Meringues: not so challenging?

Whenever I have a go at something I consider challenging or difficult (like making meringues or booking travel online) I always assume that everyone else has it made.  They breeze through all the challenging stuff with ease and it’s just me who messes up or gets someone else to book the flights.  And so, I consider meringues to be technically challenging due to the long list of things that could potentially go wrong but I’m left thinking ‘Are they really that hard to make?’, ‘Or is it just me?’.  I’m still not sure of the answers.  A major factor affecting success in the kitchen is judgement which you don’t get from a recipe.  This comes from experience.  Considering this is the first time I’ve made meringues the experience upon which my judgement is based is very limited.  You see where I’m going with this? 

The Husband has been wanting me to make meringues for a while and I admit I’ve been building up to it for at least 6 months.  He makes some flavour suggestions but I consider these with trepidation on account of the ‘canned fruit smoothie’ fiasco – Bleurk.  Mind you I’m not entirely innocent on this front either.  Avocado and chocolate anyone? Err, no thanks, I’ll pass.

The flavour combinations are endless – cinnamon and hazelnut, pistachio and rosewater, chocolate, coconut, coffee (the Meringue Girls provide a good long list).  I choose raspberry and pistachio for mine.  I love the contrast between the red and green.  The raspberry (I used freeze dried whizzed up to a powder) was supposed to be swirled through the meringue but the problem is I like to stir. So, needless to say there were no swirls.

After a brief search through the books I found 5 recipes which, despite all following the same basic method, had their own take on things.  These included:

  • Warm the sugar in a high oven to start – this is supposed to stabilise the meringue.
  • Weigh the egg whites and then use double the quantity of sugar – not all eggs are equal!
  • Some add salt. Some don’t add salt.
  • Some whisked the sugar into the eggs.  Some folded. Some did both.
  • Different oven temperatures from 100°C to 140°C.

I think part of my problem was I mashed a couple of recipes together.  For this reason I’m reluctant to provide the recipe because mine didn’t turn out quite how I wanted.  I also had some undissolved sugar in the meringue (which is a major no-no) when I put them in the oven (but I’d been whisking for over 10 mins!).  It was a combination of impatience and fear that was my downfall.  The undissolved sugar seeped out and the meringues developed unslightly Grand Canyon proportion cracks which may have been due to a too high oven temperature (See McGee on Food and Cooking for an excellent food science lesson).  They tasted alright. Actually they tasted better than alright.  They tasted amazing.

I was curious to find out how the meringues would fare over time as they’re supposed to keep well for two weeks in an airtight container.  I thought they might go soft but sure enough they are still crisp on the outside and soft in the middle and just right for breakfast the next day.

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