I have to admit, I had no idea that meringue was made three ways: French, Italian and Swiss. Can you tell that I am not quite the baker that I sorta thought I was? Because this was such a mystery to me, and because I wanted to know what I was talking about when making suggestions for weddings, sweet tables and cocktails, I decided to learn. And by learning, I don't mean doing; I saved that for the pros. I basically used eight sources online, cross-referencing to see how the rules held up. Plus, I wanted to get some learning tips along the way to pass on to you.
Quite possibly the easiest to make of all the meringues, French style is also known as "basic" or "ordinary." The flip side to being easy, however, is that French meringue is also the most unstable of all three varieties.
If you're looking for a classic dry, shatter-style baked meringue cookie, then you will want to stick to the French method because it yields the best results in terms of baked dryness. There is also a great deal of versatility with this meringue, as it can be used in all kinds of desserts, from baked macarons to folding into lady finger batter and baked.
1. Beat the egg whites until they're foamy and smooth before you begin to add the sugar. (If the egg-white foam appears dry, you've beaten the whites too long, and the resulting meringue will not rise properly. Time to start completely over. Sorry.)
2. To avoid a granular texture, add the sugar to the foam gradually. This lends the meringue stability. After all the sugar is incorporated into the egg whites, beat the mixture until stiff peaks form. They will stand up and stay in place when the beater is lifted.
3. Be careful not to over-beat the mixture. The meringue should be smooth, glossy, and flexible, not dry or grainy.
4. Since raw eggs are used in this recipe, use your best discretion when serving this without baking. As you know, nursing mothers, the elderly, small children, and those with a weak immune system should not consume raw eggs.
The Italian method for preparing meringue is basically a two-step process that requires temperature-controlled specificity. That doesn't make it hard to make. It actually takes the guessing out of making it entirely, making it one of the easiest to make.
Depending on what texture you're going for, you may opt for this method or another as the Italian meringue yields a very sweet, dense, marshmallow-y style meringue. One of the biggest benefits of whipping Italian meringue is that, of the three styles, it is the only one that can't be over-beaten. That's because of the molecular structure of the sugar--it is the most resistant to creating air bubbles.
You will find this to be the least voluminous of the three meringues, which makes this one best used for icing cakes, cupcakes, and the like. Don't attempt to make Baked Alaska with this--not recommended!
1. Pour the hot sugar syrup slowly and steadily into the mixer bowl. Do not pour it directly onto the beater attachment or it will spatter.
2. Whip your eggs first, then add the sugar.
3. Remember the temperature control heat index of sugar should be 240* F.
From what I have read, Swiss meringue is an intermediate-level meringue is achieved by a delicate balance of whisking egg whites and sugar over almost-boiling water... This style of meringue is also a hybrid of texture between the French and the Italian styles. While it's got high marks for stability, versus the instability of a French meringue, it's not as dense as an Italian meringue.
If you're looking for a SAFE RAW meringue, then the Swiss style is definitely for you! This is the only one of the three that is "cooked" in the process of making, which means it's safe for consumption. You will find, however, that when baked, the meringue will retain a slight chewyness texture. Only the French meringue can yield maximum dryness within.
1. The simmering water should not touch the bottom of the bowl of egg whites as it may overheat them, ruining the texture.
2. The best way to determine if the sugar has dissolved is to rub a little of the mixture between your fingertips; it should feel smooth, not gritty.
3. Finished Swiss meringue will be far glossier than French meringue.