French vs Swiss vs Italian meringue: A quick guide to marshmallowy goodness
There are different types of meringue, and though I can confirm they’re not all made equal, each is ethereal, divine and sublime – marshmallowy goodness, sent from the Gods!
The hard outer shell over the sometimes soft, sometimes completely hollow centre to your pavlova. The silky-smooth finish to the swirl on your already-fluffy cupcakes. And the pillowy, white cloud set alight on top of your tart lemon meringue pie. There are different types of meringue, and though I can confirm they’re not all made equal, each is ethereal, divine and sublime – marshmallowy goodness, sent from the Gods!
Let there be egg whites, they said, whip them up real good, add sugar, and voila – French meringue! But that’s just one of the three different types of meringue. Yes, there are three!
Below, we break down French, as well as Swiss and Italian meringue, how each is prepared and their application, taking your desserts to a heavenly level.
In French, Swiss and Italian meringue, egg whites are whipped vigorously. The air causes them to froth and increase in volume. The egg whites will go opaque and appear to have doubled in your bowl (according to Crafty Baking, they actually increase six-to-eight fold!), and your added sugar acts as a stabilising agent while giving it its sweetness, of course.
French meringue is probably the version of meringue many are familiar with. It’s the only method where the egg whites aren’t heated, but instead, baked once the sugar is added.
How it’s made: Begin by whipping your egg whites to soft peaks. Gradually add your sugar. You’ll see the meringue getting stiffer and eventually reach a pipeable consistency. At stiff peaks, when you lift your mixer, the points will stand up straight and not flop over. Your meringue will appear smooth and silky.
What to make: You can use French meringue to make pavlova or individual cookies. Baked low and slow, you’ll be left with a crisp outer shell and hollow centre. A quicker bake will give you a harder shell with a marshmallowy filling.
With Swiss meringue, your egg whites and sugar are mixed together beforehand, heated then whipped.
How it’s made: Begin by mixing your egg whites and sugar together in a bowl and heating it over a double boiler until your sugar is more or less dissolved. The temperature of the mixture should reach around 54°C, but you’ll also be able to tell if it’s dissolved by rubbing the liquid with your thumb and index finger (you shouldn’t still be feeling any grains and the mixture should be quite gooey). Once you reach the right consistency, whip your mixture until it begins to stiffen and cool down. Swiss meringue is, and your mixture should be, more stable and stiffer than your French meringue, though still very light.
What to make: Swiss meringue is most commonly used in buttercream frosting to make it light and airy. It can also be used as a topping on its own, and is often torched after being piped.
Italian meringue involves adding a hot sugar syrup to your egg whites as you whip them.
How it’s made: Working simultaneously, whip your egg whites while bringing a sugar and water syrup to temperature. Once it reaches the soft-ball stage (112°C), gradually add it to your egg whites, pouring it down the side of your bowl, which should have been gradually whipping away. You’ll be left with a satiny, stiff cloud – the stiffest and most stable of your three meringues.
What to make: As with Swiss meringue, you can use Italian meringue in buttercream frosting. But this version of meringue really works well on its own, better than Swiss meringue, due to its consistency. It can also be used to top pies, tarts and various pastries.
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