Thank you to everyone to sent me baking questions on Instagram this week. There were hundreds of questions, so I’m compiling a few posts to answer as much of them as I can. This one focuses on questions about meringue and there are also posts about Baking Homemade Bread, Cake Baking and Decorating and Pies and Pie Crust, Vegan Desserts, Equipment, and more.
Find my answers and related recipes below:
If you have additional questions, please leave me a comment and I’ll get to as many of them as I can!
Your Questions About Meringue
- Best tips for making meringue? This is one of my favorite subjects. You’ll find way more information in my book, Zoë Bakes Cakes and here on my website. There are three different types:
- Italian – a cooked sugar syrup poured into whipping raw egg whites. I use this style to top my Purple Sweet Potato Pie.
- French – raw sugar sprinkled into whipping raw egg whites. This is the type used for the base of Pavlova.
- Swiss – sugar and egg whites gently cooked over a double boiler, then whipped. This is the type used when you want a meringue topper to torch!
- I can’t get my meringue to pile high. It flattens out. What’s the trick? The answer will depend on the type of meringue you are making (see above). Here are things to avoid, no matter the type:
- Don’t use pasteurized egg whites – their protein is not strong enough.
- Avoid hand mixers, they are not always strong enough to beat enough air into the meringue.
- Don’t decrease the sugar, it is essential for the texture.
- Don’t use plastic bowls to whip the eggs in.
- More info: Meringue Primer | Zoë Bakes Cakes
- How can I keep French meringue stable after stiff peaks when making a large quantity of pavlovas? There is no good answer to this, you just have to move fast. French is the weakest type of egg foam, so it loses its elasticity faster than Swiss or Italian and will look almost curdled if you let it sit too long.
- Why did my pavlova collapse during the bake? The center is meant to collapse once it cools, but the shell should remain standing. If not, either the meringue wan’t whipped stiff enough or it is under baked. See recipe or my IGTV Live for more tips!
- Have you ever tried a meringue buttercream with cooled brown butter? Yes, brown butter buttercream is fantastic!
- Should leftover cake with buttercream or Italian meringue frosting be refrigerated? You can, but they can sit out covered for days, as long as there is no whipped cream or the like to go limp. Be sure to bring the cake back to room temperature before serving or the buttercream will taste hard and greasy.
- When whipping egg whites for meringue or souffle, is it best to use room temperature eggs? Yes, warm egg whites have more elasticity, so they will whip up with more volume.
- How long can egg whites stay in the fridge before using them for macarons, pavlovas, etc.? The fresher the egg, the stronger the protein, which gives your meringue more strength. So, you can technically store egg whites for several days, but they are best used right away.
- Can meringue powder (King Arthur) be substituted for egg whites to make a pavlova? In my experience, it can’t be used in place of fresh egg whites for this recipe, because the powdered whites don’t have nearly the same strength. Having said this, I haven’t ever tried King Arthur’s Meringue and they may have unlocked the secret to a stronger product. You can give it a try, knowing it is a bit of a gamble, or contact them and ask if they’ve ever used it in this way.
- How do you prevent a meringue pie from weeping? I typically start with a Swiss meringue to make sure the meringue is already cooked and safe to eat. You can’t rely on it baking long enough to heat throughout if you are baking the pie with the meringue on it. A trick I learned from Shirley O. Corriher, a food scientist, is to sprinkle the filling with a thin layer of cake crumbs the second it comes out of the oven. The cake crumbs will absorb any moisture caused by the interaction between the filling and the meringue. Then immediately cover it with the meringue, while the filling is still hot, making sure you touch the meringue to the crust to secure it on the pie and bake until toasted. I usually cover the pie with meringue and then use my blow torch.