Meringue is made basically by beating together room temperature egg whites and sugar in either a crystalline or syrup form. There are different types of meringue, soft or ordinary or European meringues such as French, Italian and Swiss.
Beating or whisking causes the protein in the egg whites to unfold, forming films that trap the air bubbles, and the sugar stiffens the foam. By varying the amount of sugar in the final mix, you control how hard or soft the final meringue will be. As the mixing time increases, the bubbles become smaller and more numerous; this increases the volume and makes a more-stable structure. (A beaten egg white can increase six to eight times its original volume.)
Once you start a making whipped egg whites, continue it straight through and finish it off. Don't stop halfway to take a break. After you have finished whipping the egg whites, use them immediately; they'll start deflating in 5 minutes or so. Some meringues are cooked or baked. This will set the structure. During heating, the air bubbles expand, causing the volume to expand until the white's protein network surrounding the bubbles solidifies.
Sugar fills an important role in meringue. It stabilizes the beaten egg white foam which enables it to sit longer and hold its shape better than without. Sugar pulls the water from the eggs and allows it to set better. When using sugar, your meringue can run the risk of getting a gritty texture. To solve this, use superfine sugar when making meringue because it dissolves faster than table sugar.
The challenge in making perfect meringue is neither to under- nor overbeat the eggs. Underbeating introduces too little air, and the batter will rise inadequately. If overbeaten (read recipe carefully for the terms "soft peaks" and "stiff peaks"), the mixture can separate. However, overbeating will cause the proteins to lose their ability to hold the small air bubbles causing it to lose volume or collapse. Some information from http://www.foodproductdesign.com
My husband has an insatiable sweet tooth! It usually hits him late at night and the poor thing is just SOL. I have done my best to rid our pantry of sweets and he suffers for it. He's the mouse in the pantry getting into the chocolate chips searching for anything sweet. I (sometimes) feel sorry for him and make him a special treat. This particular day, my guilt got the best of me and I decided to surprise him with these meringues. They are super easy to prepare. He gets his chocolate chips and I get my espresso (one of my weaknesses).
Espresso Chip Meringues Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
3 egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch fine sea salt
3/4 C superfine baker's sugar*
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. instant espresso powder
2/3 C mini semisweet chocolate chips
Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt until frothy, about 1 minute. With the machine on medium-high speed, gradually add the sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time. Add the cream of tartar, vanilla extract, and espresso powder. Increase the speed to high and beat until the mixture is thick and holds stiff peaks, about 3 to 5 minutes. Using a spatula, fold in the chocolate chips. Drop 1/4 to 1/2 cups of the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake for 30 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for another 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and allow the meringues to cool completely while still in the oven, about 2 hours.
Store airtight in a plastic container for up to 4 days.
*Can be found at specialty cooking stores or process regular granulated sugar in food processor until fine.
Print this Recipe