Making a meringue successfully does seem to be a daunting task for the beginners including home bakers like me!
I didn’t started out to make meringue very successfully the first time as well and went to unravel the mysteries behind meringue making!
The process of course involves my borrowing of the two books from the public library near my house that I did book review for! Nonetheless, I do realize that there are many bakers online that publish the same information, not denying the fact that there are many books that repeat it as well.
As such I need to make a disclaimer that some of these information are sourced from books and online, but I do not know who to cite as they all share the same piece of information! My job here is to tabulate all these information and elaborate them to make meringue making more enjoyable for the beginner home baker!
Let’s not hesitate anymore and go straight right into meringue making!
First up, ingredients.
These are the common ingredients that I often see, in more or less the same proportions, in meringue making. Egg whites ( definitely ), caster sugar, cream of tartar or lemon juice, salt and vanilla essence.
I will be elaborating only on the first three ingredients as the last two ( salt and vanilla essence are for the flavouring of the meringue.
These egg whites whip better at room temperature and gets fluffier at room temperature. They’re definitely easier to be separated when they’re cold. If you want to make your job easier, you can separate them while cold and then whip them when they’re at room temperature ( by letting the egg whites rest for 30minutes to 1 hour). It’s really up to you when you want to separate it! Do make sure that none of the yolk manage to escape into your white mixture or it will hinder the whipping process.
There exists a dispute between whether older or fresher egg whites are better to beat. Honestly to me, I had tried both and they both worked as well. It’s up to you on which one you want to believe in! I mean why get into the dilemma of fresh and old eggs, so long I get my meringue? Am i right or am i right? 😝
Well, there’s so many types of sugar in the market, which should I use?
Without any disputes, hands down, caster sugar is the clear winner that everyone agrees upon. Caster sugar is able to dissolve way easier than other forms of sugar due to its smaller crystal.
If you want to substitute caster sugar with powdered sugar, it’s possible but be aware of the different densities. The one made with powdered sugar will be lighter in texture. However, as powdered sugar contains some cornstarch, I will use 1 1/4 cup of powdered sugar to substitute the 1 cup of caster sugar.
Sugar coats the proteins so they won’t dry out, stabilizing the egg whites. It also slows down the incorporation of air.
Cream of Tartar / Lemon juice:
An acid will stabilize the meringue. It will slightly denature the proteins, transforming them into long strands and making them be more able to foam better.
It’s optional, but why not make our life easier 😛
I feel that this article here explains cream of tartar really well:
Next up, the equipment.
Apart from ensuring that the egg yolk doesn’t get mixed into the egg whites as any presence of fats will hinder the whipping process, ensure that none of your equipment contains any traces of fats AT ALL.
As such, a glass or a metal bowl is always recommended as they’re easier to be cleaned of fats and are less likely than plastic bowls to contain a film of fats.
Personally for me, I did have success using plastic bowls but I must agree that metal bowls have a higher chance of success.
To further reinforce that your equipment including your beaters are free of fats, I used either a kitchen towel or boiling water to further cleanse these equipment.
Let’s go into the process with pictures.
First up, I mixed the egg whites with the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla essence. I mixed it at medium speed until it is foamy, and then frothy. I used a hand mixer and took about 3-4 minutes. How long it will take will be subjective to the amount of cream of tartar and egg whites used, and the power of your hand mixer. It’s best to be able to recognize the process from pictures instead of relying on the time given by recipes! These time gauges given are just a general guideline.
Between the stages where it’s frothy ( with soft peaks ) and stiff peaks is where you add your caster sugar, tablespoonful until it reaches the stage with stiff peaks.
The mixture has soft peaks when you remove the hand mixer, and a peak is formed that eventually dissolve back into itself within a couple of minutes. I continue to beat the soft peaks at medium-high speed while adding the caster sugar.
It will proceed to form firm peaks, which droops back on itself.
I continued to beat at medium high speed until stiff peaks are formed. Stiff peaks will stand tall and firm majestically. You can tell when you remove the hand mixer, they will not droop down at all. This is when it’s ready.
Stiff Peaks (On the mixture once I lift my hand mixer, at bottom left):
(On my Hand Mixer):
Do not overmix once you have reached the stiff peak stage! So do check from time to time after you have reached the soft peak stage, especially after you reached the firm peaks stage!
Here’s a simple recipe that uses the meringue:
Chocolate Chip Meringue Cookies
Other factors to consider:
Bakers have either argued that humidity doesn’t affect meringue making or it can. It is stated that it can affect meringue making as the egg whites will absorb the water from the air and will not be able to whip successfully.
For me, being in really humid Singapore, I have managed to whip meringue during rainy weathers. Humidity is subjective however, and I must not hide my ignorance of the humidity of other countries. What I am saying here is, however, if you want to maximize your chances of success, make meringue on non-rainy days instead. If you feel it doesn’t matter then go ahead and try! For me I have tried and it still succeeded.
2. Freshness of Eggs
The debate between fresh and old eggs is really long with many different factors to consider. I feel if you’re interested, go search it up! For me, I just worked with whatever eggs I have. All eggs in this world are good eggs! 😇
Should you disagree with any of the information presented by me or if you feel that I am wrong, do not hesitate to comment down below! I always have a listening ear for advice!
Bakeomaniac, Javier Tan!