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Meringue (/məˈræŋ/,[1] mə-RANG; French pronunciation: ​[məʁɛ̃ɡ]) is a type of dessert, often associated with French, Swiss, and Italian cuisine, traditionally made from whipped egg whites and sugar, and occasionally an acidic ingredient such as lemon, vinegar or cream of tartar. A binding agent such as salt, cornstarch or gelatin may also be added to the eggs. The key to the formation of a good meringue is the formation of stiff peaks by denaturing the protein ovalbumin (a protein in the egg whites) via mechanical shear. Meringues are often flavoured with vanilla, a small amount of almond, or coconut, although if extracts of these are used and are based on an oil infusion, an excess of fat from the oil may inhibit the egg whites from forming a foam.

Meringues 9027.jpg
Meringue with whipped cream
Type Dessert
Main ingredients Egg whites, sugar or stevia
Cookbook: Meringue  Media: Meringue

They are light, airy and sweet confections. Homemade meringues are often chewy and soft with a crisp exterior, while many commercial meringues are crisp throughout. A uniform crisp texture may be achieved at home by baking at a low temperature (180–200 °F (82–93 °C)) for an extended period of up to two hours.



A bowl of home-made meringues

It has been claimed that meringue was invented in the Swiss village of Meiringen and improved by an Italian chef named Gasparini between the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century.[2] However this claim is contested; the Oxford English Dictionary states that the French word is of unknown origin. It is sure nevertheless that the name meringue for this confection first appeared in print in François Massialot's cookbook of 1692.[3] The word meringue first appeared in English in 1706 in an English translation of Massialot's book. Two considerably earlier seventeenth-century English manuscript books of recipes give instructions for confections that are recognizable as meringue, though called "white biskit bread" in the book of recipes started in 1604 by Lady Elinor Poole Fettiplace (c.1570 – c.1647) of Gloucestershire[4] and called "pets" in the manuscript of collected recipes written by Lady Rachel Fane (1612/13–1680) of Knole, Kent.[5] Slowly baked meringues are still referred to as "pets" in the Loire region of France due to their light and fluffy texture.[6]

Meringues were traditionally shaped between two large spoons, as they are generally at home today. Meringue piped through a pastry bag was introduced by Antonin Carême.[7]


There are several types of meringue: the sweetened, beaten egg whites that form the "islands" of floating island (also known in French as île flottante); the partly cooked toppings of lemon meringue pie and other meringue-topped desserts; and the classic dry featherweight meringue. Different preparation techniques produce these results.

  • French meringue, or basic meringue, is the method best known to home cooks. Fine white sugar (caster sugar) is beaten into egg whites.
  • Italian meringue is made with boiling sugar syrup, instead of caster sugar. This leads to a much more stable soft meringue which can be used in various pastries without collapsing. In an Italian meringue, a hot sugar syrup is whipped into softly whipped egg whites till stiff and until the meringue becomes cool. This type of meringue is safe to use without cooking. It will not deflate for a long while and can be either used for decoration on pie, or spread on a sheet or baked Alaska base and baked.
  • Swiss meringue is whisked over a bain-marie to warm the egg whites, and then whisked steadily until it cools. This forms a dense, glossy marshmallow-like meringue. It is usually then baked.
  • Vegan meringue is imitation meringue made using aquafaba with a small dose of vinegar and caster sugar. It holds similar characteristics to that of egg-based meringue, but it will quickly burn if torched or baked incorrectly.


Beaten egg whites

Protein distribution in egg whites is as follows: (54%) ovalbumin, (13%) conalbumin/ ovotransferrin, (11%) ovomucoid, (4%) ovoglobulins, (3.5%) lysozyme, and (2%) ovomucin.[8] Ovoglobulins drive foaming, ovomucin is the main stabilization agent, and the remainder of the proteins interact to contribute to overall foaming and stability. When egg whites are beaten, some of the hydrogen bonds in the proteins break, causing the proteins to unfold ("denature") and to aggregate non-specifically. When these egg white proteins denature (due to agitation from beating), their hydrophobic regions are exposed and the formation of intermolecular protein-protein interactions is promoted. These protein-protein interactions, usually disulfide bridges, create networks responsible for the structure of the foam and this change in structure leads to the stiff consistency required for meringues. The use of a copper bowl, or the addition of cream of tartar is required to additionally denature the proteins to create the firm peaks, otherwise the whites will not be firm. Plastic bowls, wet or greasy bowls will likely result in the meringue mix being prevented from becoming peaky.[citation needed] Wiping the bowl with a wedge of lemon to remove any traces of grease can often help the process.

