Meringue (egg white and sugar) is a fussy animal. Creating a stable, fluffy, glossy and white meringue is all about incorporating air and keeping the bubbles intact.As egg proteins denature during the whipping/ heating process, and form a protective film around the incorporated air bubbles.
Certain techniques and ingredients can work to destabilise the protective film/ enhance the formation of a stable texture.
Here are 14 tips to make the perfect, no-flop meringues.
- One of the most important rules of meringue making is that all of your equipment must be squeaky clean, without any water or oil present. (Metal or glass mixing bowls are best for yielding voluminous beaten egg whites as plastic can retain fat and grease.)
- Cream of tartar/vinegar/ lemon juice – work to stabilise egg whites, increasing their heat tolerance and volume; as well as prevent sugar syrups from crystallising; they also help the meringue to be white & crisp but remain fluffy and sticky on the inside.
- Use an automatic mixer, unless you want to do it by hand (in which case you will have 1 arm of steel, and your new nickname will be “the claw”).
- Use caster sugar as the small grains dissolve easily in the foamy mixture.
- Add the sugar in a painfully slow manner – tablespoon by tablespoon at the soft-peak stage. (When you have added all the sugar, spoon a little meringue onto your finger and rub to feel any undissolved sugar crystals). Undissolved sugar will weigh down the meringue and attract moisture to form beading, the formation of water droplets on the surface.
- Do not make meringues that have less than 2 tablespoons of sugar per egg white. If you use any less, the foam will not set and the meringue will shrink. Soft, chewy meringues are usually made with equal parts sugar and egg white, while hard meringues uses 2 parts sugar for every egg white.
- Cold eggs separate easily, but eggs whip to a higher volume when at room temperature. The solution is to separate the cold eggs, and then set them aside for 10 or 15 minutes.
- Be careful not to drop any yolk into your whites. If you lose any bits of shell, scoop them out with a clean spoon rather than your fingers. Even a small amount of yolk can deflate the egg whites, so be careful.
- Don’t under-whip as the meringue will weep and become soggy, similarly, don’t over-whip as the meringue will collapse. Soft peaks are fine for a pie topping, but for a dessert base such as a pavlova, you need stiff, glossy peaks.
- Wedge open the oven door during cooking to develop crisp dry meringues and prevent overheating; use a low temperature and long baking time. Allow the meringues to remain in the oven after baking. This helps dry them out.
- Try and avoid making meringues on a humid day. The sugar in the meringue attracts moisture and makes it chewy. It may take longer for the meringue to bake and dry out in the oven.
- Don’t undercook your meringue as it may weep (water-loss), similarly, don’t overcook your meringue as this causes syrup beading.
- Meringues are finished baking when they are crisp on the outside, and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
- Once ready to bake, add other ingredients. Fold through cocoa/spices /flavourings, or roll the meringues in nuts/ sprinkles.