French Meringues Recipe

Petites Meringues

My freezer is not exactly in its prime, and it suffers from ice buildup syndrome.

I put stuff in there, all wrapped up and all, and a few weeks later everything’s covered in frost like the beard of a North Pole explorer. And after a while, there’s so much ice covering the shelves that I half expect to see penguins skating around.

Part of my job, as this freezer’s caregiver, is to defrost it regularly — i.e. use up everything that’s inside, turn it off, let the temperature rise, detach entire ice caps (that’s the fun part, not unlike loosening one’s milk teeth), clean the whole thing, and start afresh.

The use up everything that’s inside step is, of course, the one that takes the longest. It can take weeks, especially since I’m a bit of a squirrel (I’ve always thought squirrels must have freezers in their tree trunk caches, but I may be wrong).

My latest empty-the-freezer campaign turned up a small tub containing two egg whites, leftover from recent batches of squeeze cookies, for which only the yolks are needed.

Leftover egg whites usually mean rochers à la noix de coco, langues de chat, or tuiles in my kitchen, but this time, a violent desire to make meringues took hold of me. This was to be my first time*. I was excited.

At the risk of sounding completely irrational, I must note that I’ve never been much of a meringue fan. When my sister and I were young girls and we dropped by the bakery to buy ourselves a goûter (an afternoon snack), she sometimes chose one of those big, pale pink, swirly meringues; I could never understand what was so appealing about a large, dry lump of sugar styrofoam that left dandruff down the front of your shirt. (Me, I was partial to the CD-sized, chocolate-coated sablés.)

So, what caused my change of heart on that particular day? Well, I had just read an excellent how-to article in the copy of Delicious. I’d brought back from Australia, and it had convinced me that, contrary to my prior belief, French meringue** was totally within my reach.

Two things remain from my old thoughts on meringue, however: 1-, I am only interested it if it has a mallowy heart — that little lump of chewy, sticky, your-dentist-is-going-to-love-this cooked sugar. And 2-, I want flavor. The first concern is adressed by well-timed baking and proper cooling; the second, by the use of a quality flavoring agent or, in my case, a good unrefined cane sugar***, whose toffee flavors have been enhanced by the empty vanilla pod I placed in it weeks ago.

So, with that in mind, if you’re a meringue virgin — or a long-time abstinent –, I encourage you to give this recipe a try: summer is just around the corner, and you’re going to need meringues to garnish your cups of berries and ice cream, no? I myself am plotting all manner of flavor variations (using cocoa powder, flower syrups, or ground nuts) and sandwiching opportunities (think ganache or fruit preserves).

~~~

* I have a long history of shying away from any recipe that requires the whipping of egg whites. My beloved stand mixer is helping me on the path to recovery.

** Technically speaking, this style of baked meringue is refered to as French meringue, as opposed to Italian meringue (used in marshmallows in particular; it is made with cooked sugar and isn’t baked) or Swiss meringue (the egg whites and sugar are whisked over a pan of warm water then whisked until cool).

*** The sugar was light brown; this colored the batter and made the meringues lightly tan, too.

~~~

As a side note, if you have access to French magazines, perhaps you’ll be interested in purchasing the May/June issue of ELLE à table, which came out yesterday. The layout and structure of the magazine have been spruced up, and I have a new column in there now!

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.

Adapted from an article that appeared in the February ’08 issue of Delicious..

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  • http://theendivechronicles.com/ Erin

    I love making French meringues. A really lovely way to dress them up is with a rich chocolate and anise sauce.

  • http://roundthemulberrybush.wordpress.com mrsB

    We watched a Jamie Oliver at Home episode last night on eggs. And guess what? He made a free-form meringue too, served with roasted hazelnuts, pears and chocolate sauce. So if you can’t wait long enough for those berries, this is one to try…

  • Mrs Redboots

    My mother has made meringues like this all my life, and they bear no resemblance whatsoever to the revolting things you buy in even the best patisseries. Hers are lovely!

    But, alas, my oven simply won’t make them. I don’t know why not – I follow her recipe and method exactly, and end up with a horrible mess….. we think it may be because I use a gas oven and hers is electric.

  • Stephanie

    WIll it be a monthly column in the ELLE à table? I loved it! :)

  • Constancia

    My daughter and I loved getting meringues on the way home from school when we lived in Paris full-time, and we especially loved the very delicate “fairy fingers” that a local bakery (that has long since disappeared) made from meringue. They came in three flavors, vanilla, strawberry and coffee, and the last flavor was our favorite. How would you make coffee-flavored meringues?

