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Every week, baking expert Alice Medrich will be going rogue on Food52 -- with shortcuts, hacks, and game-changing recipes.
Today: Don't throw away leftover egg whites -- make meringues with whatever you've got, no recipe needed.
When you make lemon curd or crème brûlée, you save the leftover egg whites for meringues right? Egg whites keep, covered in a clean glass jar in the fridge, for up to two weeks, or in the freezer for heaven knows how long.
Since meringues are nothing more than sugar and egg whites with cream of tartar or vinegar for stability, all you need is a ratio (egg whites to sugar to cream of tartar) plus baking details (time, temperature, and pan preparation).
More: (Even More) Best Ways to Use Leftover Egg Whites
My ratio for meringues is easy to remember: 1 part egg whites to 2 parts sugar. I stabilize the meringue with 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar or 2 teaspoons white vinegar for each 1 cup of egg whites. (Here’s how I remember the amount of cream of tartar: it’s half the amount of egg whites, but measured in teaspoons instead of cups; the amount of vinegar is the same as the sugar, but measured in teaspoons instead of cups)
Here’s an example: If you have 1/2 cup leftover egg whites, you will need 1 cup of sugar plus 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar or 1 teaspoon of vinegar. If you have 1/3 cup of egg whites, you need 2/3 cup sugar, etc.
Once you have your measurements, here's the procedure for making dry, crunchy meringue cookies or layers:
Heat the oven to 225° F and position a rack in the center or two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper.
Combine the egg whites and cream of tartar or vinegar in a clean dry mixing bowl. If the egg whites are cold, set the bowl in a pan of hot water, or swirl the bowl over a burner, until they are room temperature or slightly warm to the touch. Beat at medium to medium-high speed until the mixture is white and creamy looking -- no longer yellowish and translucent -- and holds a soft shape when the beaters are lifted. Increase the speed to high and add the sugar a heaping teaspoon, one after the other -- without delay but without rushing. (If you are working with 1/2 cup of egg whites and 1 cup of sugar, it should take 2 to 3 minutes to add the sugar)
Drop (or pipe) rounded tablespoons of meringue 2 inches apart on the lined baking sheets. Or, spread larger amounts of meringue in discs 1/3- to 1/2-inch thick.
Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking time. Turn the oven off and leave the meringue inside to cool completely. As soon as the meringues are cool, put them in an airtight container to prevent them from softening. They keep for several weeks, so long as they stored in an airtight container.
• Meringue should be baked as soon as it's mixed, so don’t mix more at one time than your oven can hold. Unless you have a convection oven that allows you to bake successfully on more than two racks at a time, limit yourself to 1/2 to 2/3 cup of egg whites per batch.
• You can fold chopped nuts, dried coconut, or bits of chocolate into the meringue after the sugar is added. Don’t add bits of dried fruit; these get too dry and hard in the oven.
• For more about meringues and more meringue desserts, see Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts, by Alice Medrich (Artisan, 2011)
Alice's new book Seriously Bitter Sweet is a complete revision of her IACP award-winning Bittersweet, updated for the 54%, 61%, and 72% (and beyond) bars available today. It's packed with tricks, techniques, and answers to every chocolate question, plus 150 seriously delicious recipes -- both savory and sweet.
Photos by James Ransom