My mother used to make meringues often when I was a kid. They were light, very crispy and a little sweet. I considered them to be cookies but she would use them with other components as well. Sometimes as a base for fresh berries or with a custard or curd. They were always free-formed. One never looked like another. In a world where uniformity is king, these meringues are beautifully different.
Scott’s previous experiences with meringue were isolated to the fluffy topping on lemon or chocolate pies. When I mentioned that I’d made a batch of meringue, he didn’t seem interested. In fact, he was decidedly dis-interested. Oh well. I didn’t even offer him one that first night, because it was clear he didn’t want it.
I was annoyed. How could he not like this? They crunch when you bite into them and then practically dissolve with just a faint sweetness as soon as the light-as-a-feather egg white hits your tongue. They’re like magic.
The next night, our friend Nola joined us for dinner and before we sat down to eat I brought out the meringues for her to sample. Scott peered at the offering and said, “That’s a meringue?”
“Yes,” I shrugged.
“I didn’t know they were like that — I thought it was like the meringue on a pie.”
“No, this is like a cookie.”
Suddenly interested… “They’re so light and crunchy — and they just melt in your mouth. Why didn’t you tell me?” I just shook my head.
The trick to making crispy, lighter-than-air meringues is a cool, dry day (that’s hard to find in Florida) because meringues don’t like humidity. They’ll get soft and mushy quick — and that’s something Scott doesn’t like. It also requires some patience to let them cook slowly and without interruption in a very low oven for a few hours.
Now that he’s tried them, I’m confident that he’ll be more receptive next time, right honey?
A crispy, light dessert. Make them on a cool day with low humidity.
- 2 egg whites
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
Line two sheet pans with parchment paper or use a brown paper grocery bag. Set aside.
Add the egg whites to a mixing bowl. Using electric beaters, beat the egg whites until frothy and foamy. Sprinkle in the cream of tartar and beat on high speed for 1 minute. Sprinkle on the powdered sugar and beat on high for 1 - 1 1/2 minutes, until soft and glossy. Sprinkle on the granulated sugar and beat on high until stiff peaks form, another 2 or so minutes.
Drop spoonfuls of meringue onto the parchment paper or brown paper bag, about 2 inches apart.
Bake for 2 hours until meringues have dried out and set. Remove from oven and cool.
Store in an airtight container.
Meringues are persnickety if the air is humid. If you live in Florida, like me, choose a day when the humidity is at a minimum and preferably cool.