Fat- and Cholesterol-Free Meringue

Who knew a light, healthy dessert could taste so good?

Strawberry Meringue Photo

Strawberry Meringue Photo

Mention meringue and the foamy cloud that tops luscious lemon pie usually comes to mind.

That soft meringue—likely the best known—is just one of three types of meringue. The other two are boiled or Italian meringue, used in cooked frostings such as Fluffy Cherry Frosting…and hard meringue, which is often formed into cookies (see Cocoa-Almond Meringue Cookies) or other desserts like Strawberry Meringue Cups (shown at right).

All three types of meringue are great for baking light because they use only the egg whites, not the yolks, and so are fat- and cholesterol-free. The key ingredients in meringue are stiffly beaten egg whites and granulated sugar, plus a little cream of tartar or vinegar, which adds stability to the whipped egg foam and helps it keep its shape.

Soft meringue is typically made with 2 tablespoons of sugar per egg white. Hard meringue is made by increasing the proportion of sugar to egg white. The higher sugar content creates a stiffer meringue which holds its shape well. Hard meringue makes great tart shells and is a terrific substitute for traditional high-fat pastry crusts.

Next time you make a meringue, keep these tips in mind:

  • Separate eggs carefully. Make sure no yolk gets into the whites. Even a speck can hold down the peaks as you beat the egg whites.
  • Egg whites expand 6 to 8 times their volume when beaten. Your mixing bowl should be deep enough so that beaters come in contact with as much egg white as possible. Use a grease-free metal or glass bowl.
  • For optimum volume when making soft or hard meringues, add the sugar gradually once soft peaks form.
  • Sugar absorbs water on a humid day or in a steamy kitchen, which can result in a limp, sticky meringue. If possible, make meringue on days when humidity is low.