Before I had a proper meringue, I had no idea why people went crazy for them. Chalky, crumbly, dry, overly sweet....just inexplicable, really, why anyone would want to eat one, let alone look forward to it.
But then, I tasted the real thing. Soft, pillowy, marshmallowy, delicious. Meringues have also become one of my very favorite things to make, partly because they are extraordinarily simple. Be careful, though--they are totally addictive.
- 1/2 cup egg whites, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons white vinegar or 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 cup sugar
- Pinch of salt
- Optional: 1/2 cup chopped chocolate, toasted, chopped nuts, toasted coconut, or cocoa nibs
Preheat the oven to 200°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking liners.
To get the greatest volume, everything must be absolutely clean and free of fat. So, even if your mixer bowl and whisk are clean, wash them again with soap and very hot water.
Make sure that your egg whites are completely free of yolks, too.
Place the whites and vinegar or cream of tartar in the clean mixer bowl. Set the bowl into the mixer, fit with the whisk attachment, and turn the mixer at a low speed. While it can be tempting to crank up the speed, whipping the egg whites slowly creates smaller, more even-sized air bubbles, leading to a more stable meringue with greater volume.
Whip the egg whites until they are creamy and white, rather than transparent and yellow, and then increase the speed to medium and begin to add the sugar in a thin stream. It should take a couple of minutes for you to add all of the sugar. Add the salt. Continue whisking until the whites hold stiff peaks.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and carefully fold in any additions you're choosing to include.
Spoon 1-2 tablespoon amounts onto the lined baking sheet, leaving about 1/2-inch of space between each meringue, and bake for about 45-55 minutes, rotating the pans and changing their racks after 15 minutes. Once the timer hits 35 minutes, check on the meringues every 5 minutes. You'll know when they're done, but not overcooked, when you can easily peel one off the liner and pick it up without breaking (though sometimes if you use chocolate, it can cause a fully baked meringue to stick to the pan, so be aware).
Let the meringues cool and gobble them up with friends.
If somehow, some are left, make sure to seal them up in an airtight container so they don't get soggalicious overnight.