The Perfect Meringue
Many prefer the light, sweet meringue topping over a regular crust topping. The most common problems cooks run into with their meringue toppings are beading, weeping and shrinking.
- Beading occurs when the formation of water droplets occur on the surface of the meringue. The main cause of this is overcooking.
- Weeping is a loss of water between the meringue and the pie filling itself and is caused by undercooking.
- Shrinking is a loss of volume during baking. With a few tricks of the kitchen, you can produce a beautiful meringue topping.
Meringue Success Tips
Always use a clean, dry bowl to beat your meringue. Glass, ceramic, stainless steel and copper bowls are fine but avoid the use of plastic bowls as even if they are clean in appearance, they have a tendency to hang onto trace amounts of oil.
Be sure absolutely no yolk gets into your egg whites during separation. Even a tiny amount of yolk will ruin your meringue.
Meringues include the use of a stabilzer such as cream of tartar, white vinegar or lemon juice. Most recipes will add 1/8-teaspoon of one of these per egg white to the unbeaten eggs. Note: In a copper bowl, the use of cream of tartar is not necessary.
Whip your whites to medium-soft peaks. Beat in 2-tablespoons of white sugar per egg white. Beat until the whites are glossy and hold a firm peak. If you find you have a shrinking problem with your meringue, use a mixture of cornstarch and water. Heat it to form a gel and beat gradually into your meringue.
Spread your meringue over your piping hot filling and spread to the edges of the pie to seal. It is important your filling is hot as this cooks your meringue through to the inside. This also prevents weeping. You can also sprinkle cake crumbs lightly over your pie filling to absorb liquid between the layers as a prevention against weeping.
The preferred baking method is one that combines high temperatures with a short baking time. This prevents overcooking the outside and avoids beading. Bake at 425-degrees for four to five minutes.