Swiss meringue is one of three types of meringues, and when done right, is fluffy like the French meringue, and stable, like its Italian cousin. It’s made by cooking egg whites and sugar over a bain-marie (a double boiler), then whipped to stiff peaks. The voluminous mixture can then be used to put on top of pies, baked as crisp meringue cookies, or as a base for Swiss Meringue Buttercream that's used for frosting cakes.
Swiss meringue is arguably best known for its role in elevating the usual buttercream to something much more than the sum of its parts. The basic buttercream, especially in humid and warm Singapore, can sometimes be greasy, unstable, and overly sweet.
Swiss meringue to the rescue, then.
Tips For Making Swiss Meringue
As with any meringues, you want to make sure that you have a completely clean, grease and oil-free bowl. Try to use metal, glass or copper bowls as plastic bowls tend to hold grease, a big no-no for meringues.
Ideally, you’d have a kitchen thermometer to measure the temperature of the egg white and sugar mixture during the cooking stage. However, if you’re baking at home and don’t want too much fuss, simply using your fingers to ensure that the mixture is warm and the sugar has dissolved will do the trick!
Your mixture should also be opaque instead of transparent. This indicates that your meringue is safe for eating – especially important when you are using it as a base for frosting!
How To Make Swiss Meringue
4 large egg whites (about 35g/egg white, 140g total)
280g granulated sugar
- In a clean bowl free from oil and grease, whisk together egg whites and sugar to mix them together. It’s very important for the bowl to be free from any fat (including yolk in your eggs) because it inhibits the egg whites from whipping to stiff peaks.
- Over a bain-marie (double-boiler), heat the mixture while constantly whisking, until the mixture reaches 71°C. If you do not have a kitchen thermometer, simply whisk until the sugar is dissolved completely (you should not feel any graininess in the mixture when you rub it between your thumb and index finger), and the mixture turns opaque.
- Once ready, whip your mixture on high speed with a whisk attachment, until stiff peaks. The mixture will first start to cool down because of the whipping, and then begin to foam up – this might take a few minutes. When your mixture starts looking a bit thicker and glossier, remember to keep a close watch to prevent over-whipping. However, you don’t have to worry too much about it as Swiss meringue buttercream is very stable!
And that’s how easy (relatively) it is to whip up a Swiss meringue! Besides using it as a base for Swiss meringue buttercream, you can pipe it into little drops and bake them for crisp meringue cookies, or use it as a topping for desserts such as a baked Alaska.