Sarah Swain shares some expert advice to help you creat perfect meringues – and pavlova – every time.
Use a glass or china mixing bowl, not an aluminium or plastic one – aluminium can react with eggs and turns whites grey, while plastic may have oil traces from previous food.
Make sure the beaters and bowl are dry and grease-free, as this will affect the volume you create with your egg whites.
Use eggs that are a few days old as the whites will whisk better than those from fresh eggs. This is because some of the water in the egg white will have evaporated, which makes the albumen (the water soluble form of protein found in egg whites) stronger. Egg whites which have been frozen also whisk well.
Separate the eggs carefully. Make sure there is no yolk in the egg whites. Egg yolks need not be wasted – you can use them for omelettes, scrambled eggs or for glazing baked items.
Always whisk egg whites at room temperature. If the eggs have been kept in the fridge, separate the yolk and white then stand whites at room temperature for 15–20 minutes.
Begin whisking the egg whites on a low speed to aerate them a little. As they begin to froth, increase speed to moderate. As they become very frothy, increase speed to maximum power.
To ensure whisked whites keep their volume, measure out all ingredients before you start whisking egg whites.
Line a tray with baking paper ready to place the meringues onto it as soon as they are made.
Add the sugar a third at a time, once the egg whites are stiff.
Use a metal spoon to fold in cornflour, vanilla and vinegar.
Don’t skip the cornflour or vinegar – they are added to the meringue so that when cooked, the meringue has a crisp outside and a soft, sticky centre.
Use the meringue mixture immediately, whether spooning onto a tray or piping it.
Every oven will vary slightly and so you may find your meringue needs a little longer (or shorter) than the time given in recipes. Use these as a guide.
Cooked meringues should still be white with a very faint brown tinge but crisp and firm on the outside.
Leave the meringues to cool on a wire rack then carefully remove them from the baking paper.
Once cooled, meringues should keep fresh and moist for up to two weeks if stored in an airtight container.
On their own, meringues freeze very well and can be frozen in a rigid container in the freezer for up to two months. Make sure the container you use is free from any strong smells.
Step 1 Stand egg whites in bowl for 15–20 minutes. Start whisking on a low speed, increasing speed as whites begin to froth. Whisk until egg whites form stiff peaks.
Step 2 Add a third of the sugar while continually whisking. Repeat until all the sugar is added. Fold in cornflour, vinegar and vanilla essence using a metal spoon.
Step 3 Place a piping bag, with the nozzle pointing down, into a tall glass as shown. Allow edges to overlap. Spoon mixture, up to three-quarters full, into piping bag.
Step 4 Pipe meringues onto baking paper. Cook on a low temperature, 130°C for our recipes, and allow to cool completely before removing from tray.