Over in the Bakestarters’ blog, we’ve talked about the different types of meringues, the French meringue, and its Swiss counterpart. The Italian meringue, which I’m going to be touching on today, is considered to be the most stable of all meringues, making it suitable for baked Alaskas or as a base for mousses. However, I would consider it to be the most complicated meringue to whip up.
What Is Italian Meringue?
Meringue in itself refers to a whipped egg white and sugar mixture baked to a crisp. Of course, sometimes instead of baking it, you may use the whipped mixture as a base for buttercream or mousses.
The Italian meringue is a method of preparing meringue that involves cooking a sugar syrup (really hot!), and whipping it into egg whites till stiff peaks. This results in the most stable meringue, and it also means that it’s safe to eat as it is.
While it’s optional, adding an acid such as lemon juice or cream of tartar can help the meringue to stabilise better. As mentioned, Italian meringue is one of the most complicated to whip up as you’ll have to cook a sugar syrup while your egg whites are getting beaten. Therefore, I would recommend you to use a stand mixer when making Italian meringue!
Besides a stand mixer, you’ll also need a kitchen thermometer to measure the temperature of the sugar syrup. You won’t be able to use your fingers like the Swiss meringue as the sugar syrup is very, very hot!
Ready to try it out? Here’s a simple, basic recipe for Italian meringue.
4 large egg whites (~140g)
280g granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar (optional)
- Sugar syrup: In medium saucepan, combine the sugar and water, and set it on medium heat. Give it a quick stir to dissolve the sugar. Boil the sugar mixture until it reaches the soft ball stage, where the kitchen thermometer reads 115°C.
- While your sugar syrup is cooking, beat the egg whites in a clean, grease and oil-free bowl of a stand-mixer, using the whisk attachment. Add in cream of tartar, if desired. Beat your egg whites on medium speed until it reaches soft peaks.
- Adding sugar syrup: At this point, the sugar syrup is VERY HOT, so you want to take extra care here. While your mixer is beating the egg whites on low speed, stream in the hot syrup slowly.
- Once all the syrup has been added, increase your mixer speed to medium-high, and beat until stiff peaks.
Italian Meringue Tips
- Use room temperature egg whites - These whip up faster, and you want your sugar syrup to come up to the right temperature at about the same time as your egg whites whip up to soft peaks.
- Don’t skimp on sugar - The sugar, as with all meringues, is essential in stabilising the meringue, and a ratio of 1 part egg white 2 parts sugar is generally ideal for meringues.
- Use a clean, grease & oil-free metal, glass, or copper bowl - Plastic bowls retain grease and fat easily, and this in turn makes it harder to whip up egg whites, because the fat prevents the proteins from bonding with each other. Which brings us to the next point!
- Use a wedge of lemon to clean your mixing bowl - Before beginning, rub the bowl with a wedge of lemon, and then use a paper towel to clean the bowl. It’s a bit of work, but it helps to ensure that there isn’t any grease in the bowl to derail your meringue.
For more tips on making meringues, visit our article on the three different types of meringues.