Meringues sometimes seem a bit daunting, but with a couple of tips you can whip out a batch of melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness that are puffy clouds of perfection. I always make these after baking cookies it seems. I just cannot bring myself to waste the egg whites when some other recipe has only used the yolks. Poor little whites – getting left out of delicious cookies. Besides, mother’s day is just around the corner and my Celiac sister (I know, that’s a horrible name to give her…she’s so much more than that. It’s just an easy distinction since only one of my three sisters lives gluten-free.) will be here for momma’s day lunch. She probably won’t be able to eat whatever the guys cook up as a dessert (yes, the guys are in charge on Mother’s Day). So I’ll just keep some of these in a baggie for her until Sunday.
Rule number 1: Don’t open the oven! Just trust that they are cooking properly for the first half of the baking time. I know, it’s tempting to take a quick peek. But all you’ll get yourself is cracked meringues.
Rule number 2: Low and slow baby. Oven temperature is key in making meringues. Too high, and the outside will cook faster than the innards causing cracked brown exterior and still chewy insides. Keep it at 200°.
Rule number 3: Sugar is fine but fine sugar is better. Superfine sugar makes the best meringues as it dissolves quickly and easily into the beaten egg whites. To make your own, take granulated white sugar and process in your food processor until very fine. Do not buy the stuff from the store if you can help it. Superfine sugar sales is a racket. It’s like three times the price!
3 large egg whites (3 ounces or 90 grams)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup (150 grams) superfine or caster sugar (take granulated white sugar and process it for about 30-60 seconds in a food processor)
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 200 degrees F (95 degrees C) and place the rack in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. You can form the cookies with a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) plain tip, or a ziploc bag with the corner snipped.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on low-medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat the whites until they hold soft peaks. Add the sugar, a little at a time, and continue to beat, on medium-high speed, until the meringue holds very stiff peaks. Beat in the vanilla extract.
Note: The meringue is done when it holds stiff peaks and when you rub a little between your thumb and index finger it does not feel gritty. If it feels gritty the sugar has not fully dissolved so keep beating until it feels smooth between your fingers.
Pipe dollups of meringue in rows on the prepared baking sheet. Alternatively, spoon mounds of meringue, using two spoons, onto the prepared sheets.
Bake the meringues for approximately 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours, rotating the baking sheet from front to back (about half way through) to ensure even baking. The meringues are done when they are pale in color and fairly crisp. (The meringues will release easily from the parchment paper.) Turn off the oven, open the door a crack, and leave the meringues in the oven to finish drying several hours or overnight. The meringues can be covered and stored at room temperature for several days.