One of the baking magic that always fascinates me is meringue. A perfect, cloud like fluff that can magically transform into macarons, meringue tarts, chiffon cakes, swiss rolls, dacquoise and much more! To think that it is just a simple concoction of egg whites and sugar, if executed perfectly it is the foundation for baking basic. This simple meringue can also make or break your bakes, so let’s see how to make perfect meringue.
1.Use fresh eggs for everything except for macarons.
As general rule of thumb, fresh eggs yield better meringue. Except when making macarons where aged egg whites are preferred to ensure successful ‘feet’, the rest of baking will require fresh eggs. How to tell if an egg is fresh? Just place the egg in a bowl of water; a fresh egg will sink in the bottom and lay on its side.
2.Ensure there is no trace of egg yolks in the white
Easily said, but even a trace of yolk when you separate the eggs can cause the meringue to flatten or not whipped out properly. You can use an egg separator if you are not confident, or confidently scoop out the yolk using the fingertips and let the egg whites spill into a bowl.
3. Ensure the bowl and tools used are clean. Preferably used a copper bowl.
Meringue hates grease and even water, so if the stand mixer bowl has trace of grease or butter, this can cause the meringue to deflate without reaching stiff peaks. Make sure the spatula, spoon or whisk used are throughly wash and dry. Whisking egg whites in copper bowl also gives better results to the fluffiness of the meringue.
4. Use stabilisers.
Egg whites alone will not be whipped to perfection without the addition of some sugar, salt or other stabilisers such as cream of tartar or vinegar. You may not need a lot of sugar, but just enough to lightly sweeten the meringue and let it hold its shape even during baking ( like meringue nest). Add some vinegar (like most Pavlova recipes) or just a teeny weeny pinch of cream of tartar ( when you are making chiffon cake or dacquoise). Some meringue can also be stabilised with cooked sugar syrup, as in the technique in making swiss meringue buttercream.
5. Do not make meringue in humid weather.
Meringues can be temperamental and tend to be weepy in humid weather. The sugar in the meringue will absorb humidity in the air, making it impossible for the meringue to dry and cripsy. This should not really be much of an issue if you are folding the meringue for chiffon cakes, but will be disastrous if you are baking them for Pavlovas or Dacquoise.
Last but not least, the folding technique of meringue is as important as the gentle manoeuvre of it into piping bag. Handle meringue gently so all your hard work of whisking them will be worth it. Do not fear these delicious white clouds, and always remember, practice makes perfect!
5 tips to Perfect Meringue
2 hours 10 mins
A simple meringue nest recipe
- 4 egg whites
- 6 tbsp castor sugar
- ¼ tsp cream of tartar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 140C (fan assisted).
- Whisk the egg whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks are formed.
- Add the sugar gradually and continue beating until stiff peaks are formed.
- Add the vanilla for flavouring.
- To test: invert the bowl and if the meringue stays defying gravity and not fall onto the floor, then it is perfect.
- Gently scoop the meringue into a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle and pipe swirls onto a silicone mat or tray lined with baking paper.
- Place the tray into the oven, reduce heat to 130C and bake for 2 hours or until the meringue is dry and crispy.
- Immediately store into airtight container.