Featherlight and spotless white, there is something about meringue that makes us think of Heaven, angels, magnificently dressed noble ladies enjoying a beautifully prepared High Tea served on the finest china and a grand silver service.
Such is meringue’s nobility that we are not surprised in the least to hear that it was a favorite with Queen Marie Antoinette.
In keeping with its heavenly air, the origins of meringue are somewhat obscure. By 1720 however, it is said to have been used by a chef named Gasparini, in the Swiss town of Meiringen, in the canton of Bern, Switzerland. Next we hear of meringue being served to Stanislaus I, king of Poland, during his years of exile in France. His daughter, Marie Leszczyńska, was Queen of France, the wife of Louis XV and, it is said that she is the one who introduced Marie Antoinette (her granddaughter-in-law) to meringue.
Meringue could well be a symbol of Marie Antoinette. They share so many characteristics, they seem almost connatural: Grace, charm, purity, aristocracy, sublimity, and nobility.
Most certainly, meringue has nothing in common with the vulgar, revolted, impure and brutal tones we see in the many punk, Gothic, hippie, and counter-cultural women one runs across today.
Meringues are used for Lemon Meringue Pie, Forgotten Cookies, Meringue Mushrooms to be used on your Bûche de Noël, or Meringues with whipped cream. This is just one of many recipes that you can try.
Lemon Meringue Pie
- 1½ cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ cup of cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup lemon juice (from about 2 lemons or bottled lemon juice)
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest (from about 2 lemons)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 6 egg yolks, beaten
- 4 egg whites
- ¼ tsp cream of tartar
- ½ cup sugar
- A few drops lemon juice
- 1 pie crust, prebaked
- Bake at 425° F until light golden brown (about 15 – 18 minutes). Set aside.
- In a saucepan whisk together water, sugar, cornstarch, salt, lemon juice and lemon zest. Make sure any cornstarch lumps are stirred until they dissolve.
- Cook over medium heat until mixture starts to boil. Stir constantly.
- Add butter, stir until melted.
- Beat egg yolks in a small bowl. Add about ½ cup (120g) of hot lemon mixture into eggs and stir well. This tempers the egg yolks so they won’t scramble when added to the simmering lemon mixture.
- Pour tempered egg mixture into pan of simmering lemon mixture. Stir until well mixed.
- Continue simmering lemon filling about 2 minutes until it thickens, stirring constantly.
- Pour into cooked pie shell and allow to cool while preparing meringue.
- Place 4 egg whites in mixer and beat at high speed until they start to foam.
- Add cream of tartar to egg whites then, while continuing to beat, slowly adding sugar.
- Continue to beat meringue until stiff peaks form when beaters are raised from bowl. Don’t overbeat.
- Spread meringue over pie, completely sealing in the lemon pie filling.
- To form peaks in meringue, using a rubber spatula, touch flat side of spatula on meringue and pull away. Repeat over entire surface of meringue.
- Place pie in 350°F (180°C) oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until meringue is lightly browned.
- Serve at room temperature or chilled.
Warnings and Tips
- The pie filling is quite hot when pouring it into pie shell.
- Keep pie refrigerated.
- The tiniest bit of egg yolk or fat prevents the egg white to get stiff.
- Meringues are more decorative if shaped with a pastry bag.
- Another method of baking is, to preheat the oven and bake the meringues 2-3 minutes at moderately hot temperature, then turn down the oven completely and keep it shut for 8 hours.
- Meringues do not turn out very well, if the air is very humid (due to climate or due to steam from other cooking)
If you are having trouble getting that meringue to peak just right, click here for some tips on making the perfect meringue: http://whatscookingamerica.net/Eggs/perfectmeringue.htm
The above recipe is from: Our Founding Foods, by Jane Tennant
To make the mushrooms—
Place a round tip into a pastry bag, and fill the bag half way with the meringue. To pipe the mushroom caps, squeeze out round mounds of meringue onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Pull the bag off to the side to avoid making peaks on the top. For the stems, press out a tiny bit of meringue onto the other sheet, then pull the bag straight up. They should resemble candy kisses. Do not worry about making all of the pieces exactly the same. The mushrooms will look more natural if the pieces are different sizes. Dust the mushroom caps lightly with cocoa using a small sifter or strainer.
Put them in the oven for at least a couple of hours on the lowest heat setting. You want to dry them out without browning them at all. Leave them in the oven until they are crisp and dried all the way through – Bake at 200º to 225ºF for 1 to 3 hours depending on the size. If you have a gas oven, just let them dry out overnight with only the heat from the pilot light.
To assemble the cap and stems, melt some chocolate (either white or milk, depending on if you want the caps to have a black or white gill). Poke a small hole in the bottom of a mushroom cap. Spread chocolate over the bottom of the cap. Dip the tip of a stem in chocolate, and press lightly into the hole. When the chocolate sets, they will hold together. Repeat with remaining pieces. Store at room temperature in a dry place or tin.
Baiser (Meringue Kiss)
- 4 eggs whites
- 1 cup superfine sugar, powdered sugar or granulated sugar. Ideal is a mixture of 50% superfine and 50% powdered sugar.
- 2 teaspoons of lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract, if desired
- Beat whites of eggs until stiff and dry.
- Add lemon juice
- Gradually add sugar and continue beating until mixture holds shape and is very shiny. Test if the sugar is wholly dissolved and no grains remain (this can take longer or shorter depending on the sugar used).
- Add vanilla.
- Drop by spoonfuls on unglazed (parchment) paper
- Bake in slow oven 80 to 90 minutes, depending on size of meringues. Use very low heat, meringues should rather dry than bake and should be dry and only very slightly colored, when finished.
- Let cool, before serving. You can serve as is or put two meringues (per serving) filled with sweetened whipped cream. Add strawberries or other fresh fruits or serve with vanilla ice cream.
Recipe taken from wikibooks.