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.