Italian Meringue is coveted by pastry chefs because it is the most stable of all the meringues. It comes together by slowly pouring hot sugar syrup over beaten or whisked egg whites. This process gently cooks the egg whites, completing the pasteurization process without further baking. The results are a dense, marshmallow-like, silky texture that’s perfect for decorating dessert and tarts.
Italian Meringue is the most advanced of all the meringues because it involves working with extremely hot sugar and requires a little more multitasking. If you are new to the meringue world I would suggest practicing with my French or Swiss Meringue recipe first. Once you have some meringue making experience under your belt and a good sugar thermometer you can feel confidant tackling Italian Meringue.
This recipe as well as my recipes for French Meringue and Swiss Meringue are included in Module Two: Sugar and Fillings of the Kira Bakes Gluten Free Pastry School. Learning how to make these meringues will give you the base skills needed to master the gluten free cakes, cookies and desserts in upcoming Modules Three, Five and Six.
What is Meringue?
Meringue is a classic pastry technique where raw egg whites and sugar are whipped together until they form stiff peaks, resulting in a glossy, fluffy mixture. The sweet, aerated meringue can then be used to make a variety of desserts.
Types of Meringue?
There are three types of meringue: French, Swiss and Italian. all of which generally have a basic ratio of one part egg whites and either one or two parts sugar
Tips for making perfect Italian Meringue
- All equipment and utensils must be clean and dry. No traces of fat or grease (this includes egg yolk) can come into contact with the egg whites. The fat will interfere with the protein strands and will prevent the egg whites from whipping up to stiff peaks.
- Use room temperature egg whites. The room temperature egg whites will whip up faster as the proteins are relaxed and can better form a network that will aerate and maintain its shape.
- Add an acid. Adding cream of tartar, lemon juice or vinegar (all acids) will help relax the proteins, helping to stabilize the meringue and develop structure. You can add approx ⅛ teaspoon cream of tartar or ½ teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar per 30g of egg white.
- Use clean sugar. Sugar that has come into contact with flour or other ingredients will cause the meringue to deflate or not whip to stiff peaks.
- Use a candy thermometer. You will need to have a candy or digital thermometer to monitor the temperature of the sugar syrup. It needs to reach 116C/240F.
- Using an electric mixer. You will need to have your egg whites whipping on medium-low while the hot sugar syrup if cooking. Once they have reached soft peaks, you don’t want to stop mixing, so instead, turn the mixer down to the lowest setting. You want to maintain the soft peak so that it can come to stiff peaks with the hot sugar syrup.
What can you make with Italian Meringue?
- Italian Meringue is often used in mousses and ice creams to add sweetness and an airy texture.
- Topping tarts and pies such as lemon tarts, pumpkin pie, and baked Alaska as the stable meringue doesn’t need any further cooking and holds its shape beautifully. It can also be torched or broiled to caramelize the exterior.
- Buttercream! Italian buttercream is great for decorative piping as it holds its shape well and the light, satiny texture is like a dream.
- This is also the base for making classic gluten free Italian Macarons. Italian Macarons have a shiny, crispy shell and are denser, when compared to French Macaron that are softer and airier.
Italian Meringue Quick Facts:
Difficulty Level: Advanced
Type if mixing method: whipped, Italian
Ingredients: white granulated or superfine sugar and egg whites
Best used for: decorating desserts and tarts, folded into mousse and ice cream, buttercream, and Italian meringue cookies.
How to Make Italian Meringue
Lets get baking! (Step-by-Step Instructions)
Mis en Place
Going back to the Kira Bakes Gluten Free Pastry Principals, this is always our first step when baking as it not only helps ensure accuracy during the mixing process, but it also makes the whole baking process a lot more relaxing and enjoyable. It’s a win/win!
If I’ve said it 100 times, I’ll say it again. Measuring ingredients by weight not volume is the magic sauce to gluten free baking! I always do my best to provide the cup (volume) measurements where possible. If you are going to measure by volume, click this link for tips on the correct way to measure by volume.
Scale the following ingredients
Italian Meringue Ingredients:
360g egg whites (approx 12 large US eggs)
750g or 3 1/3 cups caster or berry sugar (superfine)
2 tsp clear vanilla extract
Prepare the equipment
- Stand Mixer with whisk attachment
- High sided saucepan
- Pastry brush
- Candy or digital instant read thermometer.
In a high-sided saucepan over medium-high heat, cook the sugar and water until it reaches a temperature of 116C/240F on a digital thermometer. During this process, use a pastry brush that has been dipped in water to repeatedly and carefully clean the sides of the pot. This will reduce the chances of sugar crystals forming.
At this time, begin whipping the egg whites on medium speed until they reach soft peaks. Once they are at soft peaks you can turn the speed down to the lowest setting just to keep the mixture moving.
- If you keep whipping at a high speed the egg whites will begin to curdle and look spongey. If you stop whipping the egg whites will begin to deflate.
Once the sugar syrup has reached 116C/240F. Turn the mixer back onto a medium speed and begin slowly (and carefully!) pouring a thin and steady stream of syrup along the outer edge of the whipping egg whites.
Once all the syrup has been added, continue whipping the meringue until it has cooled completely. You can check if the meringue is cool by feeling the outside of the stand-mixer bowl with the palm of your hand. The meringue should be firm, glossy and have a stiff peak.
Storing Italian Meringue
Italian meringue is very stable and will hold its shape for several days.
If you are dealing with high levels of humidity, you can use stabilizing agents, such as cream of tartar to prevent the meringue from weeping beads of sugar water.
Italian Meringue Q&A
Question: Is Italian Meringue gluten free?
It is gluten free! Because Italian Meringue only incorporates two ingredients, sugar and egg whites (and sometimes cream of tartar/lemon or vinegar). It is naturally gluten free and safe for anyone who is celiac or can’t tolerate gluten.
There is sometimes confusion surrounding ‘Meringue’ because most packaged meringue mixes sold in grocery stores, do indeed contain gluten.
Question: Is Italian Meringue safe to eat without baking?
YES! Because Italian Meringue is prepared by slowly incorporating hot sugar syrup (116C/240F) over the egg whites. This process gently cooks the egg whites, completing the pasteurization process. Eliminating the need for any further baking.
This is why you can add Italian meringue to any plated dessert or top a pre-baked or no-bake tart with it and eat it straight away.
Question: Do I need a stand-mixer?
Yes. Because we are dealing with extremely hot sugar syrup and multitasking, I would not advise trying to whip this meringue by hand. The risk of burning yourself on the hot syrup or not being able to whip the egg whites to the correct peaks is just not worth it. If you are stuck and don’t have access to an electric stand mixer then I would defiantly make a Swiss meringue instead.
Question: Why is my Italian Meringue tinted green?
If you happen to have used cream of tartar as your acid and whipped your egg whites and sugar in a copper bowl, then the toxic reaction between the copper and cream of tartar will have turned the meringue a slightly green colour.Print
The next lesson is Module Three: Cream and Custard. Modules launch the last Monday of each month. Make sure to sign up to my newsletter for reminders and other gluten free recipes and tips.