Monday, September 29, 2008

Recipe: Petite Meringues

One of the best cookies my mother would make at Christmastime were meringue cookies. I vividly remember her dropping dollops of whipped goodness on a baking sheet and walking away. Most often the cookies would have chocolate chips in them. Now, this recipe (which comes from Chocolate and Zucchini and is accompanied there by a long explanation of meringues) is not one to necessarily try if it is really hot out. With fall upon us and winter approaching (and Christmas cookie season), file it away. Anyone who makes me meringue cookies is alright in my book.

French Meringues
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature (see note 1)
  • 175 grams (3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) sugar (see note 2)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or other flavoring
Preheat the oven to 140°C (285°F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the egg whites in a large, clean bowl (i.e. dry and with absolutely no trace of fat). Using an electric whisk or the whisk attachment of your stand mixer, whisk until soft peaks form (see note 3).

Keep whisking continuously as you add in the sugar, one tablespoon at a time: wait until each tablespoon is fully incorporated before you add the next. Once all the sugar is incorporated and the mixture is smooth and firm and glossy gorgeous, whisk in the vanilla until incorporated.

Using two tablespoons, form pingpong- to golf-ball-sized blobs of meringue and drop them on the prepared baking sheet, giving them some space (roughly their own width) to expand. (You can use a piping bag, but I prefer free-form meringues. At this point, you could also sprinkle the meringues with sliced almonds.)

Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 45 minutes for soft centers, 1 hour for fully baked centers. If you prefer soft (as I do), remove the baking sheet from the oven, let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer the meringues delicately to a rack to cool. If you prefer fully baked, turn the oven off, open the oven door just a crack, and let the meringues cool inside for a couple of hours.

The same recipe can be used for larger meringues or even a single large disk for a pavlova; adjust the baking time accordingly.

Note 1: I had only 2 egg whites, so I scaled the recipe by two thirds. Frozen and thawed egg whites work fine. It's best if the eggs are more than just a few days old.

Note 2: I used unrefined light brown cane sugar, in which an empty vanilla pod had been steeping for months, so I skipped the vanilla extract.

Note 3: Start on low speed until you can see bubbles at the surface, then switch to medium speed for a minute, and then whisk at full speed until the soft peak stage. "Soft peaks" mean that when you lift the whisk from the egg whites, they form a fluffy peak that doesn't collapse.


Eryl Shields said...

I love meringues especially when they are chewy in the middle. Have you tried making them with maple sugar, delicious, and they look such an elegant buff colour?

Brave Astronaut said...

Eryl - now that sounds like something worth trying. My mother once experimented with coffee meringues, those were tasty.