I was trying to wedge a bag of frozen shrimp into my freezer when I determined I needed to clear out some ingredients. Looking over the shelves in the door, I saw a deli container of egg whites and thought about the cookie options for just using a lot of egg whites.
Meringues. Everyone on the internet agreed that the answer was meringues. However, they all also agreed with my preconception that meringues are hard.
When people say that doing something is “hard”, I think it can mean a lot of different things. A few of the most common are:
- It requires specific knowledge or technique
- It takes a long time
- It can just randomly fail for reasons out of one’s control
I kind of thought all of the above were true about meringues, but I wouldn’t know until I tried. I found this seemingly reliable recipe from Sugar Spun Run and took a shot.
Although I had discovered the surplus of egg whites early, I ended up baking them sooner than I had originally planned, so I had to do some rapid defrosting to get it to room temperature as requested.
I tried to get as much of it melted as possible, then put the stand mixer bowl in warm water. For the rest, I tried to use the defrost setting on the microwave, but unfortunately, some of it seemed to cook. I called it even and went ahead.
I started beating the egg whites, and they actually held together quite well. I think there’s some precision in getting it to stiff peaks appropriately.
I noticed a lot of rattling in the stand mixer as well. I guessed that the whisk attachment isn’t quite the same height as the flexible spatula attachment, so I did a quick adjustment on the beater height before continuing.
Around this time, my daughter was rightfully getting fussy about a lack of attention. However, I couldn’t stop the baking process, so I picked her up in one hand while I added the sugar a tablespoon at a time.
As such, I had no free hands to take pictures along the way. I think I added the sugar too slowly since it started to firm up very quickly. I stopped when I noticed that most of the mixture was clumped inside of the whisk attachment with only some softer parts around the edges. There was no going back, though, so I added the vanilla for flavor and moved to pipe them.
My pictures here take another big jump in a “How to Draw an Owl” manner because my daughter quickly became dissatisfied with only being held in one arm from time-to-time. I knew I needed both hands to pipe, so I grabbed the carrier and strapped her to my chest to continue.
Getting the batter into the piping bag was a little messy, but I was able to get enough in to continue. The piped shapes were somewhat irregular, in part due to my daughter’s interest in reaching for the bag. I then moved to a strategy where I held the bag off to the side with a straight arm.
Overall, they didn’t look like the pictures, but they turned out surprisingly tidy.
I normally will scrape down the bowl and the bag to the last bit, but I was in a rush, so I popped them into the oven.
An hour later, I turned off the oven, and 1 1/2 hours after that, I pulled them out. I was very happy that they held their shape.
Perhaps the most interesting thing was the difference in the color between the two sheets. I’m almost certain is was from differences in the heat throughout the oven. However, it sounds like both the convection setting as well as opening the oven can both be quite disruptive to meringues, so I don’t think there was a way around that.
Overall, I was quite pleased with how the meringues turned out. There was some variation in the bake, but they generally had the air, crunch, and melt-in-your-mouth experience I had hoped for.
So are meringues hard? Well,
- If it does require specific knowledge, Sugar Spun Run gave me all of it
- If we ignore the need to attend to tiny humans, these were actually less work than many other cookies largely because there are so few ingredients. They take awhile to bake, but even that is passive since you don’t really have to watch them
- I think I got lucky. We certainly don’t have a humid climate here.
Also, one more action shot of me trying to take pictures for this blog.
If you’re also feeling lucky, you can find the Meringue Cookies recipe on Sugar Spun Run.