Meringue is a wonderfully versatile culinary element made primarily from egg whites and sugar. It is an extremely common part of making cakes, sweets and desserts. Meringue does have a reputation for being tricky and volatile but if you follow a few simple rules you shouldn’t have any problems. The outcomes may differ under various conditions, influenced by factors such as the age and temperature of eggs, the humidity level in your kitchen, and the variations in cooking performance associated with your oven. Stick with it though – master the meringue and a world of soufflé, pavlovas and lemon meringue pies will be opened to you.

There are three main types of meringue used in the kitchen, French, Swiss and Italian methods. They are all similar but they do have distinct characteristics, which  means, they are best for different things.

You also find information on how to make Vegan meringue using Aquafaba at the bottom of this article. 

 

French Meringue

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This is a method of meringue used to aerate mixes such as sponges and soufflés. The meringue is a raw meringue and as such is usually used in recipes before they are baked. The raw part comes from whisking sugar into raw egg whites, which remain uncooked. The method is an easy one, just start to whip egg whites and once they start to foam add a tablespoon at a time of sugar until it is all incorporated and you have a thick meringue.

If the meringue collapses before the end it is probably because the sugar was added in too quickly so be sure to add it in gradually. Once ready this meringue can be folded into sponge batters or folded into pastry cream for soufflé. This is the meringue used for my Passionfruit Meringue Clouds and this recipe will also make an excellent Pavlova.

Swiss Meringue

Is used for piped meringue and can be used for pavlova and crispy, dried out meringues as well as buttercreams. This method involves the cooking of the egg whites prior to full whipping of the meringue and it is achieved by heating egg white and sugar together over a water bath. Mix the sugar and egg whites together in the bowl of an electric stand mixer and place this bowl over a pan of simmering water. Heat and mix by hand until the meringue base reaches a temperature of 65°C, then remove the bowl from the pan and place onto the stand mixer. Attach the whisk and start to whisk the meringue on high speed until it becomes thick and glossy and has cooled to room temperature.

Italian Meringue

This is probably the most familiar meringue and has many uses including, lemon meringue pie, marshmallow and Baked Alaska. The trick with Italian meringue is to ensure the egg whites have not been over-whipped before the hot syrup is poured on, as this will result in a grainy end product.

In order to get the best results, I have my egg whites slowly whisking in a freestanding electric mixture just before i start to boil my syrup. Once the syrup reaches 112°C, I then turn the mixer with the egg white to medium-hight speed. This ensures that my egg white are the correct texture when the syrup has reached 121℃ and needs to be slowly trickled into the mixer. 

Uses for Italian meringue include making marshmallow (with the addition of gelatine), nougat (with the addition of honey and nuts), and glazes for cakes and frozen dessert such as my Choc Mint Alaskan Slice which has a step by step method for making Italian meringue included in the recipe.

Tips for Making Meringue

Room Temperature Eggs: It’s best to use egg whites at room temperature for better volume when whipping.

Clean Utensils: Ensure that the mixing bowl and beaters are clean and free of any grease, as even a small amount can prevent the egg whites from whipping properly.

Gradual Sugar Addition: Add sugar slowly, allowing it to dissolve completely between additions. This helps in achieving a stable and smooth meringue.

Stiff Peaks: Whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, meaning the mixture holds its shape and stands upright.

Baking Temperature and Time: When baking meringue, use a low temperature and longer baking time to dry out the meringue without browning it.

Aquafaba

Last but not least is the miracle of Aquafaba. Aquafaba was discovered in 2014 by French Chef, Joel Roessel. Aquafaba is the liquid from canned chickpeas and is often used as an egg substitute in vegan cooking and baking. Chef Roessel invented the name based on the Latin words for water and bean.

Quick Vegan Meringue Recipe

Ingredients:

1 can of chickpeas 425g
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar (optional, but it helps stabilise the aquafaba)
150g caster sugar
Dash of vanilla extract.
Instructions:

Open the Can: Drain the liquid from a can of chickpeas into a bowl. This liquid is your aquafaba.

If you’re using aquafaba for recipes where stability is important, you can add 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar. Whip the aquafaba with an electric mixer until it forms soft peaks, then gradually add in the sugar and vanilla .

Use the aquafaba as a vegan egg white substitute in recipes like meringues, macarons, mousses, or as an egg binder in recipes like pancakes or waffles.

Remember, the consistency of aquafaba can vary between different brands of canned chickpeas. It’s a versatile and convenient ingredient for vegan cooking, and experimenting with it can help you find the best applications for your preferences.