By Olivia Short ‘17
Call me Olivia Shortcake. Literally. Baking is my life, but I realize how daunting it is for most newbies. I’m here to debunk the myth that baking is super complex by teaching you some simple-yet-delicious recipes. We’ll start with my all time favorite: meringues.
The meringue is a bite-size, dainty little cookie with an airy texture. (For perspective, I called them “fairy cookies” as a kid. That’s pretty much accurate.) I’ll hush and let the recipe speak for itself.
1 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs (whites only)
Line up your ingredients. We only need 2 today— the ever-versatile eggs and sugar. Meringues have a convenient egg-to-sugar ratio: use 1/4 cups sugar per each egg you use. This time around, I used 1 cup sugar and 4 eggs.
Separate your eggs. This can get messy. Dividing the whites and yellows of an egg isn’t a hard task, but is a good opportunity for spills. (Tip: If you ever spill raw egg on a counter or floor, cover the whole spill with salt. After a few minutes, it gets twice as solid and 1000 times easier to clean up. Science.) With this recipe, it’s fine to separate your eggs right into the mixer bowl. Just make sure no yolks get in the bowl— they’ll ruin the texture.
Whip egg whites until frothy. Don’t be afraid to turn that mixer up high. My little KitchenAid goes up to 10, and meringue making gets me up into the 6-8 range. (This used to FREAK me out, but don’t stress too much. Mixers are built with speed in mind.) After about 3 or 4 minutes, you’ll notice your eggs lightening in color and frothing up. Stop the mixer once they look pretty similar to the above.
Add sugar gradually. With the mixer fully stopped, pour in sugar little by little. DON’T add the whole cup all at once— I usually add mine in 3 or 4 additions. This means adding a few sprinkles of sugar, whipping the eggs for 2 more minutes, adding sugar, whipping, adding, whipping, etc., until all the sugar’s been incorporated. I can’t stress patience enough here.
Check for stiff peaks. To check if your egg whites are fully whipped, stop the mixer and lift up the whisk. There will be a little “peak”— a mountain shape formed by your pulling. If the peak falls over, keep whipping. If the peak stands on its own, congratulations! Your meringues are fully whipped and ready for the oven. (You can also choose to add colors or flavorings at this point— orange extract, peppermint extract, imitation cherry flavor— don’t be afraid to get wild. Hit up that Kroger baking aisle.)
Load up your weapon of choice. You need anything that will transfer your meringue mixture from mixing bowl to baking sheet. This could be a Ziplock bag, two spoons, a cookie scoop, a piping bag, anything. I use the neat little pastry gun my mom got at some garage sale in the 80’s. Get creative with shapes! The meringues are super stable, and will hold their shape before baking. Bunny-shaped meringues? Been there. Hamster-shaped? Check.
Dish ’em out and bake. Don’t use any kind of baking spray— oils and fats will ruin your meringues, so play it safe. I use parchment paper to keep my meringues from sticking to the pan. Bake your meringues at 190°F for 90 minutes. After baking, let them cool for 20-30 minutes before touching.
Congrats! These little things are amazing, and you won’t believe your newfound baking skills. They’re best enjoyed after about 4 days; by then, the moisture in the air will make them chewy and Peep-like. Bon appetit 🙂