With the leftover egg whites from the creme brulee recipe, I decided to make some meringue. Meringue really is quite the acquired taste, ‘cos it doesn’t have any of the usual stuff you associate with cookies. No butter, flour, nuts, chocolate chips or anything like that. Just plain ‘ol egg whites and sugar. But it’s simplicity is exactly what makes it so addictive. It just melts on contact with your tongue, and you’re left with just a memory of a crisp, sweet taste. So you pop in another one, to recreate that flavor and accertain what you just ate. And another one. Before you know it, half the tin is empty, and you still haven’t really figured out what makes the meringue such a deceptively yummy treat.
It’s all in the whipping of the egg whites I think. It makes the finished product so light and almost feathery. It’s quite a refreshing change from the rich cakes and cookies we’re used too. But while the cookies are simple, making them so isn’t quite so. Egg whites are notoriusly difficult to whip, cos even the slightest bit of fat, yolk or eggshell makes it impossible to get the whites to whip up to their maximum volume. So I browsed through the web and my cookbooks, gathering hints on making meringue. This is are the tried-and-tested tips I ended up with:
Do not use plastic bowls cos they retain grease. I used stainless steel ones with no problem
Wipe down your bowl and beaters with a small cut wedge of lemon to remove all lingering traces of grease. Wipe dry with a paper towel before adding egg whites
Supposedly, using week-old whites makes it easier to whip them up cos the cell structrue would have broken down by then. But I tried both week-old and fresh whites, and can’t say I saw much of a difference
Add just a pich of cream of tartar to your whites before beating. It really works.
Allow egg whites to get to room temp before beating them…I just covered the bowl with cling wrap and left it in the kitchen for about 40mins
Add the sugar only after your egg whites have been beaten to stiff peaks. Any earlier and they may not reach their full volume
Never stop beating. Just keep on going. And use the meringue within ten minutes of whipping, ‘cos any after, and it starts to disintegrate
Use icing sugar cos it dissolves faster, resulting in a smoother meringue. And more suger, means a crisper meringue, so if you want slightly chewy cookies, reduce the sugar amount by half
Anyway, what you wana get are really stiff, shiny peaks. And the ultimate test: hold the bowl upside down, and if your meringue doesn’t land on your hair,
it’s perfect. I was so happy mine stayed put like an obedient puppy. *grin*
Satiny sweet peaks on my eggbeaters
Swirls and clouds of pristine white. Next time, I’m gonna make a pavlova, with all these sinuous loops and twirls.. looks like one giant ice cream sundae!
Then, the baking is another step that really requires your attention. The recipes I checked all gave different oven temperatures and times, and I didn’t know which one to follow. Some asked that you bake them for an hour or more, then switch off the oven and let them dry in there overnight. But what if you have more than one batch? Or dun wana wait the night? After much experimenting, I realised that with meringues, it’s best that you make just enough to fit one or two trays, that can go into the oven at the same time. You can’t work in batches like normal cookies cos a) the batter doesn’t hold well outside; it needs to be baked asap and b) the meringues need to dry in the oven, if you bring them out to put in another batch, they get all chewy cos of the humidity.
So anyway, after two tries, I finally came up with a satisfactory recipe. BuT, my meringues did brown a tad more than I wanted it to, despite me setting my oven at 75 degree C, its lowest setting! sigh. But still, not too bad I guess. They were slighty off-white, tanned if you will. But yummy nonetheless. *smile*
2 egg whites
a pich of cream of tartar
1 cup icing sugar
(really, that’s all!)
- Using egg beaters, beat egg whites till foamy. Sprinkle in cream of tartar and continue beating till the whites increase in volume, and become stiff. This takes about 4-5mins.
- Sprinkle in the sugar a little by little, without stopping the whipping. It’s important to not add the sugar all at once cos it may cause the meringue to become grainy.
- Beat, beat, beat until the mixture really poofs up. It’ll be all shiny and satiny, and the swirls made by the beaters will hold their shape, and not disintegrate. After about 6-7mins of beating, its time for the no-fail meringue test. Slowly hold the bowl upside down. The meringue should not move at all, which means it’s stiff enough
- Spoon into a piping bag, cut off the tip, and pipe into small discs/swirls on a baking tray lined with foil.
- Bake in a 75 degree C oven for 3 hours, until the meringues can be eaily peeled off the foil. Also, wedge a wooden spoon in between the oven door. It prevents the oven from becoming too warm.
- After you peel off the meringues from the foil, immediately store them in an air tight container, or else they’ll go soft.
- I sandwiched some of them with melted chocolate, but really, I prefer them plain. Simple and sweet. And you can use any extra meringues as cake or cupcake decorations!