Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mission Meringue

My marshmallow meringue sweet potato pie, Thanksgiving 2010
Back at Thanksgiving, I made a sweet potato pie with a toasted marshmallow meringue topping. It was to die for (particularly since the addition of the marshmallow fluff to the meringue was a genius of an idea....thank you, Southern Living test-kitchen baker). I made it again at Christmas, but that time, the meringue just didn't get airy and fluffy, so it sort of oozed over the pie (which made me furious, but it was still delicious all the same). Last week, I made a coconut creme pie with coconut meringue topping and it was ok, but not the frothy, 5-inch layer I was going for. So, I have made it my mission to master the art of making meringue (since, clearly, I've already mastered the fine art of casual alliteration). 

My dad told me that his mother (who died long before I was born) used to make meringue and she always told him that the success of the mixture relied upon the weather: if it was too damp, wet, or humid out, it caused the meringue to "weep." Yes, I now know of what my grandmother spoke. There is nothing more depressing than "weepy" meringue, because once it's gone, there is just no fixing it. I'm curious about the chronological process of adding the ingredients to make the meringue more fail-safe. Add the sugar before/during/after whipping the egg whites? To salt or not to salt, and when? And, what about that mysterious little ingredient known as Cream of Tartar (which is reportedly derived from grapes, but I am at a loss to explain what it really does)? By the time the holiday season rolls around this year, I will be the Meringue Queen, so look out all you coconuts, lemons, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes. Or, for that matter, just about anything else that you can put meringue on top of. This should be interesting!

Another recent meringue-covered confection. 


Anonymous said...

Cream of tartar is a must! And I don't believe the weather has anything to do with it. It all depends on how long you beat the mixture. (Signed, a FB friend)

Holly said...

I have tried two recent meringue recipes, one of which was successful (no cream of tartar, beating the mixture for only 6 or 7 minutes), and one that was not so successful (with cream of tartar and mixing for over 10 minutes). I'm not sure in what lies the perfect match. I think it's going to be a matter of experimenting thoroughly enough until I can create my own recipe that WORKS, not rely on any number of other recipes and hold my breath each time. I'm glad to hear the weather really doesn't have anything to do with it....since that would be completely out of my control! :-)