If you always seem to end up with undissolved sugar crystals when making meringues, then Swiss meringue might just be what you need. Unlike French meringue, where the sugar is added very gradually to the egg whites, Swiss meringue consists in heating all the sugar with the egg whites in a double boiler. Swiss meringue is more stable and has many uses, depending on how much you heat the egg whites and sugar, before whipping them.
Temperature of Swiss Meringue
How much you heat the meringue will play a role in the final texture of your meringue and what you can use it for.
When heating the egg whites and sugar in a double boiler, the temperature should be somewhere between 40-71°C (104-160°F). The more you heat the meringue, the denser the texture will be. When making meringue cookies, it’s best to take the meringue off the heat when the temperature reaches 40-45°C (105-115°F). At this temperature, the sugar will have melted without compromising the airy texture of a meringue.
If you aren’t planning on baking the meringue, you will need to heat it to a safe temperature of 71°C (160°F). This is the case when making Swiss meringue buttercream for example. Softened butter is added to the meringue that has been whipped and cooled down.
Making Swiss Meringue
Since we will be heating the egg whites and sugar over simmering water, the first thing we need to do is find a suitable pot. There are two things to keep in mind:
- The pot should be narrow enough so that the mixing bowl doesn’t sink down to the bottom of the pot. Test it out by placing the mixing bowl over a few small pots.
- You should fill the pot with just a little bit of water. The mixing bowl shouldn’t be touching the water. To make sure it doesn’t, I’d recommend filling the pot as much as you think you can (I fill about 2.5cm/1 inch). Then place the mixing bowl in the pot and check to see if the bottom got wet. If it didn’t, you’re good to go. If it did, empty the pot a little and try again (dry the bowl first of course).
You can now bring the water to a simmer so that it’s ready whenever you want to start heating the egg whites and sugar. Okay, now that we cleared this up, let’s start making our meringue!
Heating the egg whites and sugar
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 90°C (194°F), conventional setting. Prepare a piping bag fitted with desired piping tip (optional).
- In a stainless steel bowl (I use my stand mixer bowl), pour the egg whites and sugar and start whisking immediately.
- Place over the pot of simmering water and keep whisking to prevent the eggs from scrambling. I also like to occasionally clean the sides of the pot with a (very slightly) wet brush, to make sure there is no sugar stuck there.
- Once the temperature reaches 40-45°C (105-115°F), remove from the heat and attach the bowl to the stand mixer (if using). Start beating on medium-high speed. You can simply use your hand mixer.
Mixing the meringue
- Stop beating once the meringue forms stiff peaks.
To make sure I’ve reached stiff peaks, I like to tilt my beater in all directions. If the peak doesn’t change shape at all, I stop beating.
- If you wish to replace part of the sugar with powdered sugar, you simply sift it over the stiff meringue and gently fold it in with a spatula. Careful not to deflate the meringue.
- Fill the piping bag and pipe desired shape. Bake for about 90 minutes to 2 hours.
To make hearts, I used a large plain piping tip. To be honest, I found it quite hard! I still need quite a bit of practice! The trick is to pipe a large drop, then stop applying pressure and drag the piping bag down diagonally. Then repeat for the other side. Initially I didn’t understand this and kept applying pressure. I ended up with some strange looking hearts, more like two lines overlapping! If you’d like to make some, I found this video helpful (1:24).
You could also pipe shells like the pictures below. I used a large open star tip.
Chocolate Flavored Swiss Meringue
If you’d like to add a little bit of chocolate flavor to your meringue, you can sift the cocoa powder over the stiff meringue and fold it in. If you are using powdered sugar, you can sift them together. Just note that the color of the meringue won’t be very intense and will no longer be white.
If you’d like to retain the white color but still use cocoa powder, you could fold the cocoa powder into the meringue just a little. Stop before it is fully combined to get streaks of cocoa powder.
You could also sift some cocoa powder on top of the piped meringues. Just don’t overdo it like I did! I put way too much by accident! Funnily enough, my kids wanted those meringues first!
And finally, my preferred option is to simply dip the baked (and cooled) meringue in melted chocolate and pour sprinkles over it. It’s simple and it’s fun decorating them.
And that’s it! I personally found Swiss meringue easier than French meringue. In terms of taste, I loved it. Although I know some people prefer using French meringue to make cookies. But even if you don’t to use Swiss meringue to make cookies, knowing how to make it will come in really handy. You’ll be able to make silky, smooth Swiss meringue buttercream (SMBC) which we will cover in a future calendar.
Next week, we’ll making Italian meringue to decorate our lemon tart!
In case you missed it, head over to the meringues baking calendar to see what we’ll be learning this month.