It all started Friday afternoon, as I desperately fought the late-afternoon jet lag that threatened to settle over me. In an attempt to ward off sleep for a few more hours, I set out to make a lemon meringue pie.
Just short of a year ago (coincidentally just a few hours before Mark proposed!), I attempted my first lemon meringue pie. The pie was yummy but the meringue was a total failure. Instead of the towering peaks of my imagination, the meringue was mostly flat and dense, with just a hint of a wave.
Determined to overcome my former flop, I gathered a few recipes, did some preliminary research, and set to work. My first batch of meringue was another total failure. I beat the egg and sugar mixture for what seemed like forever before I realized that the shiny sweet substance in the bowl was definitely not planning on peaking.
Undeterred, I did some more research and then set out again. Folks, I get excited about food a lot. But sometimes I get really really excited when I’m cooking. This was one of those time. My meringue peaked perfectly. The egg and sugar mixture fluffed and poofed and crested like pretty waves. Hooray for culinary successes!
I realized something else during this experiment. Meringue is actually so much easier to make than I thought. You just have to use the right technique. Really, a successful meringue is the work of a mere few minutes. So here’s my recipe and some tips:
A Happy Meringue
6 egg whites
1/2 tsp. white vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Whip the egg whites in a Kitchen Aid mixer or with a beater for 4-5 minutes on medium-high. The eggs should begin to froth. About halfway through the beating, add the vinegar and salt. Once the eggs begin to form soft peaks (the froth should begin to stiffen and stiff curves should start to form in the mixture), slow the beater down to medium and add the sugar gradually while the beater continues. Add the vanilla. Beat for about 2 more minutes until stiff peaks have formed. Voila! Use the meringue as a delicious, dreamy pie or curd topping.
- Separate the egg whites into a bowl while the eggs are cold. Then cover the egg whites and let them warm to room temperature, ideally for several hours before beginning.
- Don’t stop the beater if possible while adding the vinegar, salt, and sugar.
- Don’t overbeat. Once the sugar is added, only beat for 1-2 minutes more. The meringue is more dense than it looks!