During this month’s baking calendar, we learned how to make French meringue and Swiss meringue. Today, we will see how to make Italian meringue. And what better way to use it than for a lemon meringue tart! And I promise we will keep it very simple. If you’ve been following the baking calendars, you already know how to make lemon curd and pâte sucrée. The only new thing in this recipe is the Italian meringue and it’s actually very easy to make.
For some reason, and I think I speak for many when I say that, the Italian meringue feels like the toughest one to do. After all, you have to do two things at the same time: whip the egg whites and prepare a syrup! And on top of that, you’ve got to keep an eye on the temperature of the syrup?! But really, all you need to do is wait for the syrup to boil and switch your stand mixer on. Then you slowly pour the syrup into the partially whipped egg whites while the stand mixer does its job. And you wait. That’s it! To be honest, I can’t believe it took me so long to make Italian meringue!
Components Of A Lemon Meringue Tart
A lemon meringue tart is made up of three parts:
- The dough: You can use pâte sucrée or pâte sablée, whichever one you prefer. Pâte sablée is incredibly tasty and is usually my first choice. But pâte sucrée is sturdier and will last longer than pâte sablée before getting soggy. So it’s more suitable if you aren’t planning on serving your tart immediately. You could seal the tart crust before adding the lemon curd, to reduce sogginess. To do so, you could brush the tart crust with egg wash 5 minutes before the end of the baking time (and return to the oven). Or you could brush a little bit of melted white chocolate on the baked tart shell.
- The lemon curd: If you like lemon curd with a proper lemon kick, you are going to love the recipe that is on the blog. Today, we will be tweaking it just a little: we will use two egg yolks instead of a whole egg. This way we can save up the 2 egg whites for the meringue! No need to scratch our heads, thinking about the leftover eggs! Lemon curd that is used for a large tart should set properly, as you don’t want it to leak once you cut into the tart. We will be using a little bit of cornstarch, to ensure a clean cut.
- The Italian meringue: This is what we’ll be focusing on today and we’ll make it together with some step by step pictures.
What Is An Italian Meringue?
Italian meringue is made by adding a hot, cooked syrup (sugar and water) to partially whipped egg whites. The ratio of sugar to egg whites is generally 2:1. So for 65 g of egg whites, you will need 130 g of sugar.
To make the syrup, a small amount of water is added to prevent the sugar from caramelizing. You should add just enough water to humidify all the sugar. But not so much that it will take too long for the water to evaporate and for the syrup to get to the desired temperature. While you are cooking the syrup, you can use a wet pastry brush to get rid of any sugar crystals on the sides of the pot. The syrup should be boiled to a temperature of about 119-121°C (246-250°F), known as the “firm ball” stage. Since the syrup will keep cooking a little when taken off the heat, it is generally recommended to stop heating it once it reaches 118°C (245°F).
The egg whites
Before reaching that temperature, the room temperature egg whites (20-21°C/68-70°F) have to be partially whipped in a mixing bowl. Some bakers start whipping at low speed as soon as the syrup is on the stove. Others recommend whipping the egg whites on medium-high speed once the temperature of the syrup reaches 110°C (230°F). The reasoning behind this is that you don’t want to end up whipping the egg whites for too long while waiting for the syrup to cook. In this post, we will be using the latter method. But both seem to be used successfully so you can chose whichever method you are most comfortable with. The hot syrup is then slowly added to the egg whites and the meringue is whipped until it has cooled down completely (about 32°C/90°F).
An Italian meringue is more stable than a French or a Swiss meringue. It does not need to be baked and is usually used as a topping, such as in a lemon meringue tart, or to lighten a mousse. French macarons are often made using an Italian meringue. An Italian meringue can be stored, well covered, in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Whisk it slightly before use.
Is The Italian Meringue Safe To Eat?
Technically, yes. The hot syrup cooks the egg whites and brings them to a safe temperature of 71°C (160°F). However, I personally think many things might prevent this from happening.
- The eggs or bowl used are too cold.
- Your kitchen is particularly cold that day.
- The hot syrup wasn’t added immediately to the egg whites or was added too slowly.
If you are worried about egg safety, I would recommend making a Swiss meringue instead. The egg whites are cooked with the sugar in a double boiler until they reach a safe temperature. Another option would be to make small French meringue cookies and use them to decorate the top of your tart and add a nice crunch.
Preparing The Tart Crust
The first thing you need to do is prepare the pâte sucrée or pâte sablée and refrigerate it overnight (or for a few hours). If you recall from the post How to line a tart pan with pastry, we talked about the importance of rolling out only as much dough as you need. This makes the dough easier to work with and minimizes gluten formation.
