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
- 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.)
- 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).
- 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.
- Add the vanilla and mix in.
- Line the two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.