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Meringue is a variety of dessert made out of whipped egg whites and sugar. It can either be baked added as a topping on meringue pies or as cookies or shells for specific desserts. Unbaked meringue is simply made using an electric or stand mixer. At times meringue recipes can also include a fastening agent like cream of tartar or the cornstarch present in confectioner's sugar. Meringues are commonly flavoured with vanilla and a little amount of almond or coconut extract. They are light, fluffy and sweet. Popular meringue recipes include Golden Nut Meringue Cake Meringue, Peach Meringues with Fresh Strawberry Sauce, Fruit Filled Meringues, Individual Meringue Shells and Meringue Shell.

History of Meringue

There is a strong contention that Meringue is believed to have been originated in the in the Swiss town of Meiringen by an Italian chef known as Gasparini. It is held more likely that the term meringue implying this sweet was first published in François Massialot's cookbook of 1692.The term meringue first came out in English in the year 1706 in an English version of Massialot's book. Two meringue recipes containing instructions identifiable as the ones for meringue known as "white biskit bread" were present in the book of recipes begun in 1604 by Lady Elinor Fettiplace of Appleton in Berkshire and known as "pets" in the manuscript of collected recipes written by Lady Rachel Fane of Knole, Kent. Gradually baked meringues are still known as "pets" which mean ‘flatuses’ in French owing to their light and fluffy texture.

Ingredients Used and Popular Methods of Preparation of Meringue

Meringue is simple and easy to make. Among the various meringue recipes, the basic recipe to make meringue makes use of egg whites, castor sugar and icing sugar. Firstly the oven is preheated at a temperature of 300 degrees F. Fresh eggs are the secrets to make a good quality meringue. The eggs are separated collecting the egg whites and the yolks in separate bowls/containers. Then the collection of egg whites is whisked beginning from slow and graduating to fast with the help of a blender. Once the egg whites form peaks, sugar is whisked up into it and the resulted mixture is baked having been placed over a baking sheet at a temperature of 325 degrees for about 25 to 30 minutes. Meringues are normally baked in gas ovens.

Serving and Eating Meringue

Meringue comes in different styles viz-the sweet, raw beaten egg whites that make the "islands" of Floating Island, the partially cooked coverings of lemon meringue pie and some meringue-topped desserts and the typical dry featherweight meringue. All of them are made differently.

French meringue is among popular home meringue recipes. Fine white sugar is whisked into egg whites.
Italian meringue recipes make use of boiling sugar syrup in place of caster sugar. The resultant meringue is more firm and used in many pastries.

Italian meringue is made by whisking hot sugar syrup into softly whipped egg whites till firm. This variety of meringue can be very well used without cooking. It remains steady, does not collapse for a long time and can be added on pies and Baked Alaska or stretched on a sheet and baked for meringues.

Swiss meringue is whipped atop a bain marie to warm the egg whites and then whisked gradually such that it cools for being baked.

Popular Meringue Variations

Meringue can be served and had in a variety of ways. Meringues resembling cookies are made by being baked at a much low heat for a long period. For this reason they are known as "Forgotten Cookies" as they can be placed in a gas oven for long durations of time once the preparation is done. They are meant to be rightly crisp and moisture-less although they need not be brown. They will keep for at least a week if stored in an airtight container.

Meringue can be added as the base for various other desserts such as angel food cake, pavlova, Baked Alaska, Queen of Puddings, Key lime pie, Eton mess and lemon meringue pie. For using in such recipes, meringue could be cooked at a higher temperature over a shorter period of time, following a soft meringue with somewhat browned peaks on top.

“Meringue de Angel", among meringue recipes comprises shortbread cookies covered with meringue and lemon curd topped with drizzled lemon glaze. Varied meringue recipes include raspberries, peaches, mangos, blueberries, blackberries, pineapple, papayas, honeydew, oranges, cantaloupe, or cherries and strawberries.

Meringue can also be used for decoration by being shaped into fanciful shapes, such as mushrooms or piped into a crisp basket which is baked and filled later with cake, fruit, or flowers.

Miscellaneous Facts about Meringue

Meringue Pies can be stored beneath an upturned bowl at room temperature.

Meringue pies generally last a day or two and then, it begins to break.