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Boo-Meringue: An FAQ and a Daring Bakers Challenge


Lemon with Meringue, with a little help from a friend ;-)

Meringues: light-as air confections; a marriage made in heaven with lemon pies. But on a deeper level (and at this point we pause to look the slightly-browned puff soulfully in the eye), who are you, little meringue? We had these questions on our mind when taking on our first Daring Bakers Challenge; so, we took some time to do some research on this sweet treat. Here's Cakespy's response to some Frequently Asked Questions about the mighty meringue and its relationship with that famous pie, as well as our offering to the Daring Baker's Challenge!


Q: What is a meringue?
A: Most simply put, it's a confection made from whipped egg whites and fine (caster) sugar. The way it helps us to think of it is, kind of like whipped cream, but instead of cream, egg whites (for what it's worth).

Q: What is the difference between meringue cookies and meringue on top of a pie?
A: There are different ways to make meringues. The "soft" meringue that you will see on top of pies has only a small amount of sugar to egg white; the "hard" meringues which may be bagged or sold in boxes, are crumbly but quite solid; this is a result of a higher sugar-to-egg white ratio.

Q: Where does its funny name come from?
A: Depends on who you ask. Some insist that it got its name from the Swiss town of Meiringen where some claim the confection was invented by a pastry chef in 1720. However, the word "meringue" appeared in a French cookbook from 1692; so, there is some debate over where the name really comes from. The Dictionary of etymology cites "unknown origin". Quel mysterieuse!

Q: Why do I never see Lemon pies without meringue?
A: Good question, and while you may see a tarte citron, you'll rarely see a lemon pie sans meringue. Although we couldn't find a definitive answer, here's what we think: lemons are sour. Their taste alone doesn't really make a good sweet, so frequently they will have a sweet accompaniment; think of the lemon bar's shortbread crust, even that tarte citron's sweet pastry shell. Since the pie crust will frequently not be sweet, we think that perhaps the addition of the sugary meringue is to add a much-needed sweet complement to the sour lemony filling.

Q: Are meringues delicious?
A: Meringues are, on their own...very sweet. So, it depends on the taster. Marie-Antoinette, that queen of sugar she was, is said to have adored them; to the Cakespy crew, in general they're not entirely compelling all their lonesome. To us, the true goodness of the meringue is brought out by other flavors which accompany and complement that sweetness.

Q: What does it mean when a meringue "weeps"?
A: On a Lemon Meringue pie, a magical place exists where meringue ends and filling begins. Not so magical when a syrup forms in that layer and seeps out while you're cutting the pie in front of guests. Usually, this is because the filling is undercooked on the bottom, and moisture is held suspended. How do you keep your meringue from weeping? Act quickly upon taking your pie from the oven: meringues should always be set on piping hot pie filling to adhere properly. More suggestions can be found here.

Q: What is a marshmallow meringue?
A: A marshmallow meringue is pretty much a meringue, but with marshmallow cream added (think fluff), and is a wonderful accompaniment to sweet potato pie or sweet potato cupcakes (photo left, Marshmallow meringue topped cupcake from Trophy Cupcakes). We like this recipe for its tiny addition of salt, which seems to make the taste come alive.


Q: Is Divinity a meringue?
A: While they are similar, we'd say that they're more like cousins than immediate relatives; the ingredients and methods differ. While meringues consist of egg whites and super-fine sugar, divinity calls for a mixture of white sugar, corn syrup and vanilla; also, the method of making divinity is more consistent with candymaking techniques, calling for a syrup to be made and heated before the beaten egg whites are added. For a recipe, check out this link.

Q: Can you teach me to meringue like in Dirty Dancing?
A: Silly rabbit, you're mistaking the meringue with the merengue, which is a type of Latin dance. While doing the merengue is an excellent way to work up an appetite for meringues, they are completely different things.

Interested in finding out more? We found the following resources very helpful: whatscookingamerica.net and joyofbaking.com.

