These are gluten-free, very cheap to make, and are great if you need something to keep fresh for a long while before the potluck.
You will need an electric mixer. Whipping egg whites by hand is a test of endurance. Even one of the $20 hand-held mixers from Wal-mart will work, even if it takes a little longer than a stand mixer.
4 egg whites
1 and 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar) (see adaptation below directions to use granulated sugar instead)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 200 degrees and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment or foil
Beat eggs until they turn white and frothy. Add cream of tartar and vanilla, then add sugar gradually as you beat until it is all incorporated. Beat on high (or gradually up to 8 on a Kitchenaid stand mixer) until stiff peaks form. When you lift the mixer, the resulting point should stay sharp instead of folding over.
Spoon mixture into a pastry bag with a large round or star tip. In a pinch you can cut a corner out of a gallon ziplock and use it as a pastry bag. You can also just use a tablespoon and make mounds on the parchment; just keep them relatively small.
These don’t expand while baking, so feel free to set them almost touching on the cookie sheet. Watch your size though; to bake through, keep them about 2 inches in diameter. The large ones will take longer to bake through, and may keep a soft center.
Bake at 200 degrees for 2 hours. Switch the sheets and turn them after 1 hour for even baking. After 2 hours, turn off the oven and leave the meringues where they are for another hour to gradually cool.
They are more drying out than baking.
If you’re in a hurry, you can bake them at 225 for an hour and a half, switching and turning after the first hour. You’ll need to watch them carefully for any signs that they are browning on the bottom (best test is the taste test!) at which point you should turn off the oven and let them rest for 30-60 minutes to finish drying.
Store immediately in airtight container.
You can reduce the sugar to 1.5 cups if you increase the cream of tartar to 1/2 tsp, or eliminate the cream of tartar by adding an additional 1/4 cup sugar. Either sugar or tartar is needed to stabilize the whites.
You can make meringue “baskets” just like the clay baskets you made as a kid by coiling a long snake of meringue from a pastry bag. Once they’re baked you can serve them filled with something, like fresh berries, custard, or ice cream.
Eggs will separate better cold, but will give you more volume at room temperature. Once you separate the eggs, let the whites sit for 30 minutes to warm and they will whip up higher.
Fresh eggs will give you more stable meringue, 4-5 day old eggs will whip up with more volume (because the fluid is thinner). For this, the stability of fresh eggs is better for handling in the pastry bag.
Play with additives once you have an idea of how the meringue behaves. Try adding 1/4 cup shredded coconut and some almond or coconut extract. Try adding mini chocolate chips and a few tablespoons of cocoa powder. Or maybe a few tablespoons of orange juice. frosting dye added at the soft peak stage will give you colors.
Save your egg yolks and make a homemade custard!
Granulated Sugar Adaptation
Powdered sugar has corn starch, and once you’ve had the real thing, you’ll notice that these made with granulated sugar are much less starchy-flavored and more delicious! The downside is that granulated sugar takes a very long time to dissolve in the egg whites, and if you whip the whites up too soon, you’ll get grainy meringues.
So you have two options:
- Use a blender or food processor to powdered the granulated sugar by pulsing it until it is a fine powder. Put it through a sifter to eliminate larger grains. Add to whites as they set out, and mix the sugar in at the beginning and run on low until you cannot feel any grains with your fingers at the bottom of the bowl. Once the sugar has dissolved, continue as usual.
2. Add the sugar while the whites are coming to room temperature. Mix on low until you cannot feel grains against the bottom of the bowl. This can take half an hour or more, so just let it run. Once the sugar has dissolved, continue as usual.