  • jill

    I make meringues with cocoa powder and chunks of chocolate. Maybe not french, but good!

  • http://spoiledonlychild.typepad.com spoiledonlychild

    Well, I hate to suggest this, since you are so noble as to make an annoying task (defrosting the freezer) the inspiration for a lovely recipe. But have you considered a frost-free freezer? Then you’ll be free to let forgotten food molder in your freezer forever, no defrosting required.

  • http://elrasbaking.blogspot.com elra

    Clotilde,
    My husband is crazy for anything Meringues. Too bad that the weather is too hot right now her in CA (Palo Alto), otherwise I would be baking now!

  • http://realgoodtaste.blogspot.com Jen

    Hmmm…. I have never been a big fan of meringues either but I have never had one that wasn’t bone dry and tasteless. I think that I’ll give your recipe a try next time I have some extra egg whites.

  • http://thezest.wordpress.com Trisha

    I have an unreasonable aversion to egg white whipping, too. It makes recipes feel intimidating, even when they shouldn’t be. Thanks for the vanilla-bean-in-sugar mention. I would never have thought to do that.

  • http://scratch.typepad.com Rachelino

    I used to have a big fear of meringue and anything that required stiffly beaten egg whites, too!
    I actually just posted about the ridiculous amount of concerntration required for me to separate eggs because I so fear my egg whites not setting up properly.
    The best trick I learned was from Julia Child. Even if you think your bowl is clean (she used a copper bowl, I use the stainless steel bowl in my stand mixer), wipe down the beater and the bowl with a towel moistened with a bit of white vinegar.
    It removes any trace of fat and since I started doing this, my egg whites have whipped up perfectly.

    Can’t wait to try these meringues, Clotilde, they look great.

  • http://my2002in1001days.wordpress.com/ Cassandra

    This post reminds me that I desperately & urgently need to defrost my freezer too! Meringues sound like a fabulous idea to use up those frozen egg-whites (however, the few times I’ve made meringues so far, they somehow come out very crumbly. Not sure what I’m doing wrong?)

  • http://www.winosandfoodies.typepad.com barbara

    Delicious is a great magazine. I think the Food Director, Valli Little is absolutely brilliant and is responsible for the success of the magazine. It is very popular in Australia and New Zealand.

  • Sue

    This may sound silly, but I had no idea you could actually freeze the egg whites! I often shy away from recipes demanding the egg be separated since I never have enough time to prepare a second recipe with the leftover egg bits. Thanks for the tip. I am going to try these meringues for our next dinner party.

  • Kirsten

    An 1/8 tsp. of salt deepens the taste of meringues and 1/4 tsp. or so of lemon juice contributes a stabilizing acid and rounds out the flavor, though it won’t taste of lemon.
    For Coffee Meringues, I’ve had luck with 2 tsp of espresso powder (instant) mixed into the sugar, for every 4 egg whites. You might use a bit less, first time round. Oooh, and sprinkle chopped hazelnuts on top – lovely.
    Silly as it sounds, I’m really reveling (for the first time) in making meringues since I began using an excellent balloon whisk rather than a stand or handheld mixer. For 5 or less egg whites, it’s not much longer than whipping cream by hand and it is… well, fun!

  • http://www.gastronomie-sf.com f

    I adore, adore, adore Meringues with cocoa nibs folded in. The deep cocoa-ey bitterness is wonderful, but even better is the little “crunch” the nibs give each bite. Mmmmm.

  • pastrymann

    Clotilde…Your oven was too hot as the colour is evident.

  • Doris

    I’m planning to make my first meringue as well this weekend for a friend’s housewarming party. My boyfriend’s sister periodically makes Pavlova for her Australian husband, and I thought it would be nice to make this treat for the party. It seems a bit intimidating, but she had reassure me that it is not…let’s hope so…*fingers crossed* I will be using the Nigella Lawson recipe that she recommended for Chocolate Pavlova (sans the chocolate).

  • purple

    Another tip is to put the mixing bowl and blades in the freezer(if metal)to have them as cold as possible before whipping the whites. This is especially the case if there is the slightest hint of humidity in the air.

