Italian Meringue

An alchemist moment awaits you when you make this ethereally light meringue.

alchemist

The Italian variety is more stable than the classic French variety with less tendency to weep (a first?). Use it as a meringue or as a very clever base for many recipes – its truly a great technique to have up your sleeve.  You just need a steady nerve and a steady hand for the hot sugar syrup. Best of all this hot syrup cooks the egg whites so the meringue is safe and that’s really important when it comes to ice creams and desserts.

IMG_3462This makes enough for a very generous 20cm lemon meringue topping and if its a bit too much make little meringues by blobbing the mix onto a tin and drying through at 90C for a couple of hours in the oven. Its the quantity I always make and just seems to work.

Ingredients

180ml water

200g sugar

4 egg whites

Half a tea spoon of lemon juice or vinegar

Gizmos

A sugar thermometer is good but I do it by eye now. Don’t feel like you have to have one. A food mixer whisk attachment or some kind of electrical elbow grease – really life is too short to do this by hand apart from needing three arms to be able to simultaneously pour in the hot syrup, hold the bowl and whisk like crazy.

How To

Do things in this order and you wont go wrong.

1. wipe your bowl and whisk with the vinegar/lemon juice in an anally retentive OCD manner. No grease ok?

2. Whisk the whites until they form soft peaks?  what does that mean? well they kind of hold their shape a bit but definitely fall over if pushed and absolutely don’t stay attached to the whisk. If in doubt softer is better. IMG_3460

3. Put the water and sugar to boil fast.  Don’t be tempted to multitask…its like hollandaise sauce…it will go horribly wrong if you turn your back.  Do not stir – please do not stir as crystals can form and we don’t want crystals in our kitchen.  Its just not that kind of place. Gently swill the water and sugar around a bit at the beginning to help the sugar dissolve. IMG_3459

4. the syrup needs to reach 121C ie the hard ball stage (in theory if you drop the syrup into ice cold water it will form a fairly hard glob and you can use this method).  I use the eyeball stage as I am usually in a rush and I dont have time to be faffing around with thermometers in syrup. Dont get me wrong…I like the whole geeky thermometer thing but with a bit of experience you can eyeball it.  So…your syrup needs to look pretty sticky and be really hot.

5. Start the mixer on medium speed and as it is mixing pour in the syrup.  Now turn up the volume and whisk like crazy on max until the entire mass is glossy and voluminous – approx 5-7 minutes in my trusty Kenwood. Like any good meringue it stays in the bowl when you turn the bowl upside down!

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