You may have to break eggs to make an omelet, but you no longer have to crack and separate eggs to make perfect meringue. Thanks to the existence of powdered egg whites, a product that is available on most supermarket shelves in the baking supplies aisle, anyone can make perfect meringue, angel food cake or macaroons without touching an egg.
Meringue is composed of stiffly beaten egg whites, sugar and a pinch of powdered acid called cream of tartar (potassium bitartrate). The latter ingredient is important to making a great meringue; the acid relaxes the protein strands in the egg whites so that the meringue rises higher. Although it isn't absolutely necessary - some people can taste the slight acidic tang it adds - it does help to create a much more spectacular meringue that also tends to be more stable.
If you have to use fresh eggs rather than the powdered ones, be sure to separate the eggs when they are cold, and that no egg yolk enters the whites. Perfectly clean whites whip up better than those contaminated with even a trace of yolk. However, before whipping the egg whites, allow them to warm to room temperature. Using warm egg whites creates greater volume.
Here are the basic tools and ingredients needed for perfect meringue
- 6 egg whites, or enough powdered egg white and water to equal 6 egg whites
- 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract (optional)
- 12 tbsp. granulated sugar
- Electric mixer; if using a stand mixer, use the whip attachment
- Large, deep mixing bowl