Light and heavenly, meringue is little more than egg whites and sugar, whipped into clouds of pure delight and gently baked. Billows of it can be used to top a pie, but it’s equally wonderful on its own, too, piped into cookies, kisses, cakes, and nests for fresh fruit.
How can something be creamy, crunchy, silky, and smooth all at the same time? Meringue has many virtues; once you get the hang of it, you’ll be dreaming of all the desserts you can make with this fluffy confection.
Making a few dozen cookies for the party, or just a couple pies? Click and slide the number next to ‘servings’ on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
What is meringue?
It looks like whipped cream, but it’s little more than egg whites and sugar, whipped until stiff, then baked.
Is meringue gluten free?
Yes it is, and it’s also dairy free, so it makes lovely desserts for those who have sensitivities to gluten and dairy.
How do you make meringue?
While making meringue is a fairly straightforward process, there are some things to keep in mind to ensure successful meringue every time.
- Humidity: Meringue works best when made on low humidity days. If it’s raining out or muggy, it may not be the best time. Meringue can absorb moisture and get limp or sticky.
- Eggs: Believe it or not, older eggs make better meringue. Also, room temperature eggs are ideal for meringue. If there’s a bit of broken yolk in the whites, fish it out as best you can or start over—the fat in the yolk will impede the meringue.
- Equipment: For maximum meringue volume, it is important to keep your egg whites and all of your equipment as free from fat or grease as possible. This means no grease in your mixing bowls and no drips of egg yolk in the whites. Use glass, stainless steel, or copper mixing bowls; avoid plastic bowls since they can be porous and have a greasy film. Also, make sure the mixing bowl and whisk are both completely dry.
- Use an acid: For a strong and stable meringue that doesn’t break down too quickly, many bakers rely on some sort of acid, like cream of tartar or lemon juice. Add 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar for every egg white before beating. If you don’t have any on hand, use ½ teaspoon lemon juice for every egg white. However, if you happen to have a copper-lined bowl, it’ll produce the same effect, so you don’t have to use acid in copper.
- Take your time: Don’t rush when you’re making meringue. Start out with the mixer at medium speed, and gradually increase the speed every few minutes. When it’s time to add the sugar, the slower you add it, the better it’ll dissolve into the whipped whites. Try pouring in 1 tablespoon sugar at a time; this helps achieve a smooth texture instead of a gritty one and helps prevent weepy meringue.
- Use promptly: Once you stop beating the egg whites, it’s best to move quickly. The longer they sit before they’re baked in the oven, the more likely that they could sink and sag. Don’t let that air you worked so hard to achieve get out!
How do you tell how old your eggs are?
The first way to do this is by looking at the 3-digit code printed on the end of your carton, which gives each day of the year a number. If the eggs were packaged on January 1, the code would read 001. January 2, 002, and so on, all the way to December 31, which is 365. Get it?
Another way to determine the age of an egg is by placing it in a bowl of water. If the egg stands on its end, it’s a good candidate for meringue. If it stays on its side, chances are it’s too fresh to use.
How do you keep meringue from cracking?
To avoid cracks in your baked meringues, be sure that your oven is fully warmed, but not too hot before baking the meringue.
How do you keep meringue from weeping?
Those little droplets of moisture can be prevented, if you take some precautions.
First of all, if possible, make meringue pie on dry, low-humidity days.
Also, don’t over bake your meringue! Over baking causes the egg whites in the meringue to shrink and squeeze out small droplets of moisture. Always make sure to check on your pie at the minimum baking time.
Finally, any undissolved sugar in the egg whites can cause weeping. To make sure this sugar dissolves, mix the egg whites and sugar at a low speed until the mixture feels perfectly smooth with no graininess when you rub a little between your thumb and fingers. Or you can also try using superfine sugar; it dissolves much more quickly than regular white sugar.
Can you make meringue without an electric mixer?
This is how it was done in the old days, so technically, yes, but it’s quite a workout, so I don’t recommend it. If you’re looking for an affordable mixer, try this one.
How can you flavor meringue?
If you’re making meringue for cookies or kisses, try adding a little flavor to the meringue at the stiff peak stage. Add a drop or two of citrus or peppermint essential oil, some sifted cocoa powder, finely ground nuts, coconut, or even Jello powder to give your cookies a subtle flavor.
How do you store meringue?
Soft meringue toppings for pies are best kept refrigerated. If you’re making crisp cookies, kisses, or pavlovas, storing them in an airtight container at room temperature in a dry location is best.
How to Make Meringue
- 3 egg whites room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- To prepare a basic meringue, separate the egg whites and place in a glass or metal bowl (plastic bowls can have a greasy film that prevents foaming). Try to separate the eggs without leaving any trace of yolk in the whites as the fat in the yolk can prevent the whites from developing the volume you want.
- Add the lemon juice and using an egg beater, beat the egg whites until frothy. They should form what's called soft peaks. Peaks are the "hills" that pull up when removing the beaters from the foam. You'll know your peaks are soft when the tips gently fall over.
- Gradually add the sugar, 1-2 tablespoons at a time until it is all incorporated and the peaks become glossy. Continue beating until the foam forms stiff peaks and all of the sugar has been dissolved. To test if the sugar has dissolved, rub the beaten meringue between your thumb and forefinger. If it feels gritty beat the eggs a few more seconds until smooth.
- Pile your meringue onto your warm dessert and bake 425˚ F (218°C) for about 4 to 5 minutes - just enough to gently brown the peaks.