From mousses to buttercream to the toasted finish of a baked Alaska, meringue is one of the fundamental building blocks of pastry and a technique that provides fluffy, sweet aeration to hundreds of our favorite desserts. Italian meringue is the most involved of the meringues because it requires a little bit of sugar cookery, but once you understand some meringue basics and have a good thermometer, it's as easy as meringue pie.
Why this recipe works:
- Whipping a hot sugar syrup into foamy egg whites doesn't just make it the most stable of the meringues—it's also safe to eat without additional baking.
- Adding acid to the egg whites guarantees that they'll be stable when whipped; here we offer 3 options: wiping the mixer bowl with a lemon half, or adding lemon juice or cream of tartar to the whites themselves.
- Room-temperature egg whites whip up faster than cold ones.
Notes: For best results, use fresh eggs at room temperature. For the acid, you can either wipe the bowl of a stand mixer with a lemon wedge or add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice or cream of tartar directly to your egg whites.
- Yield:Makes about 4 cups meringue
- Active time: 10 minutes
- Total time:10 minutes
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 4 room temperature egg whites, preferably from fresh eggs (see note)
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar, lemon juice from 1 lemon, or 1/2 lemon (see note)
In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water. Heat over high heat, brushing down sides of pot as necessary with a pastry brush dipped in water. Cook until sugar syrup registers 240°F on an instant read or candy thermometer.
Meanwhile, combine egg whites and cream of tartar or lemon juice in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment; alternatively, wipe the mixer bowl with cut side of 1/2 lemon before adding egg whites (and omit cream of tartar or lemon juice). Set mixer to medium speed and mix until soft peaks form (when lifted, the head of the mixer should form gentle peaks in the egg whites that very slowly collapse back into themselves), about 2 minutes.
With the mixer running, carefully and slowly drizzle in hot sugar syrup. Increase speed to high and whip until desired stiffness is achieved.