Spasmodic Baking: Meringues

As a general rule of thumb, I’m not to be trusted in the kitchen. However, I’m slightly better with the oven. I sporadically bake cake and cookies and the like (you can count on it around my birthday), and it usually turns out kind of tasty. In “Spasmodic Baking”, I share recipes I’ve done.

I recently had that arbitrary itch I get to bake, so here I went again. It was my friend’s birthday, but there was another friend who needed a pick-me-up, and in general, giving food to friends is fun. So there I went.

Many years ago, I tasted hard meringues at a party, and I fell in love (they are kind of magical, aren’t they?). I decided to try to make them myself for the next party I went to. It was a disaster. I didn’t bargain for how much time it actually takes to make, wasted a horrible amount of eggs whipping non-pure egg whites, and ended up with rather skimpy, half-wet sugar-things to take the party. I forgot about meringues after that.

For some reason, as is happening to me recently, this random memory popped back into my head with no particular evident stimulus, but it’s nice to know that my brain still remembers treasurable things even if I can’t remember them. At any rate, I decided to make meringues.

The four things you need to know about making meringues are that they are very low cost in that barely any materials are required, very high cost in that a lot of time must be invested in order to make them, the instructions NEED (in all caps) to be followed to a T otherwise you won’t have meringues, and that they are tasty beyond belief.

The ratios I report are for a large party amount of meringues (I believe I gave ~4 each to around 12 friends; some got more than 4 (birthday and such) and I made two sizes, small and large), but if you want less, just reduce the number of eggs and sugar proportionally (3 eggs -> 3/4 cup sugar, 2 eggs -> 1/2 cup sugar, etc.).

What you need:

  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
  • a beater
  • two baking sheets
  1. Separate the egg whites into a mixer bowl. You MUST not have a TRACE of egg yolk, or they will not whip right. If you are not confident about your ability to crack eggs safely, crack them into a separate container first and then add them to the bowl. (Unfortunately, I was too lazy and wasted two eggs cracking them straight into the bowl; I got a bit of yolk and had to start over.)
  2. Beat the egg whites until you have soft, stiff peaks (raising the whisk(s) out will make little points that slowly fade instead of slopping like liquid).
  3. Add the sugar 1 tbsp at a time, completely dissolving the sugar in before adding more. Once all the sugar is used, make sure the mixture is smooth and not grainy.
  4. Add the vanilla and mix in.
  5. Line the two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  6. Here you have an option to use spoons to put balls on the sheets, or pipe the meringues on. I chose to put the mixture in quart-size bags and pipe with just a simple infinitesimal corner cut off. If you want to be more fancy, you can do a big star piping tip.
  7. You can really pipe in whatever shape/size you want! I just made traditionally-sized ‘dollop’ things with their little Hershey Kiss-style pointy top. Something else you can do is mix in food coloring to do more than just the regular off-white color. As mentioned, I piped out of quart bags. I had to use two, and I colored each a different color.
  8. Now, with the oven at 225, put the sheets in for around 90 minutes. You are drying the meringues, not baking them. Make sure to give them all the time they need. Simply because I was paranoid, I stayed near the oven the whole time. Once they start showing signs of crack lines, or generally being dried out, you can turn off the oven. Leave them in there for another 15 minutes or so to continue drying and cool a bit. You need to have complete patience here.
  9. Once they’ve been out of the oven for 5 minutes or so, they should come off the parchment paper well.

If your meringues start browning in the oven, that’s your option–whether you would like browned meringues or not. If you don’t want brown meringues, turn the oven off if you’ve fulfilled most of the 90 minutes. Otherwise, I’m not quite sure what to tell you–my meringues did not brown, and neither was I going for browned.

In terms of storage, I decided to go for in plastic bags in the fridge overnight. I think really anything would be alright, as long as they’re protected from moisture. Even if they are, I believe they can be re-dried.

I made my own instruction set by combining previous knowledge and the best advice from approximately four internet recipes and two book recipes. If you would like to make variants or just need general comprehensive meringue advice, this recipe was very elaborate.

