You've probably eaten crisp meringue cookies, and you've certainly indulged in a slice of lemon meringue pie or various mousses. Have you ever thought about what meringue is? There are actually three different types of meringue styles, including French, Swiss, and Italian meringue, which each serve their own purpose in the dessert world.
Meringue is the queen of versatility and can be used in a variety of desserts. In its simplest form it is sugar whipped with large egg whites until foamy. The air whipped in to the egg whites gives the meringue its fluffy look. In some recipes a stabilizer, like lemon juice or cream of tartar is added. When made, meringue pairs great with everything from lemon curd to chocolate, making it a great dessert building block.
Join us as we take a closer look at these three unique meringue styles.
????What is French Meringue?
The most classic version is French Meringue. It's often referred to as ordinary, because of its simplicity. Egg whites are whipped at medium speed until soft peaks form. At this point, they barely hold their shape. The sugar is incorporated and the whites are then beaten until they form into stiff peaks. You may find French meringue folded into soufflé, but it will most commonly be baked. A popular French meringue dessert is a pavlova, which is a baked meringue with a marshmallow center and crispy edges. It's often topped with a teaspoon cream or whipped cream, and fruit.
What is Swiss Meringue?
Swiss meringue needs to be cooked on medium heat to form its shape. According to Cuisine at Home, "Egg whites and sugar are (continually) whisked together and heated over a double-boiler until the sugar dissolves, the mixture starts to thicken, and it reaches about 130° on a candy thermometer." It is then removed from the heat and whisked until peaks form. Swiss meringue is denser than French, and is commonly used as the base for buttercream frosting. Make sure to watch your mixer speed if you make this unique meringue.
Swiss meringue buttercream is a great option for cupcakes if you want something less sweet than American style icing. It's recommended to add flavorings like vanilla extract and salt to this buttercream. Another famous dessert using Swiss meringue is a baked Alaska. This impressive dessert has an ice cream cake base which is topped with meringue and baked. The end result is a cracking warm meringue, with gooey cake and cold ice cream.
????Use Italian Meringue to Make Italian Meringue Buttercream
Italian meringue is often touted as the most challenging to make because of timing all the components to be ready at once. This makes prep time extremely important when preparing this treat. This meringue is also the easiest to make with a stand mixer, and can be quite a pain without one.
The most popular way to use Italian Meringue is for buttercream. It can seem intimidating, but it's worth a try for a delicious, smooth, and silky frosting. Italian meringue buttercream is similar to Swiss because it is also cooked.
To start, you'll need to combine sugar and 1 cup water to create simple syrup. You first need to cook this to the softball stage, when the sugar syrup reaches 238-240 degrees on your candy thermometer. Boil the hot sugar syrup for about 5 minutes to ensure the sugar crystals have dissolved. This is important so the sugar doesn't turn grainy.
Using the whisk attachment with your mixer running on low speed, you'll drizzle the syrup into the egg whites. Try to get the syrup between the whisk and the side of the bowl to prevent splattering. Once combined, you'll whip on high speed to achieve stiff peaks.
After the meringue is cooled, add the butter, salt, and vanilla, whipping until light and fluffy. If you're not going to eat right away, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Check out Sugar Geek Show's full Italian meringue recipe
You want to make sure your egg whites and butter are at room temperature, so they are easier to whip air into.
Before starting, make sure to wipe down your mixing bowl and beaters. You don't want any oil sticking that could hinder the meringue from whipping up well.
If you can get it, use superfine in place of granulated sugar for a smoother texture.