My go-to meringue is Italian meringue. I love it because it’s so stable and it whips up so beautifully glossy, thick, and shiny. It’s made by cooking a sugar syrup, then adding that hot syrup to whipping egg whites. Because the sugar is cooked into a syrup, this recipe is also ideal for using other sweeteners, like honey or molasses (see variations, below). It’s ideal for use as a finishing component for cakes, pies, or pastries.
Honey Italian Meringue: Replace ¾ cup (149 grams) of the granulated sugar with ½ cup (170 grams) honey (I particularly like to use wildflower honey here). Molasses Italian Meringue: Replace ½ cup (99 grams) of the granulated sugar with ⅓ cup (120 grams) molasses. —Erin Jeanne McDowell
Place the egg whites and cream of tartar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment.
In a medium pot, combine the sugar and water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir the mixture until it begins to simmer, but once it does, stop stirring (agitating the boiling sugar can cause it to crystallize). If any sugar crystals are visible on the sides of the pot, use a pastry brush dipped in cool water to brush them away/dissolve them. Continue to cook until the mixture read 230°F on a thermometer.
When the temperature reaches 230°F, start whipping the egg whites on medium speed—the goal is to get it frothy by the time the sugar syrup reaches 240°F.
When the sugar syrup reaches 240°F, raise the mixer speed to high, and gently pour the hot sugar syrup into the mixer—try to pour near the side of the bowl so that it slides down into the mixture—if you hit the whip, it flings the sugar around in the bowl and it doesn’t all get incorporated/can harden. Once all the syrup is incorporated, continue to 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, is out on November 10th, 2020.