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Friday, May 10, 2013

French Meringues

Intimidated by the sheer thought of making a meringue it has taken me years to finally give it a try.  Often described in recipes as very easy to make I don’t know why I have put it off for so long.

Choosing a recipe that I was comfortable with was almost as hard as narrowing down a good recipe for the Madeleine Cookies posted a couple of weeks ago.

Even though meringues require only two basic ingredients of egg whites and sugar, various recipes  called for different types of sugar ranging from granulated to superfine to confectioners’.  As in the  Madeleine recipes, oven temperatures and baking times left me uncertain as to which one would give the best results.

I was prepared to give at least two recipes a try but the recipe I chose to use first gave excellent results and there was no need to investigate further.

One of the recipes I chose used granulated sugar and stressed the importance of making sure there was no residual sugar crystals left in the mixture. It didn't take much time to conclude which recipe to try first when I came across one using confectioners’ sugar instead. The dissolving qualities of confectioners' just made it the right choice, no second thoughts. 

While this particular recipe did not call for cream of tartar as some other recipes, it was a good idea to add it for stabilizing the egg whites to ensure good volume.

This recipe instructed to set the oven at 200 degrees F. and place a wooden spoon to keep the oven door ajar while baking.  I wasn’t comfortable with that idea so I lowered the oven temperature to 190 degrees F. instead and left the wooden spoon to its regularly assigned duties. It’s not so much a baking process for meringues but more so a gradual drying out.

Three hours requires some patience so may I suggest you forget they are in the oven and find something else to do.  No need to worry that they might burn or over bake, they honestly don’t need any supervision and just take care of themselves. You may however want to peek into the oven occasionally to admire your handiwork!

Delicate, sweet, light as air, crisp and absolutely adorable…definitely worth the wait!

French Meringues 
I only made half of the recipe since I was not sure how they would turn out and made them a small size, about an inch in diameter yielding about 35 meringues.
The original ingredient amounts are 4 egg whites, 2 ¼ cups confectioners’ sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar.

For Half Recipe
2 egg whites  (room temperature)
1 1/8 cups confectioners’ sugar (measure then sift to remove lumps)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  1. Butter and flour or line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a glass or metal bowl, whip egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy using an electric beater.
  3. Sprinkle in sugar a little at a time while continuing to whip at medium speed.
  4. Stop beating when mixture becomes stiff and shiny like satin.
  5. Transfer the mixture into a large pastry bag fitted with a large star or plain tip.
  6. Place in preheated 190 degree F. oven and bake for three hours or until the meringues are dry and can be easily lifted from the baking sheet.
  7. Allow the meringues to cool completely before storing them in an air tight container at room temperature.

Notes, Tips and Suggestions
  • To tint meringues different colours add a few drops of desired food colouring until you achieve the shade of colour you are looking for.
  • Rule of thumb for adding cream of tartar is 1/8 teaspoon per egg white.
  • Some recipes state that meringues should be eaten within a couple of days of baking and never frozen.  Five days after baking I found them to be as good as the first day.  Also experimented with freezing, no noticeable change but if they can last at least five days why bother freezing.
  • If you don't have a 1/8th measuring cup the equivalent is 2 tablespoons or 30 ml.. 
  • The next time I make these I will measure out the sugar several days before and add a split vanilla bean for flavour. Don't mix in the seeds unless you are okay with little black specks in your meringues. I'm not going the liquid vanilla route since I don't want to alter the consistency or colour of the egg white mixture.
  • No pastry bag? No excuse for not making them.  Just drop the meringue onto baking sheet from a spoon.

1 comment:

  1. "no excuse"!; I like that.
    Therese beauties remind us that simple is best!! Can't wait to try another!