Fall is a great time to bake, especially when you can open the kitchen windows and together enjoy the cool, fall breeze and the aroma of fresh baked goods in the oven. And with all of the upcoming holidays on the calendar, you know you’ll have lots of “appreciators” to enjoy all of your favorite recipes.
Just the thought of that instantly transported me to a mental image of warm pies on the windowsill of a small bungalow, with a white picket fence and mom in her polka dot dress and white apron, wearing a warm smile on her face and glasses of chilled milk on the table awaiting her dessert…(shades of Ozzie & Harriet and Father Knows Best or the idyllic Parker family in the 1998 movie Pleasantville.)
Of course, the pie I think almost everyone would imagine sitting on that windowsill would be an apple or cherry pie, probably with a lattice top.
And I thought to myself, whatever happened to meringue pies? It seems that you see them so seldom lately. They used to be so popular. Did people stop liking them or just stop making them at home?
Well, if you love meringue pies, but you’ve never had much success with them, I’ve got a fool-proof recipe and technique you’re going to love!
I learned this meringue technique at my Alma Mater, the Culinary Institute of America, and when I saw it for the first time, I was amazed. First of all, the two reasons most meringues fail is that they lack a firm structure and collapse, and that all of the sugar is not dissolved in the egg whites, so they “weep.” This method solves both problems.
The recipe is simple. Two parts granulated sugar to one part egg white. It can be either by volume or weight. The method is that you place that mixture in a double boiler and slowly heat that mixture while constantly stirring (I use my hand) until the mixture is quite warm and ALL of the sugar crystals have dissolved into the egg whites.
When properly done, the mixture will feel slimy with NO grit, and it will appear somewhat more shiny or glossy.
Of course, you don’t want to heat the mixture past 156 F (which is hotter than most any tap water usually is). Otherwise, the egg whites will actually cook.
Once the mixture is ready, just whip it. And don’t worry about over-whipping it because unlike whipped cream, it’s almost impossible to over-whip this meringue. What you will have is a meringue SO STIFF that you can literally turn the bowl upside down with the whip still in it, and the meringue WILL NOT budge.
Once you’ve fully whipped your meringue, you can add in a flavoring (vanilla, almond extract, lemon extract) or even cocoa to make a chocolate meringue. Just how much is really up to you.
I use this meringue to make a lot of things, from Baked Alaska (and I have an Awesome Pumpkin Baked Alaska recipe that I’ll be doing a video of soon) to meringue kisses, Swiss butter cream icing, and of course, lemon meringue pie.
As for amounts, 1 ½ cups of sugar to ¾ cup of egg whites and 1 tsp of pure vanilla extract make more than enough meringue to mound a nice dome on a 9” pie.