The sweet, snow-white cloudy wisps, with a melt in the mouth, crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside goodness … who can resist it? I certainly can’t. A four or five egg white meringue is finished in a couple of days by just our family of four. It is simply the fastest disappearing dessert in our house.
First time I had meringue was the store bought ones from M&S food. These completely crispy meringue took me by complete surprise. Who though a mixture of just egg whites and sugar will be this delicious. But then it is not just the taste, it is also the texture. I thought it could not get any better till I watched Nigella cut into one of her creations, even over TV, the gooey centre was simply decadent, that I had to now make it. That was about at least six years ago, followed by many many more meringues, always homemade with a gooey centre.
The trick to get meringue right begins even before you start making it. Fat reduces the surface tension in the bubbles you create when whisking the egg whites making them collapse giving you a poor rise and denser meringue. The whisk and the bowl you use to whisk the egg whites must be completely free of traces of grease or fat left over from whatever you made the last time. If you are not sure, just wash with dish washing soap and warm water and let dry, this little effort will be rewarded later with the fluffiest of meringues. Same goes if you use a electric mixer, which makes things a lot more easier.
Room temperature eggs give the most volume. If using eggs from the fridge, take out and keep it at room temperature for at least half an hour to warm up.
The next issue is separating the egg whites. Egg whites are protein with no fat while there is a lot of fat in the yolk. The same little fat causes a lot of meringue havoc goes here as well. I use three bowls and a small plate to do my separation to avoid a broken yolk contaminating the whole lot of egg whites …. and you know what, it is last couple of eggs which most often break the yolks. I separate the egg white into one bowl, depositing the yolk in the second and transfer the egg white in the first bowl into the third. Always break and separate the egg over the now empty first bowl, so that if you damage the yolk and contaminate the egg white, you can just drop the yolk as well into it and keep this bowl away for an omelette later. Then start with a fresh bowl as the previous bowl is now contaminated with fat from the yolk.
The sugar. Over the years, I have settled on a proportion which works well for me. For every large egg white, 50 gms of sugar. Gives a good balance of volume without being overly sweet. Castor sugar dissolves easily and does not fly about like icing sugar, so it works perfectly every time without the mess.
For the chewy centre, the secret is vinegar and corn starch. Some chemical reaction takes place to keep the centre gooey, don’t know what exactly, if any one knows please do enlighten me.
Flavouring. The classic is vanilla. It is your meringue, so the flavour is entirely up to you.
Home made Meringue
A brinskitchen recipe
- 4 egg whites, room temperature
- 200 gms caster sugar
- 1tsp vanilla essence
- 1 tsp white wine vinegar
- 2 tsp corn starch
- Put oven to warm up to 180˚C
- Whisk the egg whites till they are well risen and slightly stiff.
- Start adding the sugar while continuously whisking with a tablespoon, adding more as it gets incorporated till all the sugar is added
- Whisk on high speed if using a electric whisk or mixer with whisk attachment till you get stiff peaks. Stiff peaks are when you take out the whisk and invert it, the peak formed by the egg whites stays upright without bending and falling on itself.
- Whisk in the vanilla, vinegar and cornflour to incorporate.
- Line a baking sheet with non-stick baking paper. You can stick it with a dot of the meringue mixture at each corner so that it does not move around. You can draw multiple small or one large circle to give you a guide for spreading.
- You can either pipe the meringue mixture or do as I do and just spread it on the baking paper and flatten roughly with a spatula to about 1 1/2 inches in height.
- Place in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 120˚C (140˚C if not a fan oven) and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Switch the oven off and leave to cool in the oven for a few hours to dry it to give a slightly gooey centre. Take it out earlier if you like it very gooey.
Once cooled, you have a basic meringue base to use however you like – Simply with whipped cream and berries or more elaborate as a pavlova.
- Use a very clean and grease free bowl and whisk
- Use room temperature eggs
- Baking at a low temperature for a long time is the key
- Cool in the oven for a long time to get it crispy (and drop the vinegar/corn flour) or take it out to cool quickly to keep it gooey or try somewhere in-between.