Italian meringue is sturdy stuff. It holds up well when exposed to moisture as well as heat, which makes it great for baked Alaska. To make Italian meringue you’ll need:
For the egg whites
5 ounces (5) egg whites at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1.75 ounces (1/4 cup) sugar
For the syrup
4 ounces (1/2 cup) water
7 ounces (1 cup) sugar
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whip. Whip the eggs on medium speed until they’re frothy, then add salt and cream of tartar. Keep whipping to the soft peak stage. Add the 1/4 cup sugar in a steady stream and whip to just shy of stiff peaks. Turn off the machine and attend to the syrup.
Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to to a boil over medium-high heat and let it cook to 238 degrees Fahrenheit.
Now then, carefully pour some of the syrup into the whites and immediately turn the mixer up to high and whip for five seconds. Turn the machine off, add more syrup, whip again and so on until all the syrup has been incorporated and the meringue is whipped to stiff peaks. Use immediately.
Most of us know how to whip sugar and egg whites together, but since this multi-purpose meringue requires an extra folding step, I thought it would be worth a few photos. First, you’ll need to sift the powdered sugar and flour together:
Easy. Now set that bowl aside.
Place your egg whites in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whip and whip on high speed to soft peaks.
With the machine running, add the granulated sugar in a steady stream…
…then whip to stiff peaks, like so:
Now then, add the powdered sugar and flour mixture all at once…
…and fold it in with a large spatula.
It should look about like so:
This is half a batch. It’ll be a little grainy to the touch, but don’t worry, those sugar granules will vanish once the meringue is baked. As for what you do with this, it depends. Meringue mushrooms are a great application, but it can also be piped into layers for a multi-tiered pastry. Baking instructions for either of those applications are below.
Having tried quite a few French meringues, I can say I prefer Roland Mesnier’s version hands down. Not only is it good and sturdy, it actually has flavor beyond mere sugary sweetness. When I made meringue mushrooms out of it, the missus wouldn’t believe that I hadn’t added any additional flavorings. It’s that complex and caramel-y. This amount is enough for four 10-inch round cake layers, so if you need less, you can scale it down by as much as 75% and it will still work in a stand mixer. The formula is:
14 ounces (2 cups) granulated sugar
8 ounces (2 cups) powdered sugar
1 ounce (3 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
8 egg whites
Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Whisk the powdered sugar and flour together in a medium bowl. In a stand mixer fitted with a whip, whip the egg whites on high to the soft peak stage. With the machine running, add the granulated sugar in a steady stream (plus any extract or color you care to add) and whip to stiff peaks. Fold in the powdered sugar/flour mixture by hand.
Transfer the meringue to a pastry bag and pipe with a large, plain tip into whatever shape you wish. Bake both small and large shapes for 20-30 minutes with the oven door propped open with the handle of a wooden spoon to allow moisture to escape. Check at the 20 minute mark to see if there’s any browning. If so (and you don’t want it) turn the oven down to 200 (for extra caramelization, turn the oven up to 300).
Bake until your meringues are completely dry, another half an hour for very small shapes, about one and a half hours for large cake layers. Cool them completely on the baking sheets and store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.