These are really fun to make and so enjoyable to eat. They can be very eloquent, or just a fun party dessert. Since I had very little homework that night and had the time budget to spend on this, it was so worth having some myself and giving out smiles to some of my friends as well. Perhaps I’ll do it again soon.

Sidenote: impatient, forgetful me did not take pictures. Hopefully you know what they look like; if you don’t, the internet is always there for you.

Spasmodic Baking: Meringues

Leisure Literature: All the Bright Places

When I can find extra moments, there is always a list of books I want to read. Some I anticipate for months, some for years before I find the time to get to them, and some of them live up to the hype and some don’t. Leisure Literature is a book review column that details my thoughts on my recent readings.

Another book recently topping the charts, All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven was the next story I decided to read recently. The story is centered around two high school seniors, one who is fascinated by death, and another who is trying to repair her emotional state after losing a loved one. The two meet each other for the first time on the top of the school bell tower, neither supposed to be there, both contemplating the jump.

Finch is a charismatic guy who thinks in a very unique way. Any ideas that flow out of his head go onto sticky notes and pasted up on his bedroom wall. Sometimes guitar compositions come out of nowhere. He enjoys thinking about death, but he swears to himself and the reader that he would never actually kill himself. He also flips personalities whenever he wants, changing into different versions of himself. Sometimes that version of him skives off school when he feels like it, with no regard to consequences. One version of him leads him to paint his bedroom walls a different color of his own volition.

Violet starts out far less strong than Finch. She has a cliche storyline that isn’t begun any better than normal; her sister has died and she’s trying to cope with it. As a result, she is very depressed. She has not been in a car since the accident, and she’s stopped writing (something she used to do with her sister and enjoyed very much).

Finch starts to fall for Violet, and she resists his incredibly flirty advances at first because she feels too broken and not repaired enough for someone else. This was also another huge cliche no-no; the guy tries to help repair and comfort her because he fell in love with her, and in the end that’s what pieces her back together. It was done realistically, but it didn’t completely convince me it was a cliche done well.

Although I didn’t relate to either Finch or Violet, their situations were conveyed well enough that I felt like I understood both of them. The one feeling I did share, though, was something Finch details as he starts to like Violet. He knows he’s been trying on all these different versions of Finch all the time, and they’re probably not the real him. But now, he doesn’t know what version of himself is the real version. This especially troubles him as he wonders if Violet likes the real him or just some version he has on that he doesn’t realize isn’t real. I can understand this feeling a lot.

The supporting cast in this book, including the parents, sisters, and school friends, were enjoyable. I appreciated that they were real people taking a normal, realistic role in a real story, rather than just side pieces, additional characters the author wanted to make up, or devices to the main characters’ stories. They had their own stories and those intersected with Finch and Violet’s stories the way they just happened to.

On the twist ending that I will not spoil: I personally did not see it coming, and I enjoyed that, because you hear the story from Finch’s head, his perception, and how he thinks about things, rather than a more objective outside reading on the situation. It really made me sympathize with Finch rather than expect any ending coming. I was rather oblivious to it, but perhaps that is just because of where I come from and what I am personally unfamiliar with.

On the flip side, because the author was cleverly hiding the ending from me the whole time, the middle went swimming and sagged a little bit. Since there wasn’t any apparent resolution or point to the events going on in the story in the middle, it became a little bit uninteresting. At one point it was very hard to continue on reading; I really had no idea there was going to be a resolving ending.

Other things: shoutout to bookmobiles, and the ending was eerily reminiscent of Paper Towns. I could call it out for copying, but it’s not copying; I guess I was just disappointed to read super similar plot points in different books.

Something super cool that I found–Violet and Eleanor’s website as described in the book was actually created to simulate it having actually happened and being “real”. Here it is. The posts stop just as abruptly as they were stopped in the story.

This book has a film adaptation coming out in 2017 starring Elle Fanning. Other than the director, further information has not been released. Niven will be writing the script, but otherwise we don’t know much about it yet. Perhaps this is just my muckraking paragraph since I really don’t believe in movies after books.

Leisure Literature: All the Bright Places