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How to Make Meringue

Created January 10, 2017
Meringue—that deceptively simple confection of egg whites, sugar, and air—is equally at home as a soft topping for cream pies or as a firm, crisp shell for creamy pavlova, fruit and ice cream.
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Mixing Meringue

  • For best results, make meringue on a cool, dry day. Humidity and rain causes meringue to become sticky and spongy because sugar in the meringue absorbs surrounding moisture. Meringue may also develop beads or droplets of sugar syrup on the surface.
  • Cold eggs work best for easy separation. If a bit of yolk falls into the white, use the cracked shell to scoop it out; even a speck of yolk can keep whites from achieving the meringue volume needed during beating.
  • For better meringue volume, let egg whites stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before beating. You can also microwave whites, uncovered, on High for about 10 seconds per egg white to bring them to room temperature. However, take care not to overheat, as egg whites will cook through.
  • Gradually beat sugar into egg whites, about 1 tablespoon at a time, so that meringue is smooth and not gritty. Continue beating until the meringue forms stiff peaks when you lift the beaters out of the mixture.

Soft Meringue

  • Spread meringue completely over hot pie filling so that it forms a seal with the crust. Sealed meringue won't shrink or ooze liquid after baking.
  • Swirl meringue into points with a table knife or spatula for a decorative finish.
  • After baking, cool the meringue pie away from air drafts, which can cause meringue to shrink as it cools.

Hard Meringue

  • Cool meringue shells in the oven—with the heat turned off—for as long as the recipe suggests. Meringue shells baked long enough should be thoroughly dry and crisp, not limp or gummy.
  • Fill meringue shells just before serving so they don't absorb moisture and become chewy. To keep them crisp, store tightly covered.