With a little know-how, you can create perfect meringues time and again. Sarah Swain shows us how.
How to make meringue
Step 1 Place egg whites in a glass bowl and allow to stand for 15-20 minutes, then whisk using an electric mixer on a low speed.
Step 2 Increase mixer speed as eggs begin to froth. Increase speed to maximum. The egg whites will become thick and creamy.
Step 3 Continue whisking until egg white forms stiff peaks.
Step 4 Add a third of the sugar while continually whisking. Repeat until all the sugar is added.
Step 5 Fold in cornflour, vinegar and vanilla essence.
Step 6 Use as required. For a pavlova, spoon mixture on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Spread out to form a 23cm round. Make sure there is a substantial hollow in the centre for the filling. Alternatively, place mixture in a piping bag and pipe swirls using a suitably-sized star nozzle to create large or small bite-sized meringues.
Step 7 Cook meringue at 130ºC for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, until meringue is firm and crisp on the outside. Cool meringue thoroughly before removing from paper. Fill as desired.
The secret to making a great meringue is to get maximum volume when whisking egg whites. Here are a few simple tips:
- Separate the eggs carefully. Make sure there’s no egg yolk in the egg whites. Egg yolks need not be wasted – you can use them for glazing baked items or for an omelette or scrambled eggs.
- Use eggs which are a few days old as they will whisk better than egg whites from fresh eggs. This is because some of the water in the egg white has evaporated.
- Make sure the beaters you use and the bowl you place the eggs in are grease-free as this will affect the volume you create with your egg whites.
- Use a glass or china bowl, not an aluminium or plastic one.
- Always whisk egg whites at room temperature. If the eggs have been kept in the fridge, once the yolk and white have been separated, allow them to stand for 15-20 minutes.
- Use a metal spoon to fold in cornflour, vanilla essence and vinegar.
Once cooled, store meringues in an airtight container. They should keep fresh and moist for up to 2 weeks. Meringues freeze well unfilled and can
be stored in the freezer for up to 2 months. Make sure the container you use is free from strong smells.
How to fill a piping bag
Place the piping bag with the nozzle pointing down in a tall glass small enough to tuck back the piping bag edge. This allows you to be hands-free to fill the bag easily. Don’t fill the bag more than three-quarters full to avoid any spillage.
For our desserts we normally set a limit on free sugars. But pavlova and meringue are always going to be higher in free sugars; there’s no way around it. So keep in mind and save these for a special occasion.