Tricky things, meringues.
You need to get the egg whites well whipped so they hold their shape, but not overwhipped so they start to separate again.
You need to make sure that the sugar is well-incorporated so the meringues don't weep caramel and water while they cook.
I mostly like my meringues to be a bit chewy in the middle,
but if you're making Eton Mess
those won't work and you'll want them hard and crispy all the way through.
Some tips from around the web:
- Let your egg whites warm to room temperature before whipping them (even leaving them out for a day or so) - they will give better volume.
- Use superfine sugar which will dissolve easier.
- Use a copper bowl if available - it makes the egg whites more stable. Apparently.
- Add a small amount of cream of tartar or lemon juice (acids) before whipping the eggs - it helps to keep them stable
(but not if you're using a metal bowl).
- Adding a teaspoon of cornflour and a teaspoon of white wine vinegar after whisking in the sugar (for 4 eggs) helps to give pavlovas soft, mallowy centres.
- Make sure no egg yolk gets into the whites - the faintest trace will prevent the whites from whipping up.
- Make sure there is no trace of oil, fat or soap on your bowl or instruments which will prevent the whites from whipping up.
Avoid plastic which is difficult to clean.
ingredient dessert veg
French meringues are made with cold sugar crystals rather than sugar syrup (Italian) or by heating (Swiss).
The ratio of sugar to egg determines the texture (hardness) of the finished meringues.
Firm meringue needs 4 tablespoons (about ¼ cup or 2 oz or 55g) sugar per egg white.
I've also seen the weight of sugar described as twice the weight of egg white.
Soft meringue will start to set with 2 tablespoons of sugar per egg white. But no less.
- egg whites
- ¼ cup (2 oz) caster sugar per egg white
- ⅛ teaspoon cream of tartar per egg
- vanilla essence or other flavourings
Wipe around the bowl with half a lemon (if using).
Add in the egg whites, cream of tartar (if using) and whip the whites to nice soft peaks.
Add flavourings if using.
Use an icing bag (or cut the corner off a small plastic bag) to pipe the meringues onto oven trays lined with greaseproof paper.
Smaller shapes will dry out more effectively, and nests will probably work best.
- Cook at 105°C (Gas Mark ¼) for 1½ hours then leave in the (very low or off) oven with the door propped open to cool overnight.
- Cook for 6 hours or overnight at 60°C (or as low as your oven will go).
ingredient dessert veg
A good coffee or chocolate flavoured topping for vanilla ice-cream.
Makes 2-3 cups
- 3 egg whites
- 1 cup sugar
- 2-3 tablespoons instant espresso or unsweetened cocoa, to taste
- vegetable oil
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
If using frozen egg whites, thaw them in the refrigerator.
Mix the sugar with the instant espresso or cocoa.
Preheat the oven to 250°F/120°C/Gas Mark ½. Line a jelly roll pan with aluminum foil sprayed with oil.
Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they are very stiff, gradually adding the sugar and the vanilla.
Spread the batter evenly onto the aluminum foil and bake for 60 minutes, until dry to the touch.
Remove the pan from the oven and leave the oven on. Transfer the meringue onto a large cutting board and peel off the aluminum foil.
It's OK if it breaks into many pieces, as it will be crushed anyway.
Coarsely chop the meringue with a large knife and spread it out on the jelly roll pan.
Bake for another 30 minutes, until the meringue has barely any moist spots left.
Turn off the oven but leave the meringue in with the door closed, which will dry it further.
After the meringue is cooled completely, store in tin cans. It keeps for several weeks.