Most people don’t know the stress of Culinary School. I’m saying this as a graduate of Fort Leonard Wood’s Basic Combat Training and a daughter of two Vietnam-era Vets. Culinary School was stress-full. The Classical Pastries course where I learned to make this Swiss meringue recipe was one of the most stressful classes I took.
Chef Jan Bandula is a Master Pastry Chef. That’s “chef-ese” for “He’s a big deal.” Bandula was a genius with sugar and pastries. His mind was a veritable rulebook of classic desserts along with every way of preparing and decorating them. Chef Bandula was stickler for attention to detail and honesty to the craft. You couldn’t shortchange any recipe he gave you to prepare. He’d know you cheated, he’d let you know he knew, and his disappointment was enough to make a student want to jump out of the third floor window.
A single grade rode on the ability to prepare, by hand (no mixers), a proper meringue. To this day I still think of Chef Bandula when I make any meringue. I still do “the test” to see if mine lives up to his standard. A perfect meringue is a cohesive marriage of sugar, egg whites and air. Yes, that’s a bowl of meringue I’m holding over my head.
In short, egg white’s proteins (albumin and ovalbumin) work together to allow the egg white (albumen) to expand and grow stronger when heated. Ovalbumin coagulates as the egg whites are heated, this makes the whites resistant to collapse as the water in the albumen evaporates. All this, plus the addition of sugar (which stabilizes the foam) allows the egg whites to obtain a volume and durability not achieved by whipped egg whites on their own. Too much sugar added too fast, however, and the finished meringue won’t have the desired volume. It’s a fickle thing, meringue. But sooo worth the effort.
There are three such meringues: French, Italian and Swiss. The other two will come in later posts. Swiss meringue can be eaten raw or baked. The egg whites go through the heating process (pasteurization), so there’s no danger associated with eating it as is. In addition to it being a great confection, it’s the perfect thing to pipe onto other desserts. This s’mores cheesecake is a favorite. No matter how you to decide to use it, I promise, making this meringue won’t be nearly as stressful as my first time attempting it.
- 10 oz granulated sugar
- 1 cup 240 ml egg whites
- pinch of kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or other flavoring
- Combine the sugar and egg whites, salt and vanilla in a very clean mixing bowl. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water (double boiler). Whisk constantly to avoid scrambling your egg whites. Heat until the mixture reaches 140°F, or until the mixture is very warm to the touch.
- Remove from heat and place on your stand mixer, or using a hand mixer, whip the eggs whites until cool and they hold a stiff peak.
- Fill a piping bag fitted with a 1M star tip with the meringue and pipe into rosettes or dollops onto a parchment or silicone mat-lined sheet pan.
- Bake at 220°F until dry (about 1- 1 1/2 hours depending on the humidity). Turn off the oven and open the door a crack to slowly cool the oven. Remove the meringues once the oven has cooled. Store in an airtight container with a silica bag to prevent weeping/humidity.
To conclude: how about you comment with pictures of you holding your meringue over your head! PLEASE!!!
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