The History of the Meringue

Meringue- The light, fluffy, sugary treasure that’s found on pies and tarts, or simply by itself.

Who thought of these delicate morsels? That fact is still unclear. Some believe that a Swiss pastry chef invented the dessert in Meiringen. Others insist that the treat was invented in England in 1604, from a handwritten note describing a baked beaten-egg-white-and-sugar confection. The Polish are also thought to share in its mysterious history, because it is said that the meringue was invented by a chef for King Stanislas I Leszcynski. The king supposedly left the recipe to his daughter, who showed it to the French.

What is known is that a French chef is responsible for using a piping bag to shape meringues, instead of the spoons that were traditionally used.

Meringue can be brittle or hard, and currently exists in three forms. Eggs whites are the main component of all three versions, and stiff peaks are the key to recognizing a successful meringue.

French Meringue

French Meringue is composed of white sugar and room-temperature eggs that are beaten until peaks are formed.

Italian Meringue

Italian Meringue calls for whipping boiled sugar syrup into egg whites, and this creates soft peaks.

When making Swiss Meringue, sugar and egg whites are mixed over a double boiler to achieve the glossy peaks. This is used for many buttercreams.

I’ve never made a single meringue, so for my next installment, you and I will attempt to create all three versions. I am choosing to conquer the meringue first because it is difficult to master, but once conquered the culinary creation can lead to many different baked confections. Also, as a student on a budget, this is a relatively cheap dessert to make.

Source (History and Types): Jackson, Linda K., and Jennifer Evans. Gardner. Meringue. Layton, UT: Gibbs Smith, 2012. Print.

7 replies »

  1. “When making Swiss Meringue, sugar and egg whites are mixed over a double boiler to achieve the glossy peaks.”

    1. What is a “double boiler” ?

    2. Why wouldn’t a single boiler be able to achieve these “glossy peaks”?

    3. I doubt it, but is there such thing as Trisha-friendly Meringue?

    • Hello JohnD,

      A double boiler (also known in the foodservice industry as a Bain-marie or water bath) is used to prevent the contents of the pot from getting too hot and boiling or burning. A double boiler can be easily made at your home by filling a lower pot with water, and then putting a heat-friendly pot over the boiling water with your contents inside. If a Swiss Meringue was made in a single pot, it would get too hot and the proteins in the egg whites would not form the proper structure.

      You can make a meringue without egg whites, but it calls for icing or egg substitutes. I’m not sure if Trisha would still be able to eat it. I’d have to do some major digging into the ingredient contents. However, it wouldn’t be a “traditional” meringue without egg whites.

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