26 NOVEMBER, 2013

How to make the perfect meringue

Beated eggwhites give us our beloved meringue, which can sometimes make all the difference in the desserts that we prepare. Certain confectionery creations are almost incomplete, half, without the proper finish; Without the impressive results added by meringue.

Horio has the instructions for how to prepare the most perfect meringue for our sweets, so that we can stop avoiding it because we feel that we do not posses the art of meringue preparation!

What is meringue?

Foam! The foam that eggwhites make when they are beated together – sugar makes the foam harder.

The most appropriate eggs for meringue

If our end goal is that our meringue has great volume and not stability, then the eggs we will use, should be at least 3-4 days old.

If we prefer that our meringue is stiffer and not bulky, then we should use fresh eggs.

Eggwhites that are 3-4 days old are thinner and thus, when beating them together, greater volume is produced – as opposed to the eggwhites of fresh eggs that are richer and when beaten, the volume decreases.

  • Tip: on rainy, humid days your meringue may decrease in volume because it is affected by the weather conditions and «falls.»

Separating the egg yolk from the eggwhite

Before preparing the separation process we make sure we have placed the eggs in the fridge for a little bit so that the eggwhite can freeze and stiffen, making it easier to separate it from the yolk.

Over a bowl we break an egg and keep half of the eggshell in each hand. We transfer the yolk from one eggshell to the other while allowing the eggwhite to drop into the bowl. Be careful that no part of the yolk falls into the eggwhites because they will not be properly beaten and the meringue will not have the desire consistency or result.

In the event that some egg yolk does manage to fall into the bowl, we carefully remove it with part of the eggshell. It is better that we do not use our hands in order to remove it because this seemingly inconsequential move could affect our meringue (our hands have oils that can affect our meringue!)

We place the eggyolk in a separate bowl.

Beating the eggwhites

Step 1: We let the eggwhites settle in the bowl for a bit, so that they can reach room temperature. The warmer the eggwhites the easier and faster we can beat them. In a half hour our eggwhites will have reached room temp and will be ready for their beating.

  • Tip: One eggwhite can give us 6 to 8 times the volume when beaten after it has sat in room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

While the eggwhites acclimate to the room temp, we prepare the tools: For the beating, it is better to avoid plastic bowls since they have residue from previous uses – oils, fat, all of which limit the meringue from gaining volume. The same applies to the tools we will use – meringue is especially sensitive to any sort of fat, stain or humidity. So, we make sure that our tools are whiped clean and completely dry.

Step 2: We place the eggwhites in a large, tall bowl and beat with a mixer, at medium speed.  It is best not to beat by hand because it will take quite a bit of time and because as time passes, air is trapped, increasing the volume and stiffness of the meringue – especially when adding sugar in step 3.

Step 3 – sugar addition: Sugar is added always after we have beaten the eggs whites. If we add it before the beating begins it will require twice as long in order for there to be foam. The best time to add the sugar is at the end, when the eggwhites have already started creating soft peaks. We add it slowly while beating the meringue.

What kind of sugar do we use?

The thinner the sugar grains the easier and faster we will be able to prepare our meringue. As a general rule, we add ¼ cup sugar for each eggwhite. For a successful meringue, the minimum sugar required are 2 table spoons of sugar for each egg white. If we use less sugar then our meringue will fall.

How soft or stiff do we want our meringue to be?

How much sugar we add will determine the softness / stiffness of our meringue.

Soft: We place the whites in a clear bowl (preferably a glass bowl, see above, Beating the Eggwhites) and beat them with a mixer at medium speed until the mixture’s peaks become wavy when we lift the mixer.

Stiff: We beat the egg whites at high speed with the mixer, until the peaks are pointy when we lift the mixer.

  • Tip: When we start beating the meringue we don’t ever stop in the middle of the process – we see it through.

When is meringue ready?

Meringue is ready if and when we rub some between our fingers and cannot feel any of the sugar grains. If the sugar has not dissolved yet we continue beating – the sensation we must feel when rubbing the meringue between our fingers much be completely soft and smooth.

We can also understand when the meringue is ready by doing a «spoon test» – we hold a spoonful upside down and the meringue does not fall or we mix the mixture with a spoon and the «waves» that are formed retain their shape perfectly.

Using meringue

We will use the meringue we made in desserts and pies. It is better to prepare the meringue first and then the rest of the steps required for the dessert’s recipe.

With a spatula or a spoon we can create peaks at the top of our dessert prior to baking, for a more impressive finish.

  • Tip: In order to cut desserts that have meringue without destroying the meringue, use a knife that has been immersed in cold water first.

How long do sweets with meringue last?

It is best if dessert or pies with meringue are served the day they have been prepared. Desserts with meringue last one to two days (after that the meringue will start to break – the same occurs if the sweet is placed in the fridge.)

We can store the dessert with meringue in room temperature, underneath a flipped bowl. Make sure though that the ingredients we used do not require refridgeration – like cream or other sensitive materials.

Since we have learned everything we need to know about meringue, we are ready to go to the kitchen to start our kitchen adventures. After all, half the battle for any good chef or baker is experimentation and effort! Good luck!

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