Kitchen Essentials – Meringue
Cue the percussion! Let’s dance! Oh, wait a minute … this is about meringue, not merengue. You may not believe it, but the two have a lot in common. Alright, so one’s a type of food and the other’s a dance. Still, meringue is as soft, silky and sensual as any merengue. Ok, so we should probably just stop there and get on with making the meringue.
Looking for a yummy, low-cal dessert that will help you keep in shape while you dance? Look no further than meringue. That concoction of beaten egg whites and sugar is light and airy and can be flavoured with anything you’d like. Meringue can be eaten partially cooked, as in the topping for Lemon Meringue Pie. Just as often, they’re baked more fully to form a holder for ice cream or as cookies in their own right. Uncooked meringue forms the basis for angel food cake and pavlova. You get the picture: this concoction is an absolute essential in baking. Yet, as simple as it sounds, there are certain aspects about it that can go
awry and result in a bit of a disaster.
1. Make sure the bowl and beater used to make meringue are spotless. Any presence of yolk, water, butter, will stop the egg whites from fluffing up and filling out.
2. Room temperature eggs work best. The right temperature will allow the whites to loosen to just the right consistency.
3. Beat the whites just before you need them. Preparing them as part of your mise-en-place ahead of time will no doubt result in panic when you discover that the foamy, cloud-like mass you whipped up has now settled right back down to its original just-cracked egg white consistency. Meringue doesn’t have staying power — until it’s baked.
4. Did I mention that adding cream of tartar helps the whites hold their form a little bit better?
5. Unless you’re looking for the browned edges and peaks that adorn the meringue topping on Lemon Meringue Pie (in which case turn the heat up and bake the meringue for a short time), meringue should be baked at a very low temperature for a long time. That’s the trick to a light, dry, yet completely white, meringue cookie.