  • http://instantssaveurs.canalblog.com Eliz

    Félicitations pour les nouvelles rubriques que tu animes dans Elle à Table, je t’envie!
    Tu mérites cette reconnaissance!

  • http://www.livingtastefully.weebly.com/-passions-to-pastry.html Eileen

    A beautiful homemade meringue is such a wonderful treat!

  • http://balancefood.blogspot.com Chou

    My husband announced the other day that the reason he hated meringue was that it was so dry, and then proclaimed that he’d be willing to try one if it was soft in the middle. Thanks for offering me an insight into how to get there. ;)

  • http://www.cocoandme.com Tamami

    Congratulations on the new column on Elle. wow… (sigh) you’re really doing so well! I’m envious, girly! ;-)

  • http://www.dernieremiette.com Emily

    Hi Clotilde

    I have recently rediscovered meringues too! A splash of rosewater works really well, and look so pretty on a plate with sugar coated rose petals.

    To save an overcooked batch of regular meringues I made recently, I crumbled them into homemade icecream before freezing stage. A very worthwhile experiment – the creaminess of the icecream and the crunchy meringue was the perfect contrast, and completely delicious.

  • http://thecanberracook.blogspot.com cath

    Pastrymann, as Clotilde explained, the colour is not from the baking but from the brown sugar.

    I’ve made meringues of a similar colour using spices as for gingerbread. Powdered ginger, cinnamon and a touch of nutmeg. It’s good with apricots.

  • Joan

    Clotilde, every edition of ‘delicious’ is a treat..how lovely that you packed a copy for you trip back home..another from the magazine..for those egg whites that seem to appear every so often: a recipe.

    and bravo and wonderful ..elle column..I was browsing the international mag section of Borders in Sydney…elle food..the article about you…and those cowgal boots were rather lovely! ‘n now to translate the article :-)

  • Rachel

    I know what you mean about the ‘sweet styrofoam’ patisserie meringues. I bought one once (more in a spirit of experimentation than anything else) and didn’t want to see another meringue for a VERY long time thereafter! :P But now that I’ve finally acquired an electric whisk, I’ll certainly be trying these lovely marshmallowy ones. (Apologies if I’m telling you something you already know, but they’re also an essential component of Eton Mess, one of the best – and easiest – summer desserts ever.)

    Glad to hear about your column in Elle – French Elle is my ‘petit peche mignon’ (oh, okay, one of many) and now I have another reason to look forward to reading it!

  • http://www.lafromagette.blogspot.com js

    I thought it was just my French freezer – I’m relieved to know it happens to the best of us!

    Now if I could just figure out what to do with 3 hunks of parmesan rind and some chipotle paste … ;)

  • http://www.thursdaynightsmackdown.com michelle @ TNS

    it makes me happy to know that you have the same problems with you freezer.

    i also have never understood the appeal of meringues, which seem like vaguely flavored styrofoam packing peanuts. but if you tell me they can be tasty, i trust you.

  • http://www.beurreetpain.blogspot.com Honeybee

    Until quite recently I was convinced or rather I simply knew that I would never manage to whip egg whites. Any recipe which required whipped egg whites was instantly discarded as out of my league. I finally managed to overcome that fear – hooray!

    Lovely meringues! I like to make financiers with my leftover eggwhites. I believe that I have some sitting in the freezer, too.

  • http://www.diane-underanolivetree.blogspot.com Diane

    When I make ice cream I used to always have 4 or 5 egg whites left over. I just discovered meringue! With this recipe I might add a little less than 1 tablespoon of cinnamon or an equal ammount of crushed instant coffee or espresso powder. But I like them (with ice cream) even plain!

  • http://www.cookingandeatinginthewindycity.blogspot.com Erin

    I have the opposite issue in my freezer… I have egg yolks to use up. My husband thought I was crazy for freezing them, but I have a kitchen torch that I’m going to use sometime soon for creme brulee.

  • pastrymann

    Cath… The colour I observed is from the oven, the toasty caramel gloss one would receive from heat. Certainly the brown sugar plays into this equation however it is still my opinion that the oven was too hot. I make these confections for a living, colours from pale blue to deep crimson and I have learned that a low & slow oven will return your efforts without mishap.

