Basics of Baking: MERINGUE (Chocolate Meringue Kisses)
by Asyraf Mutalib
Bonjour (or Grüezi/Ciao/Allegra)!
By saying hello using the national languages of Switzerland (French, German, Italian, and Romansh), you probably think that I just came back from a vacation there. Sorry to disappoint but no, I did not return from skiing in the Alps yesterday. Not that I wouldn’t like to ski… However, I did a bit of research and found out that the meringue was invented in a village called Meiringen in Switzerland (if you look closely, the pronunciation is almost similar to meringue). That was a new thing because all this while I thought it was discovered in France. A meringue is basically egg whites beaten with sugar until it transforms into this white thing that looks like marshmallow fluff (refer photo below). Since meringues are made up of sugar, it is no surprise that meringues tend to be very sweet. It is widely known to be crunchy on the outside and soft inside (after baking, of course). For those who do not know, French meringue is the most popular type of meringue normally used to make macarons and, well… meringues. Unlike the Swiss meringue or Italian meringue, the egg whites are neither cooked by a double boiler nor by boiling sugar syrup. It isn’t cooked! Because of that, I try to avoid using French meringue but replace it with Swiss meringue whenever a recipe calls for meringue. Although this might not be a common practice, I like it because I can adjust the sweetness of the meringue. I know, right?! I can already hear the shrieks of terror from some of you out there but let me state this again:
I reduce the sugar in my meringues.
From my previous attempts, I discovered that Swiss meringue always comes out much smoother than French meringue. I don’t know how people do it but I can always feel bits of sugar (lots of it) whenever I make the latter. The last time I made a pavlova using the French meringue, the meringue collapsed and the sugar hardly dissolved and it was visible all over the surface. I hated it even more when I paired the already sweet pavlova with mangoes. It was horribly, terribly sweet.
But all that changed this month (March 2015) when I
rediscovered another method of making meringue. I used the Meringue Girls’s technique that eventually resulted in perfect meringue kisses that’s crunchy on the outside and soft inside. I would say that their method is like a combination of French meringue and Italian meringue: the sugar is baked until it starts to melt around the edges and then the hot sugar is added into the egg whites. Although I have no scientific explanation to spit out, I think this method is much safer than French meringue because the hot sugar kind of cooks the eggs? I like to think of it that way so I don’t feel guilty about eating uncooked eggs or worry about contracting salmonella.
CHOCOLATE MERINGUE KISSES
(recipe adapted from Meringue Girls)
The recipe for these meringue kisses is so easy to remember- 1 part egg whites to 2 parts sugar (1:2) but since we’re making chocolate meringue kisses, you’ll need to add two tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder. Just make sure to not add too much because you’ll risk deflating the meringue.
Measurements (approximate only):
- 98g egg whites (from 3 eggs)
- 196g castor sugar
- 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1. Preheat oven to 200°C. Spread the sugar into a lined tray and bake until the edges start to melt.
2. Meanwhile, whip the egg whites on low speed until it forms stiff peaks.
Make sure the bowl you’re using is free from grease! Whipping on low speed is essential to ensure that a stable meringue is produced.
3. When the sugar is ready, turn the oven down to 130°C.
4. Gradually pour the hot sugar into the egg whites, a tablespoon at a time while whipping on high speed.
5. Once all the sugar has been added, continue whipping until the meringue reaches stiff peaks and is smooth to the touch.
6. Carefully fold the cocoa powder into the meringue. Be gentle while folding and don’t overwork the meringue!
7. Fill a piping bag with the meringue. Cut the tip and pipe kisses onto a lined tray.
To pipe pretty kisses, the tip of your piping bag should hover a few inches above the surface of the tray. Gently press the far end of the piping bag (the part with the most meringue) for a few seconds, release pressure and pull upwards quickly.
8. Bake for 40 minutes and leave to cool in the oven with the door ajar.
The meringue is done when you can pull it from the parchment easily and it does not stick or break. On the other hand, leaving it to cool in the oven prevents the meringue from cracking.
That is it! If you over bake it, try leaving it outside for one or two days and it should lose some of the crunchiness. I like eating meringues with whipped cream and strawberry compote. They are simply the best!
You’ll need to do lots of practice if you want to produce perfect meringues. I can help you this much and experience will do the rest. Good luck and let me know how it goes!