I am not an experienced baker, and that is why I always feel a certain pride whenever I say: “I have a foolproof recipe for meringue. It never fails”. The look you get back is about the same one would get if they said they killed a dragon.
Said recipe comes from The Art of French Baking, a truly handy book that also features a section explaining essential techniques. The part dedicated to meringues is so intimidating that I am surprised I ever attempted the task. Before listing anything that can go wrong, the author warns:
A meringue mixture is delicate; it needs to be placed in the oven immediately upon making. The oven temperature should be low and this temperature should be maintained for an hour or more depending on the size of the meringues. The meringue is then allowed to dry slowly, either in the oven or using special professional drying equipment. Meringues should never be made on a rainy or very humid day, as they will not dry out. Once they are firm and dry (they should not brown at all), they can easily be detached from the paper. Store in airtight containers or tins.
What you obtain is not gigantic clouds of sugar — they are small and compact, cooked all the way through, crisp with just a hint of gooeyness in the middle.
Here’s the [indeed very simple] recipe:
Preparation time: 30′
Cooking time: 35-40′
- Butter, for greasing
- 125g [4 1/4 oz] caster sugar
- 1 egg white
Note: I transcribed the recipe to the letter, but usually bake my meringues at a lower temperature [about 80˚C]
Preheat the oven to 100˚C / 200˚F / Gas Mark 1/2 and line a baking tray with buttered greaseproof paper. Whisk the egg whites, adding a quarter of the sugar after 2 minutes, then delicately fold in the remaining sugar once the whites are very stiff. Place small mounds of the meringue mixture on the baking tray, well spaced apart, and bake for 35-40 minutes, until completely dry, without allowing to colour.