Everything you have always wanted to know about meringue
We receive a lot of questions about how to make and use meringue in the kitchen. Cooked meringue, dense meringue, raw meringue, Italian meringue, Swiss meringue, and French meringue: can you remember the differences and similarities?
The origin of meringue
A meringue is a light preparation of egg whites and sugar. It was invented in 1720 by the Swiss pastry chef Gasparini, although some sources say it already existed then and was only improved by this illustrious chef. French and Italian chefs each created their own version, so today there are three different types of meringue: French, Italian, and Swiss. The name meringue comes from the Swiss town Meiringen, where Gasparini worked.
There are three basic types of meringue:
- French meringue, which is also known as raw meringue. See the recipe.
- Italian meringue, which is also known as cooked meringue. See the recipe.
- Swiss meringue, which is also known as dense meringue. See the recipe.
These three varieties can be divided into two groups. The soft meringue that we use, for example, as toppings for cakes, and the hard meringue that is dried in the oven and is therefore crispy and crunchy. Do you think that making meringue is a whole lot of hassle? If you stick to the method, we promise that making meringue is a breeze!
Which egg whites?
We can use different types of egg whites as a basis for meringue. But just to be clear, pasteurised egg whites do not have the same properties as fresh egg whites. The pasteurisation process causes several enzymes which are important for preservation to be lost, which may lead it to collapse much faster. But, if you do not wish to take any health risks, then pasteurised egg whites are the best to use. Meringues can also be made from dried egg whites.
A meringue can be beaten by hand or with a machine. If you decide to beat the meringue by hand, use a whisk with thin wires. The egg whites become more evenly stiff when beaten in a planetary mixer due to the planetary motion of the machine. In any case, making meringues always starts with degreasing the materials with lemon juice, because fat and particles of egg yolk are disastrous for the beating result. The egg white itself should also not contain any traces of the egg yolk. It is also important to use egg whites at room temperature for the best result.
Purpose of other ingredients
Adding acidic ingredients, in small quantities, has no effect on the volume but will stabilise the foam and give it a nice shine. Adding sugar turns a fragile meringue into a stable and shiny meringue. The more sugar you add, the crispier the end result will be. The amount of sugar per egg white varies from about 1:1 to 2:1. The sugar is processed differently for each type of meringue, varying from powdered sugar and granulated sugar to hot sugar syrup.
More and more guests are eating vegan, but how do you deal with this in those classic desserts where meringue plays a leading role? An alternative is to make the meringue with aquafaba, the protein-rich cooking liquid of chickpeas. It contains a lot of vegetable protein that can be beaten similarly to egg whites. Here it is used in a vegan lemon meringue pie. However, meringue made with aquafaba is not as stable as meringue made with egg whites.
Let's get cooking!
At Gastronomixs you'll find all three recipes for classic meringue. However, there are a few more famous uses for meringue. You surely have heard of Baked Alaska, lime meringue, and dried meringue, right?
If you want to see all meringue preparations, then click on the button below.