Saturday, January 8, 2011

Meringues - what to do with all those egg whites


 So, you've made eggnog or custard or flan or any other of the delicious egg-yolk heavy recipes I'll hopefully get around to posting this sometime this year.

You now have a bunch of egg whites.

Meringues are a simple, easy, and taste like the most-delicious-air-that-just-melts-in-your mouth treat!

The basic recipe is very simple. Beat egg whites with a teeny bit of vanilla, a little (dry) sweetener and an optional tiny bit of cream of tartar which helps the egg white bubbles from dissolving back to liquid.

I used six egg whites,
1/4tsp of vanilla,
4Tbsps of powdered maple sugar and
1/4Tbsp of cream of tartar.

I have a copper round-bottom bowl that is wonderful for beating eggs and cream and as I'd just purged my hand-held electric mixer (I hadn't used it in well over three years and have a stand-mixer) I chose to whisk the whites by hand. It took far less time and effort than I'd imagined and I will, with pleasure, make these by hand in the future.

When peaks form (even if the droop over) in the egg whites, spoon them in generous amounts onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake at a low temperature (I set our oven to 200, although I know it's not accurate) until the outside of the meringues are golden and hard. Try tapping on them with a knuckle and if they give they're not ready. I baked mine for about an hour and a half.

When firm, turn the oven off and leave them in there with the door shut for another hour (or two).

My grandmother used to make a similar meringue cookie that she called "Nighty-nights" where you bake them, turn the oven off and go to bed. In the morning you pull out perfectly crisp and airily delicious meringue cookies.

A NOTE about fresh eggs: Egg shells are porous and moisture naturally evaporates over time. Store-bought eggs are normally, at the very least,  a couple of weeks old. Fresh eggs whites still have too much moisture to properly stiffen. You can experiment with the age of the eggs but I would recommend waiting at least a few weeks from the chicken to meringues.


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