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Basic Italian Meringue Questions


Cahoot
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I'm back with another couple questions on a basic technique! Straight up, they're

1) What do stiff peaks for Italian meringue actually look like?

2) I've seen 2:1 ratio of sugar:egg whites commonly cited, but is there also a standard ratio of the sugar:water for the syrup? Recipes I've looked at seem to be all over the place in regards to that.

 

For context, I attempted to make Italian meringue 3 times last night. The recipe was following had ratios of 1.67:1 sugar to egg whites, and 5:1 sugar to water for the syrup. I wiped down my bowl and whisk each time (though not with lemon juice), and used a hand mixer since I don't have a stand mixer. Method was fairly standard: whip egg whites until foamy, add cream of tartar then whip until around stiff peaks. Heat syrup to 240-244F, then slowly drizzle into egg whites, while continuously beating (on medium speed) at the location where the syrup was landing in the bowl. 

 

The first time, the meringue remained a puddle after adding the syrup, and I'm guessing this might've happened because (a) I didn't actually beat egg whites enough before adding syrup, or (b) added syrup too quickly. Next two times however, I made sure to beat to stiff peaks beforehand (and they were stiff enough that they were approaching overbeaten while the syrup was being added), and veryyy slowly added the syrup, but they never seemed to get past soft-firm peaks, even after beating for 20+ minutes. I didn't take a picture, but they looked pretty much like the picture here: https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2014/06/basic-italian-meringue-recipe.html, with the tip drooping back down instead of standing up straight. So this makes me wonder, did I screw something up, or is that what "stiff peaks" is actually supposed to look like after the syrup is added?

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The ratio of sugar to water in the syrup shouldn't matter because excess water boils off as you cook to temp.  Which seems low to me, I thought 250F was the usual recommendation.  You could try hotter syrup, but it might just be that hand mixers are weak.

 

What are you making with it?

 

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1 hour ago, Cahoot said:

1) What do stiff peaks for Italian meringue actually look like?

 

The kind of peaks is defined by what happens when you raise the whisk (with a vertical motion) from the bowl. The meringue will form a peak. Stiff peaks are defined when their tip remains vertical (pointing upward) and does not fall down making a curve.

 

 

 

1 hour ago, Cahoot said:

2) I've seen 2:1 ratio of sugar:egg whites commonly cited, but is there also a standard ratio of the sugar:water for the syrup? Recipes I've looked at seem to be all over the place in regards to that.

 

The sugar to egg whites ratio can vary from 1 : 1 to 2.5 : 1. Usually it's 2 : 1.

The sugar to water ratio is usually around 4 : 1. As pastrygirl wrote you boil out the excess water, so if you start with more water you just loose more time on the stove. Don't use too few water otherwise sugar won't dissolve well.

 

 

 

1 hour ago, Cahoot said:

Method was fairly standard: whip egg whites until foamy, add cream of tartar then whip until around stiff peaks.

 

It's better to whip the whites to soft peaks before adding the syrup. If you beat them too much then you risk to overbeat them after adding the syrup, this will cause troubles to the meringue texture, it will remain too soft (which is what happened to you).

The ideal procedure is to start whipping the whites while the syrup is cooking and reaching soft peaks at the exact time that the syrup reaches 250F. If you whip the whites in advance then you will face troubles.

 

 

 

1 hour ago, Cahoot said:

Heat syrup to 240-244F

 

Better reaching 250F. If you need stiff meringue, then you can go even higher to 255F.

 

 

 

Teo

 

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Teo

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@pastrygirl It was for a toasted meringue topping for religieuses. Fortunately the consistency was still thick enough to be piped and not run, but I was just hoping for a bit stiffer meringue! I have seen it made with hand mixers too; I wasn't actually even beating on high since I was afraid of deflating it after my first attempt. 

 

@teonzo I'll try your and pastrygirl's suggestion of a higher temperature for the syrup next time. I didn't know that whipping whites first in advance could also cause issues, but that might've also contributed to it! The reason for my question with stiff peaks specifically for Italian meringue is that I know what they're supposed to look like in general, as that was also the stage I got my egg whites to initially (tips remain straight up when whip was flipped upside down). However, most images I see for Italian meringue just show it with the tips curved down like in Serious Eats page linked. I also read this thread where my meringue also looked exactly like the OP's:

 where someone in the comments says that Italian meringue is supposed to look like that. 

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Are you using it to make the "collar" on the religieuse?  If so, typically it is made with a buttercream and would be plenty stiff for your needs.

 

As you mentioned, the picture you posted is exactly what I am looking for when I make my Italian meringue.  Silky and smooth, but I would not call it stiff.  If I needed it to be stiff, I would definitely turn it into a buttercream.  I have never tried the higher syrup temperature tip the others mentioned, but cannot hurt to try.  I only take mine to 240-242°F.  As T said, I start whipping the egg whites when the syrup reaches 220°F.

 

If you are adamant about a stiff meringue, why not utilize a French meringue?

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The protein in egg whites can't stand infinite beating, after a bit they start collapsing. This means you need to be careful about how much you whip egg whites before adding syrup and after adding it. If you whip egg whites to stiff peaks before adding syrup then you are already overdoing it, you need to whip them to soft peaks for the correct results.

Usually Italian meringue is whipped to the "bec d'oiseau" stage (don't remember the English term), meaning it's not completely stiff but still pliable. This because usually Italian meringue is going to be folded into other stuff (for mousses, butter cream, so on), if the meringue is too stiff then it deflates during the folding stage, it needs to be pliable and not stiff. There are very few cases where you use Italian meringue alone like what you wanted to do. In those cases you need to whip it to stiff peaks, to be able to reach that stage you need to cook the syrup to 250-255F. Lower temperature is called when you need a pretty soft Italian meringue, like for macarons.

 

 

 

Teo

 

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Teo

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9 hours ago, Merry Berry said:

Are you using it to make the "collar" on the religieuse?  If so, typically it is made with a buttercream and would be plenty stiff for your needs.

 

As you mentioned, the picture you posted is exactly what I am looking for when I make my Italian meringue.  Silky and smooth, but I would not call it stiff.  If I needed it to be stiff, I would definitely turn it into a buttercream.  I have never tried the higher syrup temperature tip the others mentioned, but cannot hurt to try.  I only take mine to 240-242°F.  As T said, I start whipping the egg whites when the syrup reaches 220°F.

 

If you are adamant about a stiff meringue, why not utilize a French meringue?

Yes it was for the collar, I know it's traditionally buttercream but I saw a neat idea that toasted the meringue instead so I went with that, which is also why I needed Italian. I've attached a picture of the religieuses and the meringue still set up fine; would you say stiff peaks aren't necessary at all for this application?

IMG_20200209_224139.jpg

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1 hour ago, Cahoot said:

Yes it was for the collar, I know it's traditionally buttercream but I saw a neat idea that toasted the meringue instead so I went with that, which is also why I needed Italian. I've attached a picture of the religieuses and the meringue still set up fine; would you say stiff peaks aren't necessary at all for this application?

IMG_20200209_224139.jpg

Sure, you should be able to use a normal Italian Meringue for that type of use.  Any meringue would probably work just fine, but I do love the silkiness of Italian meringue.

 

The recipe I use is: 

185g Sugar, granulated

30g Corn Syrup or Glucose

50g Water

115g Egg whites

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