It is amazing where life can bring you. All started with syrups and their use in confectionary. I then moved to the recipe of Italian meringues, a classical of pastry where the employment of syrup is mandatory. And finally, today, I am about to talk about the different types of meringues, because, well…it was just about time!
To be honest, I am not a huge fan of meringues. I never found them sensational and I prefer them as part of a preparation (e.g. tarte citrone meringuee), rather than tout court. However, they are part of the pastry’s abc and therefore can’t be ignored. Already last year, I wrote a generic post about meringues. But, today, we will see the three types of meringues in details. Follow me, please :)
Types of meringues
The French meringue
It doesn’t require any warm ingredient. The egg whites are partially whipped to then add the sugar and complete the whipping. This meringue is probably the easiest to make and is a good staring point for those who want to try this type of preparation. After baking, these meringues look opaque and crunchy.
The Italian meringue
It is prepared by partially whipping egg whites and then adding syrup at 120C. This method allows pasteurizing the egg whites. Furthermore, the final product is denser than the French meringue and has a sparkling surface.
The Swiss meringue
Egg whites and sugar are mixed together from the beginning in a bain marie. As soon as the sugar is dissolved, the mixture is removed from the stove and whipped, till a stable foam is obtained.
Which type of meringue?
French, Italian or Swiss meringue? Well, it depends what you need to do with that. The French meringue is more “airy”, thanks to the fact that sugar is added towards the end of the preparation. This allows the egg whites to incorporate more air.
Both Italian and Swiss meringues are denser then the French one, but also more stable. The French meringue can be widely employed, but for preparation as tarte citronne meringuee, the Swiss or the Italian one are more appropriate, thanks to their stability.
Amount of sugar
Ratio egg whites:sugar 1:1_sugar and egg whites are present in the same amount. The meringue we obtained is light, but also fragile and prone to break.
Ratio egg whites:sugar 1:2_sugar is in double amount compared to the egg whites. It is the more common type of meringue, with a density and a resistence in the average.
Ratio egg whites:sugar 1:3_the sugar is present in triple amount compared to the sugar. The meringue obtained is very dense, sweet and more resistent to breakage.
Which one is the best? Also in this case, it depends what you need to do with that. Generally, the 1:2 ratio is the most common, but if your meringue is used for decorating, I would rather go with the 1:3 ratio, in order to obtained a more resistant product.
During baking, the air bubbles in the meringue dilates, while the egg proteins coagulate blocking the meringues expansion and trapping the air in the meringues.
There are several recipes for meringues with temperatures ranging from 60 to 100 C. The results might vary from oven to oven. I do not ever go above 100 C to avoid the caramelization of the sugar that will give meringues a brownish look. Using high temperature might also cause the meringue to brown outside and remain raw inside.
Common mistakes in the preparation of meringues
Adding sugar from the beginning_unless it is the case of the Swiss meringue, sugar should be added when the egg whites are partially whipped. Otherwise, the whipping time gets longer and the meringue gets dense. because the sugar prevents inglobating air.
Adding the famous “pinch of salt”_it is now proven that this old-fashion advice do not help with the egg whipping. Sodium is positively charged and binds to the negatively charges of proteins, promoting their association. Unfortunately, sodium attracts also the water in the egg whites and and inhibits the lisozime, a protein with emulsifying properties. Salt can help in the first stage of whipping, but destabilizes the final product.
Keep whipping when the meringue is ready_if the mass has already incorporated all the possible air, keep whipping just breaks the air bubbles with consequent destabilization of the mass.
I hope you find this post useful. If you have questions, please, leave them in the comments below :)
Di Carlo, Tradizione in Evoluzione, Chiriotti Editori, 248-261