Cooking Meringue: 2 Techniques for a Toasty Top
Who doesn't love a dessert finished with golden-brown meringue? Learn two techniques for cooking meringue and getting that bakery-style finish.
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Is there anything more tempting than a mile-high pie topped with meringue? This topper made of whipped egg whites and sugar is an invitation to dive right in, especially when it has that golden brown finish that comes from a quick toast.
But how do you get that campfire-marshmallow appearance that we all crave? Well, there are two ways to toast meringue, and some of our Test Kitchen pros will share how to get the cooked meringue finishes you’re looking for.
Types of Meringue
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All meringues are created to be delicious, but not all are candidates for finishing with a kitchen torch. There are three common types of meringue—all use egg whites and sugar—but require different techniques.
- French meringue: This is the meringue you’re likely most familiar with. It’s made by beating egg whites to soft peaks and then adding sugar to the mix until stiff. Because of the raw egg whites, French meringue must be baked in an oven. Once baked, this meringue is super light but very fragile.
- Swiss meringue: Swiss meringue is made by stirring sugar and egg whites together over simmering water until they hit about 160ºF and the eggs are cooked. Then the mixture gets whipped until airy. Swiss meringue isn’t as voluminous as a French meringue, but it has a great marshmallowy texture and can be used to create Swiss meringue buttercream frosting.
- Italian meringue: This meringue starts with simple syrup that’s heated to about 240ºF. The syrup is added slowly to egg whites and beaten until the mix becomes glossy and firm. During this process, the egg whites are cooked. Italian meringue tends to be the most stable. It’s also the base for Italian meringue buttercream.
While making Swiss and Italian meringue, the egg whites are fully cooked. That means that these meringues are candidates for finishing with a quick toast. French meringue must be baked fully in the oven, so don’t try these techniques with it.
How to Toast Meringue
When it comes to finishing off your Swiss and Italian meringue-topped desserts you have two choices: broiler or torch. These techniques will give that tempting toasted marshmallow effect while also providing some texture. Biting into crispy yet gooey meringue is just as good, if not better, than any s’more.
How to Toast Meringue with a Blowtorch
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When it comes to toasting meringue, there’s no doubt about it: Using a kitchen torch is the most fun way to get the job done.
Before you start, Mark Neufang in the Taste of Home Test Kitchen recommends getting just the right look with your topping. “I like to make sure the meringue has several nice peaks and valleys; it’s a good way to vary the intensity of the browning,” he says.
When you’re ready to toast, fire up the blowtorch (this makes a great gift for bakers) and wave it over the meringue. Keep your distance at first—at least six inches—and move over the meringue until it has the golden brown effect you’re looking for.
How to Toast Meringue without a Blowtorch (Under a Broiler or in the Oven)
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If you don’t have a kitchen blowtorch, don’t fret! You can still get perfectly toasted meringue with your oven and broiler.
To toast meringue-topped desserts under the broiler, get your broiler going and place your dessert on the top rack of the oven. “You have to keep a watchful eye on it,” says Mark. “It will brown quickly.” After just 30 seconds you can have the toasted effect you’re looking for.
If you have a larger dessert that’s covered in meringue, like a Baked Alaska, heat the oven to 400ºF (or whatever the recipe specifies) and bake until the meringue begins to brown—2 to 5 minutes. This method, according to Mark, “provides gentler and more even browning overall.”
Tip for Toasting Meringue
No matter what technique you use, our Test Kitchen’s Shannon Norris says, “don’t get too close to the heat.” Getting too near the torch or broiler can burn the meringue. Meringue takes patience and you don’t want to ruin that hard work. “Keep the heat a few inches away and go slow,” Shannon recommends.