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There’s something about Meringue that attracts me. Maybe it’s the fancy way that it is used in dessert? Probably the stiff peaks and slightly burnt appearance when used in pies? or maybe because it is very basic and simple to make for something so beautiful? Oh well, I would say all of the above.
I had always been fascinated with Meringue and I had always planned that one day I will make this. It didn’t happen sooner than I hoped for, but I finally decided to give it a go. While I am doing my baking research, I encountered this Meringue as one topic that interested me.
What is Meringue?
Meringue is basically egg white and sugar whipped until it reaches stiff peaks. More than sweetness, sugar helps the egg to stabilize so that it doesn’t collapsed quickly. Meringue can be baked into crunchy cookies , can be used as toppings for pie, or as frosting for cakes.
Meringue may not sound as a baking basic to you, but it is and I’ll tell you why. In my opinion, more than the actual Meringue, it is the technique in making it that made me consider it as part of my baking basic. There are 3 techniques used in making a Meringue, depending on how you intended to use it. These techniques are the same techniques used in making French Macarons and Buttercream Frosting. You may get away in making French Macarons , that maybe a little bit too far from being basic, but Buttercream Frosting? I you are into baking, you will eventually get into a situation where you have to make buttercream frosting. Knowing the Meringue techniques already put you one step ahead. Let’s check these techniques.
Tips for a Successful Meringue
- Keep egg whites and ALL equipment free from fat – What this means is that your egg white should not contain any bit of egg yolk as possible. Separate the egg white and egg yolk while it is still cold then let it sit in room temperature for 30 minutes before using. All the equipment (bowl and whisk) should be free from grease and should be totally dry. This helps achieving maximum volume when whipping the egg white
- Do not use plastic mixing bowl – Plastic mixing bowl are porous and can hold grease easily, and grease can hold the egg white from reaching stiff peaks. Because grease is fat.
- Room temperature egg white – This is a MUST if you want to a nice glossy stiff peaks. Room temperature egg white whips better as compare cold one.
- Add sugar gradually – Do not dump the sugar one time. Add it slowly, feeling the mixture for any grainy texture, in the end it should be smooth and silky and free from grainy bits of the sugar. I find that using caster sugar is better because it has finer texture and it dissolves easily.
- Stabilizer – Small amount of stabilizer will go a long way on keeping the meringue hold it shape. A co,m,mon stabilizer is cream of tartar or a plain white vinegar or lemon juice will work too.
- Drying process – Meringue unlike any other cookie requires longer baking time. More than baking, it is a drying process. Give the Meringue time to dry inside the oven. This will give a nice crispy shell and a soft chewy center, just how a Meringue should be.
3 Techniques to Make Meringue
Let’s do French! – French Meringue Technique
French Meringue is the most basic and easiest technique among the three. This is also the same technique I used when I first started making French Macarons and Vanilla Buttercream Frosting. Basically, this is just beating egg whites, sugar and stabilizing agent (like cream of tartar) until it reach stiff peaks. Normally, this is piped to create different shapes and sizes then baked low and slow in the oven until it dries out. This technique produces the least stable meringue and should be used immediately after whipping.
Where do I used French Meringue? This type of meringue is normally baked into cookies. It can be piped to create different shapes, it can be scooped or spoon to create a more free form rustic look just like in the photo. They can be made plain or flavoured with the likes of vanilla, chocolate, coffee or matcha green tea. They can also be colored for a more attractive look.
What is the texture of this meringue? French Meringue has a crispy and light texture. Depending on how you like your meringue, you can have it totally dry or slightly soft center. This is my personal preference as I like the center slightly chewy and moist. You can tell that they are done if they can easily be lifted out and it doesn’t stick to the parchment paper anymore.
Let’s do Italian! Italian Meringue Technique
This technique needs a little bit of practice to get the hang of it. You will need to have a candy thermometer for this. The technique involved boiling the sugar and water until the mixture reaches 400F, then gradually pouring it over egg white while continuously beating it until it reach stiff peaks and becomes silky smooth. This type of Meringue is best used for toppings on pies. So far, this is the most stable among the three techniques, and can also be used and eaten even without baking it, just like when used as buttercream frosting. It may sound intimidating, but then again, practice makes perfect. This is a very handy technique to know when it comes to baking. In fact, I used this technique for my Italian Macarons and I found out that though it has additional steps , it turned out to me more forgiving, and the Macarons turned more stable than when I used French technique.
Where do I used Italian Meringue? Italian meringue are great for pies, or Pavlova. This can also be made into buttercream frosting when butter is added.
What is the texture of this meringue? This has a light and fluffy texture and can be consumed as it is. Baking is not really needed as the egg has been cooked by the heat of the sugar syrup, but it can be baked when use as toppings for pies. This produces a lovely brown meringue that makes the pie stands out even more.
Let’s do Swiss! Swiss Meringue Technique
This technique is quite similar with Italian Meringue technique, only this doesn’t require direct cooking or melting of sugar. The sugar and egg white are cooked over a simmering water until it reaches 160F. It is then transferred to the mixer for whipping until it reach the stiff peaks stage.
Where do I used Italian Meringue? This type of Meringue can be used as icing for cakes and pies even without baking, although it can also be baked.
What is the texture of this meringue? This also have a soft and fluffy texture like Italian Meringue and be consumed as is.
Flavor and Color
There are variety of way that you can make the Meringue even more interesting and unique. Meringue can be flavored with vanilla extract or any other extract available in the market. You can also drizzle it with Chocolate Ganache just like what I did in the photo, or you can dust the finish meringue with cocoa powder, or add some sprinkles before baking, or toast small pieces of nuts. You also can dip them and coat them with melted chocolate. They can also be coloured by using a gel food colouring. Important thing to remember when adding colouring or flavouring is to avoid adding too much as it will deflate the meringue even before it gets baked. Other than that, go ahead and be as creative as you can be.
How to store Meringue?
Store them in a large air tight container and leave in room temperature area. Do NOT store in refrigerator as it will have a tendency to soften and melt. Meringue is very fragile, so you need to have more room in the container so that they don’t get squeeze in when you close it. Do not packed it down and leave room at the top so that the lid of the container will not crush the cookies.
How long will they last?
The meringues will now keep in an airtight tin for up to 2 weeks, or frozen for a month.
Now that you know the techniques for making a meringue, pick the technique you prefer and put it to use. If you are up for a challenge, try my Marble French Meringue or Chocolate Kisses French Meringue
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Categories: Baking 101