I am looking for some advice on making meringues. When I make meringue using the French method, I get perfectly fluffy, stiff peaks. However, a good deal of the time when following recipes for Swiss or Italian meringue, I get a kind of thick marshmallowy goo. I've been making a ton of batches recently, trying different things to see if I can solve the problem and I can't seem to figure it out (mix at higher speeds, mix at lower speeds, mix longer and it just seems to get denser and the volume decreases).
The recipes I've been using are as follows, if that helps:
Swiss meringue (for making buttercream) Egg whites (150g) Sugar (250 g) Heat egg whites and sugar in double boiler till it reaches 160 degrees and then using a Kitchen Aid hand mixer with balloon whisk attachment, continue to whisk until cool.
Italian meringue (for making macarons) Egg whites (90 g) Sugar (236 g) Water (158 g) While sugar and water are cooking on the stove, I whisk the egg whites (same Mixer as above) until foamy, adding a pinch of sugar and continue until they reach soft-peak stage. When the sugar syrup has reached 248 degrees, I slowly pour the syrup into the bowl while whisking (pouring between the whisk and the edge of the bowl). Then I continue whipping till it is cool.
If anyone has any advice or helpful suggestions to avoid marshmallow soup, I would be incredibly grateful. If possible, I'd like to avoid changing the above Italian meringue recipe, since it's part of a larger recipe and don't want to throw other things off by changing proportions - but again, I'd love to get people's thoughts.
Thanks so much!
I make smbc and I so I can speak to that. You need to mix the egg white/sugar mixture on high for a minimum of 10 minutes to get stiff peaks and cool the mixture. I've let it run as long as 20 min while I'm doing other things.
I'm wondering if the issue you're having has to do with the hand mixer. It definitely needs to be on high and I would think it would take much longer with a hand mixer. Even if it's cool, if you don't have stiff peaks, keep mixing.
Does the marshmallow-y stage come while you're adding the butter? The Swiss meringue buttercream recipe I use calls for four egg whites (~160g I'm assuming), 150 g sugar, 1/4 tsp (1.25g?) of cream of tartar, and 30 ml water. I bring it to 160 degrees and then whisk it in a stand mixer until it reaches stiff, glossy peaks. Depending on how quickly I add the butter, it can go through a stage similar to what you're describing. It looks sort of like cottage cheese or curdled milk. It's part of the process, I just keep mixing with the balloon whisk until everything fluffs up and it makes that nice "thwack thwack" sound when being mixed in the bowl. I can't really speak for the Italian meringue, but this has been my experience with Swiss meringue.
I wouldn't be surprised if it had something to do with the hand mixer. I tried making the Swiss meringue with a hand mixer when I was learning. It took FOREVER, and never really got to a good firm peak. Some of the hand mixers can't get incredible speed that's necessary to make a nice meringue. If you don't have a stand mixer, perhaps try halving the recipe and see if that makes a difference in being able to get it to whip up to where you need it?
I agree it's probably the hand mixer. I'm an SMBC fanatic and I've looked at many different recipes and the amount of egg, butter and sugar can flex quite a bit, but I believe everyone used a stand mixer. It takes anywhere from 10-15 minutes at full speed to get a really stiff peak.
I'm using a hand mixer to make smbc and it takes ages (30 mins ) to get stiff peaks so I don't bother and start adding the butter after about 10 to 15 mins even when I don't have stiff peaks. Didn't know it could work that way until I read an article about it. Let me see if I can find the link. ..
Btw I'm using a 1:2:2 ratio of egg whites to sugar to butter and some cream of tartar and I leave my heated mix stand until it's cool before I whisk.
I use a hand mixer but it has a whisk attachment, it takes hardly any time at all to get to stiff peaks. My tip would be to ensure that you wipe all of your instruments that will touch the egg whites before you whip them out with white vinegar. Everything from the bowl you crack the eggs, pot that you heat the egg whites in, spatula you use to scrape the egg white from the pot, bowl you will whisk in and the whisk attachments etc.
Any left over fat on the equipment will possible prevent your meringue from forming properly and it performs as you are describing.
Thanks everyone for your responses. I'm still not quite sure what my problem is yet:
Jinkies - So, even if it seems like the meringue is reducing in volume and getting kind of tough, gooey, - you recommend trying to just keep whisking and it might change over to fluffy and stiff?
AArika - The marshmallowy stage is before I add the butter.
Pastrybaglady - Maybe be it is my hand mixer, but unfortunately I have an apartment with a tiny, tiny kitchen so I don't think a stand mixer is in my near future.
Julia - I've definitely just gone ahead and added the butter at the marshmallowy stage - thinking heck, the fat in the butter is going to deflate the meringue anyway, let me see if I can get something tasty anyway. (I definitely looked over the link you suggested when I was trying my own troubleshooting before this post). 30 minutes for the hand mixer - wow, it seems so strange to me that the French meringue (which is less stable) would only take me like 10 minutes with the hand mixer and the more stable Swiss and Italian meringues (more stable) would take 2-3 times as long.
Bubs1stbirthday - I've definitely tried the vinegar wiping. All the equipment I'm using is the same as I've done for the French meringue. French meringue - success every time. Swiss and Italian - pretty much failures most of the time. Are Swiss and Italian meringues (more stable) much more sensitive to trace fats than French meringue (less stable)?
you can take your meringue to soft peak and still make smbc if that helps anything doesn't have to be stiff peak
By the time I'm done with my meringue, it's like a really thick, sticky, stiff marshmallow fluff, I wouldn't characterize it as "fluffy" though. You're looking for the stiffest peaks. When I lift the whisk attachment out of the mixer-the meringue does not droop AT ALL-it is very stiff and stands straight up. This gives you a really good end product that you can ice, fill and pipe with.