How to Make a Meringue Alphabet
Bake the letters of a friend's name, or a message like "happy birthday." Meringue letters are great for kids' parties or big romantic gestures. Or you could make the letters small to decorate the top of a cake. As you pipe, remember that the meringue will expand a bit in the oven. We use non-natural gel food colorings here to achieve stronger, more vibrant hues. You'll need a piping bag for each color; disposable bags are an easy and inexpensive option.
Makes about fifteen 4-inch letters
1 batch Meringue Girls Mixture (recipe below)
Gel food coloring in the colors of your choice
Position three racks in the oven—in the bottom, middle, and upper part—and preheat your oven to 200°F. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper and glue down the corners of the parchment with dabs of meringue.
For each food coloring that you use, brush the inside bottom 2 inches of a disposable piping bag (the area near the tip) with coloring. (For instructions on how to make a striped effect, see the video below on piping.) Fill the bag with meringue mixture and twist the open end of the bag to push the meringue down to the bottom. Cut a 3/4-inch opening at the tip of the bag and pipe your letters onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 1 inch apart.
When all your letters have been piped, bake for 1 hour, or until firm and the meringues can be lifted off the parchment with ease. Be gentle, because the letters are fragile. Let cool completely on the baking sheets. These will keep for up to 1 week in an airtight container.
Meringue Girls' Basic Meringue Mixture
Our meringue to sugar ratio is very easy to remember: It is one part egg whites to two parts sugar. A large egg white weighs 30 g, so use 60 g of superfine sugar per egg white. But always weigh your whites, as eggs vary in size.
150g superfine sugar (3/4 cup)
75g egg whites (from about 2 1/2 eggs)
300g superfine sugar (1 1/2 cups)
150g egg whites (from about 5 eggs)
600g superfine sugar (3 cups)
300g egg whites (from about 10 eggs)
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, pour in the sugar, and put the baking sheet in the oven for about 5 minutes, until the edges of the sugar are just beginning to melt. Heating the sugar will help it dissolve in the egg whites more quickly and help create a glossy, stable mixture.
Meanwhile, make sure the bowl and whisk attachment of your standing mixer are free from grease. Pour the egg whites into the bowl. Whisk on low speed at first, allowing small bubbles to form, then increase the speed to high and continue whisking until the egg whites form stiff peaks and the bowl can be tipped upside down without the whites falling out. Stop whisking just before the whites take on a cotton-woolly appearance; if they do, they have been over-whisked, and the egg protein has lost some of its elasticity.
By now, the sugar should be ready to take out of the oven.
With the whites stiff and while whisking again at high speed, add one big tablespoonful of hot sugar after another to the bowl ensuring that the whites come back up to stiff peaks after each addition. Don't worry about small clumps of sugar, but avoid adding large chunks of caramelized sugar from the edges of the baking sheet.
Once you have added the sugar, continue to whisk on high speed for 5 to 7 minutes. Rub a bit of the mixture between your fingers, and if you can still feel gritty sugar, keep whisking at high speed until the sugar has dissolved, the mixture is smooth, and the bowl is a little cooler to the touch. The meringue will continue to thicken up during this stage. You know it is ready to use when it forms a nice smooth, shiny peak on the tip of your upturned finger.
5 Essential Tips From The Meringue Girls
1. Use clean equipment. Greasy bowls and utensils will deflate the lovely volume you have created. We often wipe out our mixing bowls with lemon juice to make double sure it's spotless. Grease tends to cling to plastic bowls and spatulas, so use metal or glass ones.
2. Make sure your egg whites are free of yolk and shell — crack and separate them carefully and check the whites before you stark whisking. The best way to get rid of a speck of yolk is to use a bit of shell to fish it out.
3. Cream of tartar stabilizes your whites and makes a stiffer but less glossy mixture; if your whites are not super fresh, add about 1/8 tsp per white before whisking.
4. Vinegar lends a chewiness to meringues. Add 1/2 tsp to your stiff whites for a really mallowy middle.
5. Do not refrigerate. Baked meringues can be covered in plastic wrap or placed in an airtight container and stored in a cool, dry place for up to 2 weeks.