The first of my 3 meringue recipes is the easiest to make. It’s also very versatile and can be used for ‘hard’ meringues such as meringue nests or Eton Mess, ‘chewy’ meringue dishes such as pavlova or as a soft pie topping for the likes of a lemon meringue pie – there are some tweaks but the only major difference is the cooking temperatures & times.
French Meringue is ALWAYS baked and in some cases the goal is not so much as to cook the meringue, but to dry it out.
French meringue is also the least stable of the 3 types and to that end you’ll find a number of things that can be added to increase the amount of air it can hold (or reduce the likelihood of air being lost), or to prevent ‘weeping’, where beads of caramel seep from the surface.
Adding an acid to the egg whites increases the strength of the proteins, making it harder to knock the air out or over-beat and ensuring the meringue retains a maximum volume. Common additives include cream of tartar or white wine vinegar, both of which can add a noticeable metallic taste. I only add an acid when making hard meringues, and personally I choose to add a teaspoon of lemon juice
Cornflour is also often added (NB: Cream of Tartar is a mix of cornflour & tartaric acid, so serves 2 purposes). The cornflour acts as a stabiliser, preventing the meringue mixture from collapsing and also soaking up any additional moisture, limiting the amount of weeping. This also helps make the meringue chewy. I find it a useful addition to soft meringues but counterproductive in harder versions
These additives are entirely optional. Dependant upon what you intend to use the meringue for, I’d suggest you add either the cornflour OR the lemon juice
I choose to use a golden castor sugar – this adds a subtle caramel flavour and warm ivory colouring. If you want pure white meringues you’ll need to use white castor sugar
TIP: Always ensure your egg whites are at room temperature to achieve the best possible volume when whipping
TIP: Don;t add all of the sugar in one go – you’ll knock all of the air out!
TIP: Always use a glass or metal bowl to whip your eggs in and whip out first with a splash of lemon juice. Any trace of fat will ruin your meringues!
TIP: Use an electric mixer – I know it creates a lot of washing up but you’ll thank me later…
- 4 Egg Whites
- 200g Castor Sugar
- 2 tsp Cornflour OR 1 tsp Lemon Juice (optional)
- Clean a mixing bowl out with a splash of lemon juice
- Add the egg whites (and lemon juice, if using) and whisk until soft peaks have formed
- Mix together the sugar and cornflour, and whisk into the eggs, a spoonful at a time
- Mix until stiff and glossy and all of the sugar has dissolved – the meringue will not fall from the whisk when removed from the bowl
- The raw meringue is ready to use – Pipe or spoon into baking sheets or top a pie. Bake in the oven as instructed
Typical Cooking times & temperatures:
Soft: Lemon Meringue Pie topping – Bake for 15-20 minutes at 150oC Fan until golden
Chewy: Pavlova – Bake at 130oC Fan for 1 hour, allow to cool in the oven with the door ajar
Hard: Meringue Nests – Preheat to 180oC Fan but bake at 100oC Fan for around 1hr 45mins or as low as possible (60oC Fan) overnight with the door wedged slightly ajar