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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Recipe: Meringue (French)

French Meringue at Stiff Peaks

Recipe: Meringue (French)

A Pastry Recipe Everyone Should Know

If I were to pick one item from the world of pastry that can be the most confounding, it's a French (or Common) Meringue.

A French Meringue is a Meringue in its simplest form: uncooked Egg Whites and Sugar whipped light and airy. It's a close cousin to Italian and Swiss Meringues, quasi-cooked versions that involve streaming hot Sugar syrup into Egg Whites or heating Sugar and Egg Whites over a Bain Marie.

But if a French Meringue is nothing more than whipped Egg Whites and Sugar, how can it be so hard?

You're right to be suspicious, because making French Meringue isn't difficult, but it can be temperamental. There are many seemingly insignificant factors that can influence the final product. You just need to know what those are.  

Did you add the Sugar too soon... or too late? Maybe there was some oil on your hands... or in the bowl? Is it raining? Standing over a bowl of whipped Egg Whites and Sugar that refuses to inflate, there's a distinct emptiness that forms in the pit of one's stomach.

"Is it raining?" Are you kidding me? Unfortunately, no. Even a humid day can ruin a Meringue. But rather than leave anything to chance, here are some simple tips for making a perfect French Meringue.

French Meringue at Soft Peaks

French Meringue: "Whip one part Egg Whites with one part Sugar until light and airy."

That's probably the simplest recipe you'll ever see. What's really important is how the Egg Whites and Sugar are combined

Tips for Making Meringue:
  • Beware of Fats: Perhaps the most important rule in making a Meringue is to keep the Egg Whites free of any fats. This specifically refers to Egg Yolks. Even the smallest amount of fat can interfere with the foaming of the Egg Whites. To ensure that no bits of Yolk end up in the mix, separate the Eggs one by one. With each Egg, if the Yolk did not break and the White is clean, place the White into a larger mixing bowl. If the Yolk breaks into the White, set that Egg aside and move on to the next one.
  • Use Clean Tools: Any Bowl, Whisk or Spoon used in making a Meringue should be extremely clean and free of fats or oils. Like Egg Yolks, a little oil left in a mixing bowl can interfere with the foaming of the Egg Whites. Even dish soap that hasn't been completely rinsed can ruin things. To be absolutely certain that your tools are clean, wipe them down with a paper towel dipped in an acidic solution such as White Vinegar or Lemon Juice. These acidic products will help to remove any trace oils.
  • Use Clean Hands: Think of your hands as another set of tools. Just like your bowls and spoons, they too must be oil-free. Since skin is constantly producing natural oils, wash and dry your hands anytime you are about to handle the Eggs, particularly before separating the Whites and Yolks.
  • Temper the Egg Whites: Cold Eggs separate more easily, but warm Eggs whip better. Before you start to make a Meringue, let the Egg Whites temper to room temperature (about 68 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Add a Little Acid: Acids help to denature some of the proteins in Egg Whites, resulting in a more stable Meringue. Cream of Tartar is the most common choice because it is a powder and doesn't add more water to the Egg Whites, but Lemon Juice and White Vinegar can also be used. As a rule of thumb, add 1/8 Tsp of Cream of Tartar for every Egg White (about 1 Tsp per cup).

...and most importantly:
  • Be Patient and Start Slow: You cannot rush making a stable French Meringue. You have to start whipping at a low speed, slowly increasing as the Meringue foams. Only when the Egg Whites are foamy enough should the Sugar be added and the speed increased. This process will take more than a couple of minutes.

Here's what to look for, step by step.

Egg White for Meringue
Start by placing room temperature Egg Whites in an extremely clean electric mixer bowl fitted with a whisk attachment.

Foaming Egg Whites
Whip the Egg Whites on low speed until they begin to foam. Starting the whipping at a low speed and slowly increasing over time helps to create a more stable Meringue formed of small bubbles.

Opaque Whipped Egg Whites
The Egg Whites will become increasingly opaque as more, smaller bubbles form. At this time, increase the mixer speed to medium. 

Denser Opaque Whipped Egg Whites
Eventually the Egg Whites will be completely opaque (and not just the top layer in your bowl - the entire mixture should be opaque). At this time, and only at this time, begin to add the Sugar while continuing to whip.

Sugar Added Egg Whites
Add the Sugar gradually, either in several additions or slowly streamed. As you continue to whip, the Egg Whites and Sugar will appear increasingly thick and creamy. Now you can set the mixer to one of the higher speed settings. 

French Meringue at Soft Peaks
Continue whipping the Meringue until it thickens to the desired consistency. The longer you beat the Meringue, the thicker it will become, and the better able it is to hold its shape.

But you can over-mix a Meringue. If whipped for too long, the Meringue will become dull and grainy, and the mixture will eventually collapse.

French Meringue at Stiff Peaks
The target consistency depends on your final use. When used as part of a recipe, a Meringue should be whipped to a consistency matching that of the other ingredients. This makes it easier for the ingredients to be combine. 

- The Recipe -

French Meringue:


Cake Ingredients:
  • Egg Whites: 100g (3-4x)
  • Cream of Tartar: 0.5 Tsp
  • Sugar 100g (0.5 Cup)


1. Place the tempered Egg Whites into a clean electric mixer bowl fitter with a whisk attachment and whip on low speed until the Egg Whites begin to foam. 

2. Increase the speed to medium and continue whipping until the Egg Whites become opaque. This may take several minutes.

3. Once the Egg Whites are completely opaque, add the Sugar either in several additions or streamed slowly while continuing to mix.

4. After all of the Sugar has been added, increase the speed to a higher setting and continue whipping until the Meringue reaches the desired consistency.

Even a well-whipped Meringue is delicate and should be used immediately after it is made.

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