Italian Meringue

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I adapted this recipe from the genius Julia Child.  She first published it in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”.

I prefer to use cooked meringue because it tastes better and also stands better than just beaten egg whites.  You also avoid the risk of salmonella.

When done correctly, the meringue should have a soft white sheen and hold its shape.

My Taylor candy thermometer is a necessary tool for this recipe  I also find my Kitchen Aid Artisan stand mixer with its stainless steel bowl indispensable for making this meringue. Obviously the thermometer is indispensable to make the perfect sugar syrup.  My Beautiful Artisan stand mixer is amazing!  Firstly, I have my hands free to add the hot syrup, and then, I found that the stainless steel bowl really helps me to decide when to stop beating… as soon as the bowl is warm to the touch.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • cup water
  • 3 egg whites
  • teaspoon cream of tartar

 

Procedure

  1. Thoroughly clean a bowl and the beaters of your mixer. Any grease in the bowl will stop your egg whites expanding to their full glory.  Metal bowls are best.  Avoid using plastic as it is hard to get really clean, and the heat might melt it.
  2. Combine the sugar and water in saucepan and stir well. Cook over medium-high heat. DO NOT stir, because it will cause the sugar to crystallize and harden. Instead swirl the pan with the handle.
  3. Continue swirling pan and bring mixture to boil, continuing to boil until it becomes completely clear.
  4. Reduce heat; cover pan and continue to simmer.
  5. Start beating the egg whites, slowly, until they become foamy.
  6. Beat in cream of tartar and salt.
  7. Increase the speed and beat whites until stiff peaks form.
  8. Uncover sugar syrup. Insert candy thermometer and boil until the temperature reaches 230ºF (110ºC).  This is called the soft-ball stage.
  9. Remove the sugar liquid carefully from heat.
  10. Start to beat whites at medium speed and slowly pour boiling syrup into whites, beating all the time. Continue to beat until the mixture forms stiff peaks, approximately 6 to 8 minutes. A good test is to touch the side of the stainless steel bowl, it should be starting to cool.
  11. The meringue is the proper consistency if it does not move when a spatula is run through it.
  12. Use immediately… the meringue will start to harden as soon as it cools, making it very difficult to use as frosting.

It’s great to use as frosting for my Foolproof Angel Food Cake, and as topping for Lemon Pie.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FRENCH, SWISS, AND ITALIAN MERINGUES?

The basic difference is the extent to which the raw egg white foam is heated, resulting in different stability in your meringue. These three styles are known as Italian, French, or Swiss meringues.

Italian meringue (recipe above, and my favorite) is made by drizzling 230ºF (110ºC) sugar syrup into egg whites that have been whipped to hold stiff peaks.  You continue whipping until the meringue is fully voluminous, satiny, stiff, and the bowl is cool to the touch. Italian meringue is often used to frost cakes (alone or as a base for buttercream frosting), to decorate filled pies, or to lighten mousses.

French meringue, is the most common of the three styles.  It is also the least stable until it is baked. Egg whites are beaten until they form soft peaks.  You then add sugar slowly while you continue beating, until the mixture has attained full volume; is soft, airy, and light; and is firm when the whip is lifted. French meringue is usually spooned or piped into different desserts, including dessert shells, mousses and soufflés and cake layers. It is also often piped onto pies and baked.  A great example being lemon pie.

Swiss meringue is prepared by gently beating egg whites and sugar in double boiler. When the mixture reaches 120ºF (50ºC) and the sugar is completely dissolved, you take it off the heat and beat vigorously to increase and attain full volume.  The mixer speed is lowered as the meringue cools and becomes very stiff. Swiss meringue is usually used for Baked Alaska and fruit pies.