Learn how to make meringue with the easiest meringue making method, French meringue. French meringue is made with only two ingredients and can be made without cream of tartar. This style of meringue is delicate, light and tender.
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.
What is Meringue?
The most basic definition of meringue is egg whites beaten into a foam 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 granulated or superfine sugar. It is the simplest preparation of all the methods and is the only form that is uncooked. This means it is also the most unstable.
French meringue is best used for folding into cake batters such as in angel food cake, used to make French macarons, or baked on its own into small preparations like meringue cookies or kisses. It can be used as a topping for a pie, but because it is the least stable I much prefer Italian meringue because it won’t weep as much on the pie.
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 more crisp is not as tender and melt-in-your-mouth.
If you do decide to use this preparation fir topping a pie you will want to use a higher ratio of sugar, usually 1:2 egg whites to sugar by weight, to create more stability 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 (*optional)
If you do not have access to superfine sugar, or castor sugar, it is best to make your own before utilizing this method. In a food processor process the sugar until it is very fine. This takes about 2 minutes.
This step is not absolutely necessary, but will help prevent any grittiness in your meringue.
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.
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 the Egg Whites
Make sure that the bowl you are using is clean and free from oil and place 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: Very Slowly Add the Sugar
Once your whites have reached soft peaks, continue mixing on medium speed while adding the sugar in slowly. I add about 1 tablespoon at a time and wait about 15 seconds before the next addition. Not rushing this process is really key to making the mixture stable.
Step 6: Whip 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. See the picture below for how the peaks should look.
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! This is much more difficult to do with the higher ratio of sugar, but it is a little easier to go to far if you are using the 1:1 sugar ratio. The below picture is showing what broken meringue looks like.
Tips for Success
- 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 Simple Meringue?
- 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 1/4 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, but helps stabilize)
- 1 1/3 cups - 2 2/3 cups granulated sugar (270 grams -540 grams)
Note regarding sugar quantity: The smaller amount of sugar will create a less stable meringue but one that is more melt-in-your mouth and tender after being baked. The higher quantity of sugar will create a much more stable meringue but one that is more crisp when baked. If utilizing this for a pie topping, opt for the higher quantity so it is less prone to weeping as quickly.
- Place the sugar in a food processor and process for about 2 minutes until very fine. This is optional but will make a more stable meringue. If you have access to superfine sugar or castor sugar, that can be used instead.
- Separate your egg whites from the yolks and allow the whites to come to room temperature for at least 15 minutes. The yolks can be saved to make lemon curd or pastry cream.
- 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 1 TBSP at a time, while continuing to whip on medium speed. Wait about 15 seconds between each addition. Not rushing this process will make sure your mixture is stable.
- Once all of the sugar has been added and the whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks, stop beating.
- Use immediately for meringue cookies, macarons, to fold into a cake, or to top a pie.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 0