Meringue – what could be simpler? Just beaten egg whites with sugar added. This makes a fairly stiff mixture which can then be cooked in a cool oven to create those lovely, light confections.
But in the world of professional patisserie, meringue comes in three different kinds. Even if the principle is the same (egg whites + sugar), the results are quite distinct and lend themselves to different uses.
This is the simplest
, the easiest to make, your basic meringue. The egg whites are beaten until stiff, then caster sugar (50 g per egg white) is folded in. It's not difficult, you can let children help (they love it) and this makes very light, fluffy meringues.
The method for this is a bit different: the egg whites and caster sugar are mixed together at the start
, then heated to 50°C over a bain marie before beating. This makes rather denser meringues, the sort often used to make decorative items (mushrooms, etc.) to add a finishing touch to desserts and cakes (Christmas logs, for example). If you buy meringues from a French baker, they are generally the Swiss type.
is the most complicated: the egg whites are beaten as usual, but the sugar is cooked to the hard-ball stage (120°C) before being added to the egg whites. This makes a very smooth meringue, often used as the base for other recipes, such as nougat glacé
(frozen nougat) or a pear and lime meringue pie
To sum up
As you can see, it's all a matter of temperature (well, almost), as the basic mix of egg whites and sugar is the same. Do remember, though, that even if a particular meringue is better suited to certain recipes, in practice, you can choose whichever type suits you.
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