Since the recipes usually make a large amount of dough, it’s best to weigh the dough and cut out a part of it. To line a 24 cm tart ring, I cut out about 370 g. I ended up using 280 g. If you are using a different pan size and you don’t know how much dough you will need, read How to make a French tart (section 4.1). You can freeze all the leftover dough in a zip-lock bag for up to a month.
Okay, let’s do this with pictures now!
Lining the tart pan
- Weigh the dough and cut out as much as needed.
- Place between two sheets of parchment paper.
- Using a regular rolling pin (or a rolling pin with removable rings, I selected a diameter of 2mm), roll out the dough to a thickness of about 2-3mm.
- Place your tart pan (or tart ring) over the dough to make sure you have rolled it out enough.
- If the dough has softened, refrigerate it for 15 minutes before attempting to line the tart pan.
- Peel off the parchment paper from one side of the dough and flip the dough over the tart pan. Peel off the remaining parchment paper.
- Gently ease the dough onto the sides of the pan, making sure it touches the bottom of the pan and the edges. There shouldn’t be any gaps or else the dough will slide down during baking.
- If using a fluted tart pan, cut off the excess dough using a rolling pin. If using a tart ring, cut off the excess with a knife.
Baking and filling the tart crust
- Freeze the tart for 15 minutes while preheating the oven to 180°C (356°F), conventional setting.
- Bake for about 20-25 minutes. Let the tart crust cool completely on a wire rack before filling with lemon curd.
If you’re not comfortable lining a tart pan, be sure to read How to line a tart pan with pastry first.
- Once the tart crust has completely cooled down, prepare the lemon curd.
- Spread the lemon curd in an even layer. I just used a large spoon. Refrigerate while you prepare the Italian meringue.
Making The Italian Meringue
Preparing the equipment
It’s best to use a stand mixer when making the Italian meringue as you will need to do a few things simultaneously. It can, however, be quite tricky to whip a small amount of egg whites (two in this recipe) in a stand mixer. There are two things you can do to fix this:
- Make sure your beater is at the right height. It shouldn’t be low enough that it scratches the bowl. But if it’s too high, then it won’t mix properly and your egg whites won’t increase in volume. Depending on your stand mixer model, you can find videos on how to adjust the beater to bowl clearance. If you have a KitchenAid, you can watch this video. If not, this article is helpful.
- Start with the paddle attachment and mix on medium-high speed. When the egg whites are foamy, you can use the whisk attachment. This is a neat trick I found on KitchenAid‘s website.
It’s important to prepare everything you will need in advance.
- Fit a piping bag with the desired tip (you can just use a spoon if you prefer).
- Wipe your mixing bowl, whisk and paddle attachment with vinegar to get rid of any fat residues (which would prevent the egg whites from whipping properly).
- Pour the egg whites into the mixing bowl and attach the bowl to the mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment.
Tip: When mixing a small quantity of egg whites, if you notice your whisk attachment isn’t doing anything, use the paddle attachment instead and mix on medium-high speed. Once the egg whites are foamy, you can use the whisk attachment.
Making the syrup
- In a small pot, bring the sugar and water to a boil.
Now there are two key points to remember:
- When the syrup starts to boil and the temperature reaches 110°C (230°F), start whipping the egg whites on medium speed.
- Remove the syrup from the heat when it reaches 118°C (245°F). Lower the speed of the stand mixer and start pouring the syrup slowly between the edge of the bowl and the whisk. You don’t want to get splattered with hot syrup!
Whipping the egg whites
- Increase the speed to medium-high and keep whipping until the meringue has cooled down completely and forms stiff peaks. You can simply touch the mixing bowl to see whether or not the meringue is at the right temperature. It will initially feel hot, and it will take about 5-10 minutes for it to cool down.
- Pipe desired shapes or spoon the meringue onto the (refrigerated) tart. You can cover the tart completely with meringue if you want. I personally like seeing the yellow shade of the tart so I only piped around the edges. I had a lot of leftover meringue. And finally, you can use a kitchen torch if you want to give the meringue a golden color.
And that’s it! What did you think of the Italian meringue? It’s not that hard to make is it? And to be honest, I loved piping it. It holds its shape so nicely. And if you are unhappy with the piped shape, you can easily scoop it up without ruining the lemon tart. I hope you give it a go! And if you don’t want to use Italian meringue for your lemon tart, simply swap it with mini French meringue cookies or a Swiss meringue. Or just make a lemon tart! It will still be incredibly delicious!
In case you missed it, head over to the meringues baking calendar to see what we’ll be learning this month.