Meringue is the proverbial icing on the cake to many deserts, in some cases like Floating meringues, the meringue is the dessert. There are many types of meringues but all use the same three basic ingredients: egg whites, sugar and pinch of cream of tartar. I will cover three types of meringues in this article, giving the recipes, usage and presentations of each.
Southern cooks cover many of their pie and pudding creations with a layer of Southern meringue that is usually thicker than the dessert itself. Homemade chocolate pies, peanut butter pies, lemon pies and banana puddings that are a southern tradition are always covered with a thick layer of meringue.
Southern meringue is very simple recipe: 3 egg whites, 3 teaspoons of sugar and a pinch of cream of tartar. The egg whites need to be at room temperature and placed in a large mixing bowl. Begin mixing the egg whites at low speed with an electric mixer, add the cream of tartar while continuing to mix until mixture becomes frothy, then add the sugar one teaspoon at a time and increase the mixer’s speed to high. Beat this mixture until stiff white peaks form in the mixture. This process usually takes from 5-10 minutes. Preheat your oven on broil while you are mixing the Southern meringue. Spoon out the meringue on your favorite southern dessert and pop in the oven under the broiler for just a minute or so until the meringue’s peaks brown.
French meringue is basically the same as Southern meringue, but generally uses a finer grade of sugar and a pinch of salt. You can put regular granulated sugar in a food processor for a few seconds to make the sugar finer instead of buying a finer grade of sugar. Put the French meringue on your dessert and brown under the broiler or with a torch.
Floating meringues are a dessert by themselves, or you can combine them with some fruit for a delicious fat-free dessert. Begin your Floating meringues with the same meringue recipe as either the Southern meringue or French meringue, then shape the meringue into ovals and poach in a milk and water mixture.
In addition to the basic meringue ingredients, you will need 4 cups of whole milk and 1 cup of water to make Floating meringues.
Put the milk and water into a sauce pan and let it come to a simmer while you are mixing your meringue. Reduce the heat under the sauce pan when meringue is ready, you do not want the milk/water mixture to be boiling. Shape the meringue into ovals by using 2 spoons. Wet the spoons with water and keep them wet as you shape the meringue, passing the meringue back and forth between the spoons until you have the desired oval shape. Drop the shaped meringues into the milk/water mixture and poach for 2 minutes on the first side, then flip and poach for 2 more minutes on the other side until the meringue is firm to the touch. Remove meringues with a spider or slotted spoon, serve as is or with a fruit compote or fresh berries.
Regardless if the meringue is Southern, French or Floating, it’s a beautiful as it is fat-free and delicious.