When beating egg whites, they are classified in three stages according to the peaks they form when the beater is lifted: soft, firm, and stiff peaks.

Egg whites and sugar are both hygroscopic (water-attracting) chemicals. Consequently, meringue becomes soggy when refrigerated or stored in a high-humidity environment. This quality also explains the problem called "weeping" or "sweating", in which beads of moisture form on all surfaces of the meringue. Sweating is a particular problem for French meringues in which the granulated sugar is inadequately dissolved in the egg whites, and for high-moisture pie fillings.


Pavlova, a meringue-based dessert and an icon of Australian and New Zealand cuisine

Meringues eaten like biscuits are baked at a very low heat for a long time.[9]

Lemon meringue pie with browned meringue peaks

One name for them is forgotten cookies[10] as they can be left in a gas oven for long periods of time after the cooking is done. They are not supposed to be "tanned" at all, but they need to be very crisp and dry. They will keep for at least a week if stored in an airtight container.

Meringue can be used as the basis for various desserts including baked Alaska, bruttiboni, dacquoise, Esterházy torte, Eton mess, floating island, key lime pie, Kyiv cake, lemon meringue pie, macarons, merveilleux, pavlova, Queen of Puddings, sans rival, silvana, Spanische Windtorte, and Zuger Kirschtorte. In some recipes, the meringue may be cooked at a higher temperature for a shorter amount of time, resulting in a soft meringue with slightly browned peaks on top.

Meringue mushrooms

Another dish is meringue de angel, which consists of shortbread biscuits layered with meringue and lemon curd, topped off with drizzled lemon glaze. Variations include assorted fruits such as raspberries, peaches, mangoes, cherries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, pineapple, papayas, honeydew, oranges, cantaloupe.

Meringue may be used for embellishment. It can be formed into whimsical shapes, such as that of a mushroom, or piped into a crisp basket that is baked and filled later with cake, fruit, or flowers.

Nutritional contentEdit

The principal nutritional components are protein from the egg whites and simple carbohydrates from the refined sugar. (Because of the sugar, it is not considered a low calorie food.)

See alsoEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ Trumble, William R.; Stevenson, Angus, eds. (2002). "meringue". Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. 1 (fifth ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 1751. ISBN 0-19-860575-7. 
  2. ^ "Meringue" (in German). Municipality of Meiringen. Retrieved 8 March 2013. 
  3. ^ Massialot (1692). "XXVIII: Des Meringues & Macarons". Nouvelle instruction pour les confitures, les liqueurs et les fruits (in French). Paris: Charles de Sercy. pp. 186–188noted by Muster (ref.) 
  4. ^ Fettiplace, Eleanor Poole (1994). Hilary Spurling, ed. Elinor Fettiplace's Receipt Book. Translated by John Spurling. Bristol: Stuart Pressnoted by Muster (ref.) 
  5. ^ Barry, Michael (1995). Old English Recipes. Jarrod (archived at the Centre for Kentish Studies, Maidstone, Kent). p. 64f. 
  6. ^ Alcock, Barry (2003). Jeremy, Caroline, ed. Green & Black's Chocolate Recipes. (Kyle Cathie Ltd. p. 101. 
  7. ^ Kelly, Ian (2003). Cooking for Kings: the life of Antonin Carême, the first celebrity chef. pp. 60, 225. 
  8. ^ Vega, César; Sanghvi, Avani (2012-02-14). "Cooking Literacy: Meringues as Culinary Scaffoldings". Food Biophysics. 7 (2): 103–113. doi:10.1007/s11483-011-9247-7. ISSN 1557-1858. 
  9. ^ "Meringue Cookies". Archived from the original on March 2, 2015. Retrieved 2013-06-19. 
  10. ^ Good Food. "Forgotten cookies". BBC Worldwide. Retrieved 2013-06-19. 

External linksEdit