Italian meringue differs from French classic meringue – the recipe most home cooks will be familiar with – because the sugar is first melted into a syrup before being added to the egg whites. Because the hot syrup cooks the egg whites, it results in a much more stable soft meringue that is ideal to use as a buttercream for decorating cakes and pastries, to make crisp meringue nests or even to level up a homemade ice cream.
How to make perfect Italian meringues
Separate your eggs properly
When whisking egg whites it’s important to follow certain rules. Be careful when separating the whites from their yolks, as any escaped yolk will prevent the whites from reaching stiff peaks. Also ensure that all of your equipment is very clean – any dirt, moisture or oil could also prevent the whites from achieving stiff peaks.
Heat the sugar syrup slowly
Heat the sugar syrup slowly, until the sugar is fully dissolved into the water, before turning the heat up. If it’s not fully dissolved it could crystallise and you’ll need to start again.
Make sure the sugar syrup is the correct temperature
It’s important to take the sugar syrup up to 120C before adding to the egg whites (use a sugar thermometer) – it will ensure the egg whites are fully cooked out (so the meringues need no further cooking), as well as maintaining a strong structure once cooled. One of Italian meringue’s best properties is that it can be made several hours before use – taking the sugar to the correct stage and whisking it into the egg makes it extremely stable, preventing collapse, so you can make it ahead and keep it at room temperature until use.
Combine meringue ingredients steadily
How you add the sugar syrup to the egg whites is also important. It needs to be added in a thin, steady stream, while whisking, to ensure it is evenly distributed throughout the mixture and also doesn’t cool too much before it’s added. Pour it in too slowly and the syrup will thicken and harden, which may leave sugar clumps; or too fast and it wont be fully incorporated into the mix and it could create lumps or even cause the mixture to lose its stiff peaks. Also, avoid pouring it directly onto the beaters as this will fling the sugar syrup to the edge of the bowl and prevent it from being incorporated properly or could even seize the beaters themselves.
Once all of the sugar syrup is in, continue to whisk the mixture until it turns into the shiniest, silkiest meringue you’ve ever made. Be careful not to over-whisk, however, as the mixture can begin to trap air making it voluminous like marshmallow but no longer smooth.
Italian meringue recipe
- egg whites 3
- caster sugar 170g
How to use Italian meringue
• Make crisp meringues Heat the oven to 170C/fan 150C/gas 3. Pipe or spoon six individual meringues onto baking paper-lined trays, put into the oven, turn down the heat to 150C/fan 130C/gas 2 and cook for 40 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave in the oven for 1 hour. Move to cooling racks to cool completely.
• Italian meringue buttercream Once the meringue mixture has cooled to just-warm, gradually add 125g of softened unsalted butter in cubes, only adding the next cube after the previous one is fully incorporated. Use the buttercream to ice cakes and bakes.
• Ice cream Halve the recipe above and follow as normal. Once cooled, mix with 200ml of whipped double cream, then stir in flavourings such as fruit or lemon curd, and tip into a clingfilm-lined loaf tin. Freeze and slice.
• Tart topping Pipe onto lemon-curd filled pastry cases and blowtorch for a caramelised marshmallow finish.
- Kcals 120
- Carbs 28.3g
- Sugars 28.3g
- Protein 1.7g
- Salt 0.1g