The Magic of Meringues

Turning an egg into meringue is one of the more remarkable culinary transformations.

Egg whites may be transformed into a glossy, puffy, and ready-to-adorn delicacy with only a little sugar, air, and a small amount of work. They can be used to decorate cakes, pavlovas, and kisses, or swirled into pies.

Making meringue isn’t as tough as you might believe, despite the appearance of difficulty. In a couple of minutes, any home cook with electric beaters or a balloon whisk and a little persistence can whip one up. It’s certainly worth the effort, whether you want to amaze your family and friends, your beloved on Valentine’s Day, or yourself whenever you feel like something sweet is calling your name.

Although crafting a particular meringue is an exhilarating experience, the real magic arrives when you consume it.

The simplest form of meringue is just sugared egg whites that have been beaten until stiff peaks form. Recipes stretch as far back as the 16th century and include both heated and unheated variations. Pastry chefs used to put their skills and upper-arm strength to the test when preparing meringue by hand before the invention of electric mixers. This fast-moving mixing was done with birch branches, knives, or straw bundles until the invention of the wire whisk in the nineteenth century. The next time getting out your mixer seems overwhelming, keep that in mind.

Foaming a liquid isn’t difficult: If you beat, shake or agitate it, you’ll get a momentary froth if you introduce air into the liquid. It’s difficult to keep the air in the room. When you stop to take a sip of your chocolate milk, the bubbles you’ve blown with a straw will burst.

It is because of the unique proteins found in egg whites (and in aquafaba) that the mixture may puff up into a fluffy mousse and hold its shape for an extended period of time before deflating.

“On Food and Cooking” author Harold McGee noted that eggs are exceptional for their ability to harvest air and create something new. One egg white is enough to produce “a cupful of snowy white foam, a coherent structure that adheres to the bowl even when you turn it upside down,” according to the author’s instructions. (Avoid using chocolate milk for this.)

With each whipping, small bubbles of air are trapped in the egg whites’ proteins. Aerated proteins can hold more air when beaten to a thinner consistency. In order to keep egg whites from separating, you can add sugar or heat, or both, to them before whipping them.

Meringues Come in Three Varieties, Each with its own Distinct Personality.

When it comes to the three types of meringue, a French meringue, which is the simplest, is the lightest and most voluminous. Despite this, it is also the most fragile, prone to deterioration unless baked to hardness. To generate crunchy, brittle-sugary delights like pavlovas and meringue kisses, French meringue is commonly folded into recipes for baked products like sponge cake and macarons.

Egg whites and sugar are cooked in a double boiler until the sugar is dissolved, then whipped until the mixture is light and airy and ready to use. Swiss meringue is thicker and less airy than French meringue. It can be used as a topping for pies and tarts, as a base for buttercreams, or as a stand-alone frosting for cakes. Seven-minute frosting, according to pastry expert Stella Parks, actually consists of Swiss meringue.

Italian meringue is the heaviest, smoothest, and most stable of the three, but it can also be the most difficult to make. At 240 degrees, sugar syrup is heated and carefully whisked into a bowl of egg whites until the mixture cools and becomes silky to the point of becoming sticky. However, when solidity is needed, Italian meringue is preferable to Swiss meringue, which can be used equally in professional kitchens and candy production.

Meringue Gets Along With Everyone Else

In spite of its sweetness and light mouthfeel, meringue on its alone doesn’t have much of a flavour, but it works well with other components. It’s a great flavour transporter because it doesn’t have much fat on the palate, enabling whatever you’re mixing in to shine clearly.

Using brown sugar instead of granulated sugar results in a butterscotch meringue that pairs well with blood orange curd.

You can add citrus zest at the conclusion of the beating process or sprinkle it on a lemon meringue pie’s top for a more intense flavour boost.

For added colour and flavour, freeze-dried fruit powder, a favourite of pastry professionals, is available. If you’re careful not to deflate the eggs, you can use a small quantity of cooled melted chocolate in your meringue, as long as you don’t overwork the eggs.

Combine raspberry powder and cocoa powder for a complex-tasting, pink-tinged meringue that is an amazing stunner drizzled on top of raspberry tarts!

Of course, anything topped with fluffy heaps of meringue would seem like a magical enchantment. To get there, you don’t have to be a culinary master.

A selection of desserts: Extra-Lemony Meringue Pie; Blood Orange Butterscotch Meringue Pie; and Chocolate Raspberry Meringue Tart.