Making a meringue can be difficult for beginners, as it is not always clear how this simple mix should look. Although the main ingredients of a meringue consist of just eggs, sugar, and a slight acid, making a perfect lemon meringue pie or pavlova is easier than it sounds. Meringue is a pastry made typically with the whipped up whites of eggs and sugar, along with an acidic ingredient, such as lemon, vinegar.
Sugar and egg whites are technically the only pantry ingredients that you will need, but there are a couple others that will help make your meringue as good as it can possibly be.
Luckily, meringue is just egg whites and sugar, so if your first three batches fail, it is cheap and easy to make another batch and try again. Most people make the mistake of churning their egg whites at a high speed in order to dissolve sugar more quickly, which results in thicker meringue. Many assume they must use their eggs right off of the fridge in order to achieve a firmer meringue, but egg whites at room temperature will reach much higher lofts than those at refrigeration. One of the more common mistakes is to beat the eggs either not long enough, or at too low of a speed, meaning the egg whites will not achieve a firm peaks stage, but only reach a spongy, spongy stage.
In general, a given weight of egg whites will be able to absorb as much as the equivalent weight of sugar, but you cannot simply dump all that in all at once, or that just knocks all the air out of the scum. If we dump sugar too soon, before protein particles in the egg whites have had the chance to properly unfurl, then you are not going to get all-around, circulating air across the froth structure that is necessary to create thick, consistent meringues. If you over-mix your meringue, the protein bonds in the egg whites get strained out around moisture pockets and air. This lowers the level of moisture in the whites, which, in turn, will produce a larger volume during a whisk.
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Some proteins in the whites Egg whites will start to break down, or denature, as you start churning, and form bonds with the water (which is naturally present in the whites) and air created by the mixer. The egg whites form a froth, which is easier to work with, while a baked meringue has a gentler, more consistent texture. Meringues and Pavlovas require that you whisk egg whites to form a foam, add sugar, then bake them at low temperatures until they are dry. These methods are a little trickier to make than French meringue, and they include cooking the eggs while they are being whipped.
We prefer using Bakers Special Sugar when making meringue, as the tiny pellets dissolve nicely into the egg whites. The sugar needs to be easy to dissolve in your meringue mixture, so try using Caster Sugar, which is an ultrafine sugar with small sugar granules that melt readily. At the same time, the sugar syrup adds some additional moisture, ensuring that although you are baking Italian meringue, you are not drying it out.
|Churning a high speed||Due to churning of the egg whites at a high speed in order to dissolve sugar more quickly results in thicker meringue|
|Refrigerated eggs||Many assume they must use their eggs right off of the fridge in order to achieve a firmer meringue, but egg whites at room temperature will reach much higher lofts than those at refrigeration|
|Not proper beating of eggs||One of the more common mistakes is to beat the eggs either not long enough, or at too low of a speed, meaning the egg whites will not achieve a firm peaks stage, but only reach a spongy, spongy stage|
Whisk the pavlova meringue mixture at Speed 3 or 4 (the Flavor Bender will vary between them simply based on looking at the meringue), only until the sugar is dissolving and the mixture is shiny and thick. As you whip the meringue mixture to dissolve the sugar, the mixture will get more firm and steady. On the downside, if you do not add enough sugar to your meringue mixture, the resulting froth will not be stable enough, and there is not enough moisture vaporizing away as it bakes. Underbaking means the meringue has lots of liquid left in it, causing the foam to crumble.
If the meringue mixture is left for more than ten minutes, all of the air that was forced into it in the whisking process will start leaving and meringue will collapse. You should never whisk a meringue mix and let it sit out at room temperature for fifteen minutes, as it will be soggy and crumbly. If you have problems such as weeping or wetting, simply be sure to not overcook the meringue, and always add to pies at a lukewarm temperature.
To prevent the meringue from leaking onto your pie, you should add meringue on top when your pie is room temperature or a little warmer. The heat of the filling will Cook the meringue on top of the filling, and it makes meringue less prone to leakage or shrinkage. If meringue does pull away from filling and a moisture-covered layer is under, that is because the filling was not piped warm at the time that meringue was placed over.
It is crucial that water, or any fat (yellow or otherwise), is NOT introduced into the meringue during the meringue making process, as it would impede the egg whites ability to form a structure similar to foam. With meringue, the sugars interact with those same proteins to produce a more consistent structure, so properly made meringue is a lot more solid than an average egg foam. The more sugar you add to the mix, the greater is its ability to pull moisture from the egg whites, which causes a greater amount of evaporation when baked, which, in turn, produces a more crispy baked meringue.
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The tiny grains will not impact your meringues flavour, but their appearance will still be bumpy even after baking. You will typically use 50-60g sugar for the meringue, so cutting sugar from 250g/1/4 c. in the recipe to 200g/1 c. should not have much of an impact, although the higher sugar will give your meringue a slightly crisper crust and stronger structure. To keep the meringue from collapsing, try adding a little bit of cream of tartar 1/4 teaspoon in to the egg whites.
A couple of teaspoons of cornstarch mixed in with the sugar helps absorb any remaining liquids in your meringue, leaving it glossy, pretty, and free from any pools.
Most people tend to speed things up in order to get their egg whites to a proper texture more quickly, but that can result in a spongy meringue when it is baking (adding too much air too quickly also causes meringue to deflate more quickly).
What happens if you beat meringue too long?
If you overwhip the egg whites, they will become too firm and will start losing moisture. It will reduce the crispness of your meringue and make it more likely to collapse or weep sugar beads. “If you over whip the egg whites, you cannot fix it,” meringue guru Gary Mehigan advises.
How to stop meringue from collapsing?
There are a few different reasons why meringue might collapse, but the most common one is that it wasn’t cooked long enough. The meringue needs to be cooked slowly and at a low temperature in order to achieve the perfect consistency. If your meringue is collapsing, it’s likely because it wasn’t cooked long enough.
What to do with failed meringue?
If your meringue has failed, don’t despair! There are still plenty of things you can do with it. Here are a few ideas:
- Use it as a topping forfruit pies or tarts.
- Make a meringue cake.
- Use it to top pavlovas or trifles.
- Make meringue cookies.
- Make a meringue pie.