Types of Meringue
Meringue is a sweetened egg white foam that can be shaped into cups to hold fruit or mousse or made into a golden crown on Baked Alaska.
Depending on the amount of sugar beaten into the egg whites, meringue is classified as a soft meringue (as used for Baked Alaska or meringue-topped pies) or hard meringue (as used for meringue shells or cookies).
How to Make Meringue
In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, vanilla and salt on medium speed until the egg whites begin to increase in volume and soft peaks form. To test for soft peaks, the peaks of the egg whites should curl down when you lift up the beaters.
Add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating on high speed until stiff peaks form and sugar is dissolved. To test for stiff peaks, the peaks should stand straight up when you lift up the beaters; if you tilt the bowl, the whites should not slide around. Sugar is dissolved when the mixture feels silky-smooth between your fingers.
How to Make Meringue Cups
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop meringue into mounds on the paper. Using the back of a spoon, make an indentation in the center of each mound to form a 3-in. cup.
Bake according to recipe. After drying in the oven for 1 hour, remove meringues to cool completely on baking sheet. Carefully remove meringues from paper and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.
Recipes using meringue cups:
How to Make Meringue Peaks
Make easy work of this fancy decorating technique by using an offset spatula to create the peaks. Gently touch the spatula to the meringue and then quickly pull it back. The meringue will come to a point.
More Meringue Tips
- Since humidity is the most critical factor in making a successful meringue, choose a dry day. Meringues can absorb moisture on a humid day and become limp or sticky.
- Separate the eggs while they are still cold from the refrigerator, then allow the egg whites to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before beating.
- For the greatest volume, place whites in a small clean metal or glass mixing bowl. Even a drop of fat from the egg yolk or a film sometimes found on plastic bowls will prevent egg whites from foaming. For this reason, be sure to use clean beaters.
- After stiff peaks form, check that the sugar is dissolved. It should feel silky smooth when rubbed between your thumb and index.
- Spread meringue over hot filling to minimize "weeping" (the watery layer between the meringue and filling) and seal to the edges of pastry.
- Cool the pie away from drafts on a wire rack at room temperature for 1 hour. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before cutting and serving. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.
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