What is meringue

Meringues are egg whites whipped with sugar. They are a frequent ingredient in cake icings, creams, fillings and toppings.

Meringue dessert recipes

Meringues are used in mousses and souffles to give volume and fluffiness to their texture. One more great option is to bake meringues. Baked in a slow oven they become firm and crispy and can be used as pastry shells, cake layers or as a dessert on their own.

The most famous baked meringue dessert is Pavlova.

Mini Pavlovas consist of meringue shell filled with a pastry cream or whipped cream and generously decorated with seasonal fresh fruits. Also it can have a shape of a cake with meringue layers and different types of cream between them and some fresh fruits on top.

To add special flavour to meringues chopped nuts may be folded into them before shaping and baking.

How to make a meringue

Meringues may have different degrees of stiffness, this depends on the time of whipping. Egg whites can also become overbeaten, at this stage they are too stiff and dry or flaky and dry.

Commonly, meringues beaten until they form firm, nearly stiff peaks and are moist and glossy.

How much sugar to add to meringue?

The amount of sugar used in meringues may vary. For the toppings commonly used soft meringues, which contain egg whites and sugar in a proportion around 1:1 (for example, for 100 g of egg whites – 100 g of sugar is taken).

For baking hard meringues are used, they contain up to the double amount of sugar (for 100 g of egg whites – 200 g of sugar).

Three main meringue types

Meringue types

There are three basic meringues types, you can find them commonly in the recipes, they are called French Meringue, Italian Meringue and Swiss Meringue.

1. Common Meringue – French Meringue

It is made of egg whites beaten with white sugar. Egg whites should be at room temperature.

It is very easy to make, normally it contains huge amount of sugar and because of this is reasonably stable.

How to make a French (common) meringue – recipe

Ingredients for the French meringue:

Directions for the French meringue:

  1. With the whip attachment beat the egg whites at first at medium speed and then at high speed until they form soft peaks.
  2. Add the sugar in several stages, a little at a time, with the mixer running. Whip until firm glossy peaks.

2. Swiss meringue

It is made of egg whites beaten with sugar over a hot-water bath. Warming over hot-water bath improves stability and increases volume of the meringue.

How to make a Swiss meringue – recipe

Ingredients for the Swiss meringue:

Directions for the Swiss meringue:

3. Italian meringue

It is made of egg whites beaten with hot sugar syrup. It is very stable as the egg whites are cooked by the heat of the syrup. It is the most stable of the three.

Italian meringue recipe

Pavlova with chocolate cream

Ingredients for the Swiss meringue:

Directions for the Swiss meringue:

  1. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Place a thermometer in the syrup and boil until 117°C (243 °F).
  2. While the syrup is cooking, beat the egg whites in a mixer until they form soft peaks.
  3. With the mixer running slowly beat in the hot syrup.
  4. Continue beating until meringue forms firm glossy peaks and is cool.

Tips for making perfect meringues

  1. Mild acids help whipping meringues. In order to give more volume and stability to meringue a small amounts of lemon juice or cream of tartar might be added to egg whites. This is especially useful if the meringue is going to be folded into other ingredients to provide fluffy texture and lightness, as for example in some mousses or sponges. Use small amounts of acids – for 100 g of egg whites about 1,5 g of cream of tartar or several drops of fresh lemon juice.
  2. Avoid fats, they prevent meringue from forming properly. A very important thing – always check all the equipment you are going to use for whipping egg whites. It should be perfectly clean and absolutely free from any grease or traces of fat. Also, special attention is needed while separating egg whites and yolks, no trace of yolk is acceptable in whites, if any, they won’t foam properly.
  3. Be careful not to overbeat egg whites. Meringue should look glossy, shiny and moist. Overbeaten whites curdle and become dry. In this state they lose their ability to add volume and lightness to preparations. They won’t look nice as a topping as well.
  4. Egg whites should be at room temperature. whites foam faster and better if they are not cold. Remove them from the fridge 1-2 hours before whipping.
  5. Watch the amount of sugar. Sugar makes meringue more stable. Unsweetened egg whites foam as well, but they won’t be as thick and heavy as whites beaten with sugar. However, egg whites can hold only limited amount of sugar without losing volume. As a rule of thumb take no more than a double weight of sugar (100 g whites – 200 g sugar), in some recipes you might need an equal weight (100 g for 100 g).