And as for the Daring Bakers Challenge?


Lemon Tart
Well, we cheated a little bit to go for the extra tartlet challenge (we got some help from a talented baker who *ahem* does it for a living--wouldn't have looked like this if made by Mrs. Cakespy alone), but ours did come out quite nicely, guess it makes a difference when you have all those tools and gadgets of a commercial kitchen. It was really fun--Head Spy Jessie had never "done" meringues before, so it was a very interesting experience. Oh, the power that a mini torch makes you feel in the kitchen.





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Reader Comments (52)

What a sinful, sinful post! I absolutely love meringue, both on top of lemon tarts (the soft kind) and in chocolate cakes (the crumbly kind).
My mum serves her amazing chocolate mousse with some hard meringue and it's heavenly.

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterMary-Laure

Great overview on meringues! I'd never thought about the fact that you don't see lemon pie without meringue - indeed they are NEVER apart! Your sweet/sour explanation makes perfect sense.

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterT.W. Barritt

Great job! I love the look of your meringue.

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterAnn

YUM! Now I want to go down and make a lemon meringue pie. And I am impressed by a blog full of the word "meringue" -- I can NEVER spell it right!

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterBethany

Well, even if you got a little "assistance" your tart looks divine! That is the most perfect tart shell I think I've seen! :)

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterKatia

Very informative post. Love it! And your tarts are adorable. Job very well done!

January 28 | Unregistered Commenterslush

Your meringue looks wonderful. Congratulations on a sucessful pie!


January 28 | Unregistered Commenter~Amber~

Enjoy your in depth and yet fun approach with great photos. Excellent blog, keep it up. Thanks for stopping by the Chocolate Note.

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterCasey

Great post! Your tart looks beautiful! The torch gives the meringue a lovely color. I need one of those!

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterHalf Baked

Interesting LMP info. I learned alot! and I am jealous of your professional LMP help! Great job! :)

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterCB

Your photos have such light and sunniness to them. They make me yearn for spring!

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

Your pies look just lovely! Thanks for the informative post. Great idea!

Great post- thanks for the info and the laugh! And it's only cheating if you kidnapped the talented baker and held him under threat of torture.

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterTempered Woman

Your tarts are wonderful, and I love the FAQ!

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah

That has to be the prettiest picture of meringue that I have ever seen!

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Fab post...could paint that meringue and be totally happy! Grew up in the south. Part of the repertoire, we had to know how to make a meringue for those pies....I think I have actual memories of aunts and other ladies discussing them at gatherings... I would love to see a pro make those folds and drapes...I can manage a peak or two but these are GORGEOUS!
All best, Jan

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterJanice C. Cartier

The first picture is amazing!

January 28 | Unregistered Commenterculinography

Your meringue is gorgeous!

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterMeryl

Loved the Q&A! I feel like doing the merengue, now.

Yours looks brilliant. It's perfectly golden...not too brown, or too pale.

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterEmiline

Love that swirl!! I almost used my swirl tip but decided against it. i should have!

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterLesley

Bring it on yeah - I adore meringues be it in lemon meringue pie or meringue nests with whipped cream and fesh fruits!

Really enjoyed the Q&A what a great post :D

Rosie x

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterRosie

meringues are my favorite, ever since i lived in paris as a high-schooler. so marie antoinette and i have that in common, at least. :-) i've learned to make them on my own simply because it's hard to find a bakery that sells them! great job on your LMP!

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterKaty

LOL! Oh this was wonderful! Sweet, funny, and educational! I never really thought about how lemon pie is ever sans meringue, but you're right! And marshmallow meringue - never thought of it! I love your new drawing too! And what a wonderful contribution to the Daring Bakers! : )

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterAnali

Looking great... good job.
Thanks for the explanation, I needed it.


January 28 | Unregistered CommenterI(dot)J

I really liked the way you posted about this months challenge. Your LMP looks great and yummy!

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle
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