If you are into baking you already know that more often than not we end up with tons of egg-whites and naked lemons in the fridge. An excellent way to get rid of the egg-whites is making meringues. I will address the naked lemon saga in another post soon, for now, let’s focus on the eggs.
It seems that these little fluffy sweet treats do raise some questions here and there when in the making: meringues too soft, meringues to brittle, meringues too dark, under-cooked meringues, overcooked meringues, how long to whip, at what temperature to cook the meringue… and the list goes on and on… Let me try to answer some of these questions because truly, meringues are easy to make and a super versatile dessert!
1 part egg-white (also referred to as the whites)
1 to 2 parts of sugar
a little squeeze of lemon juice
Ok now in English
Always use a scale if you can, however, since here the quantity of sugar is so variable you can try to go by cups and spoons.
This is how you read the recipe: measure or weight your egg-whites, measure and keep on the side the right proportion of sugar. For example, lets say you have 1 cup of egg-whites, well then you should measure 1 to 2 cups of sugar. How much sugar? It depends on the consistency you want to achieve. Keep reading and you’ll see what I mean.
They have to be fresh and perfectly clean from any yolk or shell. Cold egg-whites will separate easier, but room temperature ones will whip easier. Honestly, chances are that you will use some sort or electronic appliance to whip these babies up, so don’t sweat it too much. I get my eggs from wherever they are and I never had a problem.
Again, just make sure that the whites are shell and yolk-free, and that the containers/bowls through the whole process are clean from any fat.
The higher the ratio of sugar the “crunchier” the meringues.
Regular sugar will give a rougher finish to the surface of the meringues (in this picture I have used regular sugar). The finer the sugar the smoother the surface.
Any acid will help the whipping process, a little cream of tartar will work too (1/4 t every 100 g of egg-whites)
Before you ask, DON’T, I repeat DON’T use any salt! It will dehydrate the egg-whites destabilizing the foaming process.
A drop of vanilla extract
I am just going to assume here that you will be using a stand mixer or an electric whip, if not, brave you, but same rules apply!
Do not add the sugar right away, or the final result will lose in volume. Start adding the sugar little by little when the whites are almost fully whipped.
A friendly reminder, if you are using a kitchen appliance to whip the whites, start on the lower speed and work your way up. By starting the machine on full blast you will be spraying egg-whites everywhere, not nice, lots of extra cleaning.
How long to whip? Well, that depends a lot on how many eggs you are using and on the power of the machine. The rule here is to keep going till they are stiff, also known as the Stiff Peak stage. Get your whip upside down and look at the spikes of foam, if shaken they do hold their shape straight up, they are ready. Also, the image below shows you the different stages.
Just have fun! Usually, I would insist on having approximately the same size to guarantee even cooking, but not this time. The cooking will be done at a very low temperature and it will give plenty of time to pull those that are cooked.
I like to pipe different shapes and to brush up my piping skills. Just remember to have some in the shape of a nest, just to make some yummy Pavlova
I like my meringues white, and this is the challenge. If you try to Google a method to properly cook them, you will find funny suggestions, mostly coming from the Old World, of course.
Cook them on a heater, in an oven turned off but with the lights on, let them dry on the counter.
Bottom line, like in any cooking process we need to get rid of the water, cook the egg-whites by keeping a temperature that will not turn the sugar yellow. Easy right?
Just turn on the oven at 95° C (200° F) to allow for the usual temperature fluctuation, fan off, and let them go. It will take at least 1 hr, and if you do keep the door shut, the oven will not go off too many times, using less energy.
How to eat them?
On their own, dipped in chocolate, with cream, crumbled on ice cream, in your coffee …….