Meringues | Learn
Meringues are a French cookie created by whipping egg whites and sugar (plus a handful of other ingredients) into glossy, stiff peaks. The finished cookie batter has a consistency similar to whipped cream, so it gets piped onto a cookie sheet in kiss shaped swirls. Unlike traditional cookies, meringues aren’t carby and chewy but rather light and almost powdery when you bite into them. But meringues can be annoyingly temperamental, which makes them a poor recipe selection for people new to baking. Additionally, due to the egg whites in the batter, meringues need to bake at a low temperature for a long time. This allows the cookies to cook gradually, instead of being flashfried at 400 degrees like a traditional cookie.
Difficulty Level: Difficult
What you need to know:
Meringues are an easy way to satisfy your sweet tooth, without racking up the calorie count that you’d get from a normal cookie. And because there’s absolutely no fat in the cookie, they’re super light and not greasy in the least. In fact, this lack-of-fat is actually vital to the success of the cookie. It’s important that there’s no fat (when I say fat, think oil or butter) present when you’re making your meringues or the fat will actually prevent the proteins in the egg whites from whipping correctly.
This is true even when separating your eggs. It’s actually imperative that no fatty egg yolks end up in your egg whites! And this “fat avoidance” extends to include your mixer beaters and mixing bowl too. For this reason, I’d recommend you not use a plastic bowl, as plastic can develop a thin layer of oil on it. This isn’t a bad thing, per se. It happens normally over time, from regular kitchen use. But while harmless to most dishes, this layer of oil is a deal breaker for the delicate meringue. And unfortunately, the solution isn’t as easy as soap and water- this oily film is almost impossible to remove. So instead, I’d suggest you use a metal, glass, or ceramic bowl to whip your cookies in.
Now it’s also important to add your sugar slowly to the batter, or it will take forever for your batter to come together. (And “forever” is a long time, when we’re talking about a cookie that already expects up to 10 minutes of beating.) However, if you’re looking for an extra pretty meringue, the secret is to substitute superfine sugar for regular granular sugar. And speaking of superfine sugar, I’ve got good news. You can actually make your own! It’s as easy as blending regular, old granulated sugar in a blender or food processor until the texture is fine and powdery. It’s basically an in between sugar- it’s halfway between confectioners’ sugar and granular sugar. And while the process does take some time, it’s definitely a good trick to have up your sleeve.
Simply put, the easiest way to flavor your meringue batter is to add a dash of vanilla. But you can easily substitute said vanilla extract with any type of extract- orange, maple syrup, lemon… the list is endless. However, if that isn’t exciting enough for you, try adding mini chocolate chips or a splash of maraschino cherry juice to the meringue batter. Or even still, you could make a filled meringue. Simply pipe a circle of meringue onto your cookie sheet as a base, set a chocolate kiss on top of it, and pipe around the kiss until it’s completely hidden. When it comes to meringues, they’re a very versatile cookie.
Now, be aware that humidity will affect you cookies. So if you live in a hot, humid climate, cornstarch can be a useful ingredient to add to your meringue batter. Cornstarch will soak up any extra liquid inside of your cookie and prevents post-baking issues like sweating or puddles forming underneath your cookies. Yet another important ingredient in meringues is cream of tartar. This is the acid that stabilizes the whipped egg whites so that they hold their shape. However, cream of tartar can easily be substituted with other acids, like lemon juice or vinegar.
When it comes to cook time, the humidity will also affect how quickly or slowly your cookies bake. If your meringues are still soft or sticky by the end of your cook time, try baking it longer. I’ve found that the easiest way to test them is to simply pull one out of the oven and see what you think. A finished meringue is dry and creates a lot of powdery crumbs when bitten. Additionally, once you’ve put your cookies in the oven, it’s important that you leave them there! Resist the urge to open the oven door and check on them until your timer goes off. These cookies need a low, consistent heat or else they won’t cook properly.
Once your meringues come out of the oven, let them cool on a wire rack until room temperature. But as soon as they’re cool, you need to promptly put them in an airtight container. Sadly, I learned this particular advice the hard way. I left my meringues on the countertop for several hours thinking nothing of it. Then, when I went to put them away, they were sticky! It was as if they’d absorbed moisture from the air like little cookie sponges. Suffice it to say, I was insanely disappointed. So the lesson is this: proper food storage is a must, especially with these humidity sensitive cookies.
Feel ready to try your hand with a meringue of your own? You’ve got this! Now go grab your stand mixer (or electric mixer) and try making these sweet, sweet Chocolate Chip Meringue Cookies for yourself. This recipe is bursting with mini chocolate chips and are light, powdery and utterly delightful. And while they take a long time to bake, once they come out of the oven, they’re an absolute delicacy. Now hurry up and go discover the full potential of your egg whites!