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 Top a Pie with Meringue
Meringue should be spread over hot, not cool, pie filling. The hot filling helps set the bottom of the meringue and minimizes weeping (a watery layer between the meringue and the filling).
Spread meringue over the filling and seal to the edges of pie crust. Bake according to recipe directions. Cool pie on a wire rack in a draft-free area for 1 hour. Chill for 3 hours before cutting. Store in the refrigerator.
How to Make Meringue Cups
In a clean, dry metal or glass bowl, with clean, dry beaters, beat egg whites, cream of tartar, vanilla and salt (as directed in your recipe) on medium speed until foamy.
Add sugar, 1 tablespoon as a time, beating at high speed after each addition until sugar is completely dissolved. Continue beating until stiff, glossy peaks form. To test for stiff peaks, lift the beater; the peaks of egg whites in the bowl should stand straight up. Also, if you tilt the bowl, the whites should not slide.
For meringue cups, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop meringue onto mounds on the paper. Using the back of a spoon, make a well in the center of each mound to form a 3-in. cup.
Bake as the recipe directs. After drying in the oven, remove meringues to a baking sheet to cool completely. Once cooled, store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 2 days.
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.
How to Make Meringue for Pavlova
Pavlova recipes feature a light-as-air layer of meringue that forms the base for the filling. Here's how to make the meringue:
Beat meringue ingredients (refer to your recipe) until stiff glossy peaks form. To make sure the sugar is dissolved, rub a little meringue between your fingers—it should feel silky smooth.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Trace a 9-in. circle on the parchment paper; invert paper.
Spread meringue over the circle, creating a shallow well in the center using the back of a spoon.
Bake according to your recipe's directions or until set and dry. Turn off oven (do not open the oven door); leave meringue in oven as your recipe directs.
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 fingers.
- Spread meringue over a hot pie filling to minimize "weeping" (the watery layer between the meringue and filling) and seal to the edges of pastry.
- Cool a meringue 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.