  • Robin

    I made these meringues last night. I tried making meringues once before and although I thought I watched them carefully, when it came time to take them out of the oven, they looked great, but tasted totally burnt. I had to throw them away. I guess my oven temperature was way off. I have a new oven now but was still a little nervous. I added a little bit of instant espresso powder and some baking cocoa after I had my stiff peaks. They turned out perfectly and are just wonderful! I followed the baking directions so they’d turn out chewy on the inside. Between my husband and my co-workers, they’ll be gone by the end of the day. Thank you so much, Clotilde, for this easy recipe and for giving me the courage to try it with your simple directions.

  • Susan

    I have a batch in the oven right now. I didn’t use all the batter up and I’m wondering if it’s okay to leave it sitting on the counter until the oven is free.

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Susan – I don’t recommend keeping the leftover batter on the counter for so long; I would cover it and place it in the fridge. Also, it is best to bake the meringues as soon as possible after whipping the egg whites, or they won’t puff as much.

  • http://frenchpenicillin.blogspot.com Alison

    Salut Clotilde! This recipe looks great. I’ve been wanting to make meringues for years, but I agree with you about wanting a tasty, mallow center. I’m living in SW France right now and my small oven kills any desserts I make, so I’ll have to wait until I return to the US to try your recipe!
    I have a request: Can you do an entry on macarons? I know you already have one recipe online, but I love the little sandwich ones that are still a bit gooey. I keep getting ones that have dry cookies and it makes me sad. I thought maybe you’d have a tip on how to cook them correctly. Je vous remercie!

  • Virginie

    Hello,

    I did not know either that you could freeze egg whites. That is great news.
    Could you tell us the best way to do it ? Is it ok to put them in a freezer bag ? How do you then proceed to defreeze them ?
    Many thanks

  • Katie Pepper

    I must admit, I adore meringue and something we have in Australia called pavlova – apparently named after a ballerina, Anna Pavlova. It is a big, oven-tray sized round meringue which is delicious and marshmallowey in the middle. The centre is covered in beautiful freahly whipped cream and summer fruits – strawberries and passionfruit are delicious. It is cut into cake-wedges and served to many guests, perfect after a summer barbecue. The secrets I believe are a touch of white vinegar, and leaving the oven door open after baking so that the pav cools slowly. Fabulous!

  • Linda A

    I wanted to thank you for responding so quickly to my email. I have recommended your books and web to a friend planning on living outside Paris for the summer. How lucky is she!!! Congrats on the column and keep up the great work. Looking forward to your next cookbook.

  • joanna

    I have been making meringues for years though with a slightly different method. I add chocolate chips and 1/4 tsp of peppermint extract. Preheat oven to 325 degrees, put meringues in and turn the oven off immediately, leaving the door closed for ~5 hours. This also results in a soft center.

  • Marina M

    Meringues are my favourite little complicated snack to make. I always found them the simplest sweet dessert to make.
    The last time I made it I added about 1 1/2 teaspoons of Honey in addition to vanilla and they turned out very well. I had them with apricots and peaches. very tasty.
    I used less sugar to make up for the sweetness in the honey.

  • http://www.basilandbutterscotch.blogspot.com Lynn

    I thought I was the only one who squirrelled away stuff in my freezer! My husband had to make me promise not to buy any more meat until we have eaten everything I’ve had in there forever, and we are working on it now. We have some meals that don’t exactly go together well, but we are emptying the freezer slowly, but surely.

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Virginie – I just pour the egg whites in a small plastic container and place the container in the freezer. (It helps to mark the number of egg whites on the container.)

    To thaw, I transfer the container to the fridge and leave it in overnight. If I didn’t plan ahead, I dip the container in a shallow bowl of warm water. If there are just a few egg whites, they thaw quite fast.

  • http://thewayitcrumbles.wordpress.com Chris

    I made these lovely meringues today, adding about a tablespoon of cocoa in and swirling it. They were fantastic – I’ve eaten three of them already, and I only made 15! (Wonder how long they’ll last for) No more egg white omelettes for me, I think all my eggwhites will go into making these, at least until I get macarons right!

    I’m very new to the world of food-blogging, and not sure what the correct etiquette is, but just letting you know I linked to your page and recipe. If you have any objections, please let me know?

  • nea

    i love love love there meringues! i’d like to make a truck load for a party thats coming up and wonder how far in advance i can make them while still retaining the crisp outside and chewy inside. any thoughts?

  • Kelsey

    I made these yesterday and they came out perfectly! There was some left over, so I stuck it in the fridge while the first batch cooked. I was worried the 2nd batch wouldn’t come out well, but there were no problems.

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