Learn how to make meringue with the easiest meringue making method, French meringue. French meringue is made with only two ingredients and is made without cream of tartar. This style of meringue is delicate, light and tender. Pin it for Later »
French Meringue Overview
- Skill Level: Beginner
- Techniques Used: Whipping egg whites to stiff peaks
French meringue is the simplest form of all the meringue techniques. It is made simply by beating egg whites with sugar and does not absolutely require cream or tartar or another acidic ingredient.
French meringue, also sometimes referred to as simple meringue, is used frequently for folding into cake batters like chiffon cake and angel food cake to create an incredibly light texture. It can also be piped into various shapes for cookies or dessert shells.
Because simple meringue is the least stable of all of the types of meringues, it should be used immediately. If not folded into a batter or baked soon after making, the egg whites can start to separate from the sugar.
What is Meringue?
The most basic definition of meringue is egg whites beaten with sugar to stiff peaks. There are 3 types of meringue- French Meringue, Swiss Meringue, and Italian Meringue. Each type of meringue has its own method and best uses.
Meringue, or a sweetened egg white foam, is used in so many different baking and pastry components. Meringue can be folded into cake batters to lighten them. Meringue can be used as a topping for a pie or tart. Meringue can also be used all on its own as a delicate cookie or an impressive pavlova.
French Meringue Basics
In its most simple form, french meringue is made with only egg whites and super fine sugar. It is the simplest preparation of all the meringues and can be used as topping on pies, baked for meringue cookies, folded into sponge cake batters, or if you are feeling particularly skilled, use it to make french macarons.
The ratios of sugar to egg whites varies depending on how the meringue will be used. The lowest sugar ratio used is typically a 1:1 ratio of egg white to sugar by weight. The higher the ratio of sugar the more stable the meringue will be however it will taste much more sweet and if baked the texture is not as tender and melt-in-your-mouth.
If the meringue is being used as topping for pie you will want a more stable meringue where as if it is being baked for cookies less sugar can be used because the baking will set the meringue.
How to Make Meringue (the French Method)
Step 1: Make Superfine Sugar
In a food processor (or I use my Ninja blender), process the sugar until it is very fine. This takes about 2 minutes. You can buy superfine sugar if you can find it, but I think that’s kind of silly when it can so easily be made with what you have on hand.
Superfine sugar will dissolve more quickly into the whipped egg whites and leave you with a meringue that is not gritty.
Step 2: Measure your Ingredients
Depending on your final use for this meringue it may or may not be important to actually weigh your ingredients very accurately.
If you are using your meringue as a topping on a pie then the exact ratios for your meringue aren’t really as important as if you were going to fold it into a cake batter or for macarons.
Baking Science Fun Fact!: It is also very important here that you take extra care not to get any yolk in your egg whites. Egg whites are made up of about 90% water and 10% protein. When you whip egg whites the proteins unravel and create a sort of protein net that traps the air and stabilizes the foam.
If fat is present the bits of the protein that are attracted to fats (also known as hydrophobic) will associate themselves with those fats and will not be available to create the “net” to trap the air.
Step 3: Bring the Egg Whites to Room Temperature
Egg whites will whip to their highest and most stable peaks when they are at room temperature or slightly warm, so it is important to give them time. If you are in a rush, you can put un-cracked eggs in a bowl of warm water for about 5 minutes to take the chill off.
I have also used packaged liquid egg whites to make this foam and they also worked, however because they are pasteurized, I had to beat for much much longer.
Step 4: Begin by Whipping Only the Egg Whites
Make sure that the bowl you are using is clean and free from oil and place just the egg whites in the bowl. You want to begin by whipping on a low speed which will allow the proteins to unravel and begin forming their network to trap the air bubbles.
It is optional, but a pinch of cream of tartar or a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar are often added here. These acidic ingredients, though not absolutely necessary, will lower the ph and in turn strengthen the proteins and create a more stable meringue.
Step 5: Slowly Add the Superfine Sugar
Once your whites have reached soft peaks, continue mixing on low speed while adding the sugar in slowly. I add about 1 tablespoon at a time.
Step 6: Beat the Egg Whites to Stiff Peaks
Watch the egg whites carefully and stop beating once you reach stiff peaks. The whites will look glossy and the whites should stand up straight with just a slight bend on the end. That second picture at the top of the post is a good example of stiff peaks.
And see this picture below how it looks glossy? If you take the whites too far the gloss will go away and they will start to break down, look dry, and begin separating. If you go this far you need to stop and start over!
Tips for Making Meringue
- If you will be using this French meringue in something that will not be baked, like chocolate mousse, make sure you use pasteurized egg whites.
- If you will be folding your egg white foam into a cake batter it isn’t absolutely necessary to make the super fine sugar. However, your meringue will be much more stable for other uses if you do so.
- Egg whites should be at room temperature when whipping them for meringue.
What Can you Make with Meringue?
- Use meringue as a topping for french silk pie or coconut cream pie.
- Make a cake that uses meringue in the batter such as angel food cake or chiffon cake.
- Make a pavlova by baking meringue into delicate shells.
- Make a light and airy chocolate mousse!
- 1 1/3 cups sugar (270 grams)
- 1 1/4 cups egg whites (from about 9 large eggs, 270 grams)
- pinch of cream of tartar OR a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar (optional)
- Place the sugar in a food processor and process for about 2 minutes until very fine.
- Separate your egg whites from the yolks and allow them to come to room temperature. This usually takes about 30 minutes, however if you are in a rush you can put your uncracked eggs in a bowl of warm water for about 5 minutes to take the chill off.
- In a very clean large bowl, begin whipping your egg whites on low speed until frothy and soft peaks begin to form. If using, you can add a pinch of cream of tartar or a small amount of lemon juice or vinegar at this point.
- Slowly add in your superfine sugar, about 2 TBSP at a time, while continuing to whip on low speed.
- Once all of the sugar has been added and the whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks, stop beating.
- Use immediately.