Meringue is a French dessert made by whipping egg whites. There are various types of meringues, the sweetened uncooked beaten egg whites, the partly cooked ones or the classic dry light featherweight ones. Different techniques are used for each one of these but the most commonly used by home bakers is French meringue. These resemble cookies and are like candy fluff which melt as soon as you place them in your mouth.
Meringues used like cookies are baked at a very low heat for a long time. One name for them is ‘Forgotten Cookies’ as they can be left in a gas oven for long periods of time after the cooking is done. They are not supposed to be tanned at all, but they need to be very crisp and dry.
Meringues are actually very easy to make. All you need is eggs, an electric whisk (do not try to beat eggs by hand – it is too time consuming and not worth it) and clean utensils. Yes, clean bowls and spoons are required because the beaten egg whites will not hold if any grease or water is present. For the same reason, so not use plastic utensils. Stainless steel or glass bowls are best.
Also, make sure that the egg yolk does not mix with the egg whites otherwise the peaks will not form. Use separate bowls to carefully remove the egg yolk. If any egg shells fall into the egg whites, use a clean dry spoon to remove them.
When egg whites are beaten you will get soft, firm and then stiff peaks. Some of the hydrogen bonds in the proteinbreak, causing the protein’s structure to unfold. This change in structure leads to the stiff consistency required for meringues. Cream of tartar may be required to additionally denature the proteins to create the firm peaks.
Cooked meringue cannot be refrigerated or it will become soggy. They will keep for at least a week if stored in an airtight container.
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence (optional)
1 tsp food coloring (optional)
Separate the egg whites. Whisk them into stiff peaks. The peaks should not fold when the whisk is lifted.
Mix both the sugars and add a little at a time to the egg whites while whisking. The egg whites will change texture and become shiny and soft. Add the vanilla essence and mix.
Drop the food coloring and give it a swirl.
Set the oven at the lowest gas mark (Gas mark 1 or 110 C). Line a baking try with cookie sheet. Drop the egg whites with a dessert spoon forming little peaks on top. Bake for 1 hour and then let cool in the oven itself for another hour.
The meringues will be light and airy and will give a hollow sound when tapped at the bottom. Remove from oven and store in an air tight container.
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