How to make French meringue
A tutorial and recipe on how to make French meringue, without failure. Recipes for meringues can differ drastically on the amount of sugar to add, in the video I explain how this will affect the resulting texture.
Here’s some of the main points:
Chose your meringue – how much sugar?
- 1:1 Equal amounts of sugar to egg whites (by weight) for the most delicate melt-in-the-mouth meringue.
- 1:2 Twice as much sugar to egg whites (by weight) for the most stable no weeping meringue.
- 1: 1 1/2 One and half times the amount of sugar to egg whites for a compromise of the two options above.
- Equal weight of sugar to egg white will produce a finer more delicate, lighter crispier meringue. The meringue however does not keep well unbaked, after a while will start to weep. This makes it unsuitable for using on top of pies as in a lemon meringue pie. This meringue is suited for baking straight away and baking all the way through until it is dry.
- Twice as much sugar to egg whites (by weight) will produce a stable meringue. One which is suitable to bake for a very short period of time as in a lemon meringue pie or baked Alaska. What is gained with stability is lost with finesse, this amount of sugar produces a thicker harder meringue. It does not have the ‘melt-in-the-mouth’ texture the first meringue produces.
- Caster sugar (superfine) is the best sugar to use for French meringue.
- To turn granulated sugar into caster sugar – put the granulated sugar in the food processor for 1-2 minutes.
- Granulated sugar can be used but there is a danger of over-whisking the meringue in order to dissolve the sugar properly. If there is too much undissolved granulated sugar in the mixture it will give the finished meringue a grainy surface.
Grease and yolk
- The bowl should not have any residue of grease. If in doubt you can rub a cut lemon all over the inside of the bowl. The acidity from the lemon will help as a strengthener.
- If egg yolk falls into the whites try to remove as much as possible but as I have shown in the video a small amount will still produce a meringue, although the volume and definition will suffer.
- Over-whisking will produce a low volume meringue. A proper whisked meringue should have a slight rise in the oven.
- Over-whisked meringue will not hold its shape as well as it could.
- Over-whisking will have poor definition if piping.
- Under-whisking will produce more of an unstable meringue than if whisked properly.
- Under-whisking will produce a grainy surface.
- Important to whisk on a slow speed initially to allow the egg white proteins to unravel and connect with each other in a network chain. This network will trap the air bubbles the whisking is producing.
Cream of tartar, lemon juice, vinegar
- Cream of tartar, lemon juice or vinegar are all strengtheners which is why some recipes use them. They are lowering the pH of the whites by adding acidity, this in turn strengthens proteins in the whites.
- Cream of tartar, lemon juice or vinegar is not necessary if following my method of whisking the egg whites to soft peak stage first before adding the sugar slowly.
- I would recommend to add one of these if you’re doing the all-in-one-method meringue or pavlovas as a safeguard against old eggs.
- If the eggs are likely to be old, I recommend using one of these strengtheners.
- Cream of tartar can help to produce a slightly whiter meringue but ultimately the colour will be most affected by the temperature the meringue is baked at. Using cream of tartar did not produce a whiter meringues when I baked them at medium hot temperature, the meringues took on the normal creamy pale beige colour. For me a creamy colour is a good sign of a home baked meringue!
Old / Aged eggs
- Using old or aged eggs has always produced inferior quality meringues, especially when making the all-in-one-method or pavlovas.
- Old whites are thinner and in my experience are quickly prone to over-whisking and therefore producing low volume or meringue which do not hold their shape well.
- When baking meringue you are essentially drying them out which is why a low temperatures is ideal.
- While baking do not open the door as it promotes cracking. Cold air going into oven contrasts with the heat inside and the delicate skin on the meringue cracks.
- Once they are baked leave the oven door ajar for another hour or until the oven is cold before removing them.
- 2 egg whites
- 110g caster sugar / ½ cup superfine sugar
- On a slow speed whisk the egg whites until they start to form light soft speaks.
- Add spoonful of sugar and carry on whisking on a low speed for a 15-20 seconds or until you see a slight shine appearing.
- Keep on adding small amounts of sugar in intervals until all of the sugar has been added.
- Pipe or spoon meringues onto baking paper and bake them for 1½ hours. Leave them in the oven and open the door slightly for another hour or until the oven is cold.