When beaten, egg whites can expand to up to eight times their original volume. Sugar not only adds sweetness, it also stabilizes the egg whites by coating them with sugar so they can be beaten longer and don’t dry out as fast. Sugar also decreases the volume and lightness of the meringue, so it is important that the sugar be added gradually, and usually never before the egg whites have been whipped to at least four times their original volume.
The amount of sugar and method used varies depending on the intended purpose of the meringue. Less sugar creates a softer meringue for toppings on cakes or pies; more sugar creates a harder meringue used for piping into shapes.
To make meringue, you will need the following equipment on hand:
- Copper or stainless steel bowl
- Electric mixer
- Rubber spatula
- Candy thermometer
- Double boiler
- Pastry bag for piping or a heavy plastic food-storage bag (Snip off a tiny corner. Make a larger hole in bag if you want a thicker drizzle)
- Chef’s kitchen torch (or oven broiler)