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Meringues

(recipe, Caroline Cummins)


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Introduction

Meringues are an easy way to use up leftover egg whites. Most recipes call for far more sugar than this one; unless you prefer numbingly sweet meringues, you'll enjoy this version, which makes the vanilla flavor stand out. And make sure your egg whites are free of any stray bits of egg yolk — otherwise, the whites won't whip up well.

Ingredients

  1. 8 large egg whites, at room temperature if possible
  2. 1 tsp. cream of tartar
  3. 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  4. 1 to 1½ cup sugar

Steps

  1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees (for dry, crunchy meringues) or 275 degrees (for meringues that are browned on the outside but soft and marshmallowy on the inside). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  2. Place the egg whites in a large, very clean and dry bowl. Add the cream of tartar and the vanilla. Beat the whites with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. (If you have a stand mixer to do the beating for you, so much the better.)
  3. Increase the mixer speed to high and gradually add the sugar, incorporating the sugar thoroughly after each addition. Taste as you go and stop adding sugar when you decide it's sweet enough. Beat until the whites hold stiff peaks.
  4. Dollop large spoonfuls of meringue on the baking sheets. If you're feeling fancy, use a pastry bag with a tip for pretty shapes.
  5. Bake for 1½ to 2 hours (if baking at 225 degrees) or 45 minutes to 1 hour (if baking at 275 degrees). For drier meringues, leave the meringues in the turned-off oven for several hours; for softer meringues, remove the sheets promptly and let the meringues cool on the sheets.
  6. Store in airtight containers. Dry meringues will keep indefinitely; softer meringues will stick together in the storage container and start to weep, so eat as soon as possible.

Note

Variations: For chocolate meringues, beat in 4 to 6 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder after you beat in the sugar. For lemon meringues, replace the vanilla with the minced zest of 2 large lemons. For a meringue-based version of strawberry shortcake, bake the softer meringues and serve them with fresh sliced strawberries and whipped cream. And for nutty meringues, grind a few spoonfuls of nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, etc.) and sprinkle the ground nuts over the formed meringues before baking them. (If you choose to use ground almonds, you can replace some or all of the vanilla extract with almond extract.)