaten meringue. I’ve lengthy made meringues with out lemon juice or cream of tartar and so they’ve turned out simply nice. Right here, nevertheless, I like to recommend including half a teaspoon of cream of tartar to the meringue—simply to be on the secure aspect.

Use a Clear Bowl and Beaters

As Critical Eats editorial director Daniel Gritzer present in his testing, a bit yolk gained’t make or break your meringue. However you need to nonetheless begin with a clear mixing bowl and beaters, as fats can intrude with the egg white proteins bonding and may destroy its skill to type a secure meringue.

Go Low and Sluggish

Should you’re making meringue cookies and aren’t utilizing meringues to make one thing else, the important thing to success is to bake them at a low temperature. Cooking them at a decrease temperature (200ºF or  93ºC) for longer helps to evenly dry out the meringues and prevents cracking, which might occur when meringues are baked at too excessive of a temperature. As soon as the meringues are carried out, you’ll wish to cool them slowly, too; opening the oven too quickly can create a drastic temperature change and trigger the meringues to shrink too rapidly and crack. My resolution? Opening the oven door barely and conserving it ajar with a picket spoon.

Critical Eats / Amanda Suarez

Your questions, answered

  • Cream of tartar helps to stabilize the bubbles in meringue, however it isn’t needed. In our testing, we discovered no distinction between meringue made with cream of tartar and meringue made with out cream of tartar. As Daniel wrote in his savory cheese soufflé recipe, cream of tartar isn’t needed, however is an efficient “insurance coverage coverage in opposition to messed-up egg whites.”

  • I don’t suggest freezing meringue cookies or different meringue desserts. Even if you’re utilizing a tightly sealed container, meringues have a exceptional skill for absorbing moisture round them, and thawed frozen meringues are likely to have a softer, chewier high quality. Meringues are greatest eaten inside 5 days, and needs to be saved in an hermetic container at room temperature.

  • Including an excessive amount of liquid can deflate your meringue—keep away from water-based meals coloring. As an alternative, go for gel meals coloring or powders like freeze-dried strawberries. I like to recommend utilizing a small quantity like 1/8 or 1/4 teaspoon.

  • When egg white proteins (conalbumin) are available in contact with copper, they type copper conalbumin. Shirley Corriher, creator of BakeWise, notes that as a result of copper conalbumin has the next temperature of coagulation, the “bubbles coated with copper conalbumin get barely bigger within the scorching oven earlier than they set, producing a cooked foam of upper quantity.” As a result of meringue made in a copper bowl is a lot extra voluminous, many pastry cooks could attain for a copper bowl when whipping egg whites. That stated, you can also make wonderful meringues within the bowl of a stand mixer or in a daily glass or metallic bowl.

  • Chewy meringues are sometimes an indication you haven’t cooked or dried your meringues out sufficient. For ultra-crisp meringues, bake them low and sluggish and make sure to retailer them in an hermetic container. Including a silica packet to the container might also assist preserve your meringues crisper for longer.

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