One of three major types of meringue, Swiss meringue is made by heating the base ingredients before whipping them into a light, fluffy meringue. Egg whites, cream of tartar, and granulated sugar over a pot of simmering water to gradually heat the mixture, while keeping it fluid. Once it reaches temperature safe for consumption, it’s whipped using an electric mixer to the desired peaks. Because the mixture is cooked first, this meringue is more stable. It’s ideal for use as a finishing component for cakes, pies, or pastries. —Erin Jeanne McDowell
Find a pot that is just slightly larger than the bowl you’re using to whip the meringue to use as a double boiler (the mixer bowl should sit inside it without touching the bottom of the pot). Fill it with about 1 to 2 inches of water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the egg whites, cream of tartar, and sugar with a whisk until well combined, 10 to 20 seconds.
Place the mixing bowl over the pot of simmering water and heat, while whisking constantly, until the mixture reads 160°F on a thermometer. Transfer the bowl back to the mixer and fit it with the whip attachment.
Turn on the mixer to high speed and whip until the meringue holds desired peaks (about 4 to 5 minutes for soft, 5 to 7 minutes for medium, 8 to 9 minutes for stiff). Add the vanilla (or other flavoring, if using) towards the end of mixing. Use immediately.
I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, The Book on Pie, came out on November 10th, 2020, and my pie merch collaboration with Food52 is out now too: https://food52.com/shop/merchants/manifest-food52/food52-x-erin-mcdowell