So, I could have gone with a sensationalist title for this post . “This 2 Ingredient No Fat Recipe Will Change You Life” or “I made these in ten minutes with just 2 ingredients. You won’t believe how easy it is till you try it”. They may or may not be true. What is true is that meringues only have two ingredients and they are not hard to bake if you pay attention to a few little rules.
I was brought up whisking egg whites. With a whole family of chefs, cooks and caterers, there was always a chance to earn a fiver here or there by giving up a Saturday of my childhood to be a skivvy. Whether we were making homemade ice cream, meringues, chocolate mousse, pavlova or a souffle, there was always some reason for me to separate eggs and whisk whites to stiff peaks.
All those Saturdays, I did as instructed, quantities given to me over the whirring of a Kenwood Chef or a handheld mixer. Ounces of sugar, number of egg whites. The methods stuck in my mind, the quantities didn’t and I never much cared for meringues. Pavlova yes – a different thing altogether, a 4 ingredient recipe. A good Pavlova is a work of art. A meringue anyone can make. As long as you know the quantities. And follow the rules.
Recently though, I had an urge to bake meringues. So I did and they were excellent because I followed the rules. So I made them again. And again. And those rules are:
Use perfectly clean utensils (small bowl, mixing bowl, whisk)
Make sure the sugar has completely dissolved before piping and baking the meringues.
Do not open the oven during baking.
Let the meringues cool fully before serving.
See, easy. Attention to detail and a bit of patience will get you there first time.
The quantities I grew up using are
4 egg whites
8 ounces of caster sugar (227 g)
Preheat the oven to 100°C.
To make the meringues, separate the eggs very carefully, making sure not to let any egg yolk into the egg whites. Beat the egg whites until stiff. Then begin adding in the sugar, about a tablespoonful at a time, beating well between additions. Repeat until all the sugar has been beaten in. The mixture should be very smooth and glossy. To test if all the sugar has been incorporated properly, take a small amount of mixture onto your index finger and rub it between your finger and thumb. If you can feel sugar crystals, keep beating.
Line two baking trays with baking parchment. Fill the meringue mixture into a piping bag or a plastic freezer bag with the corner snipped off (that’s what I use) then pipe approx. sixty mini meringues onto the baking trays. Meringue doesn’t expand during baking, so you can place the meringues quite close together.
Bake immediately for two hours, keeping the oven door closed the whole time. After two hours remove the meringues from the oven and cool on a wire tray until fully cold. Meringues can be stored for weeks in an airtight container. That never happens in our house. Whipped cream and berries and meringues are placed on the table and after much mmm-ing and licking of fingers empty plates remain.