Swiss Meringue

Thursday, Jan 26th, 2017

Swiss meringue is made by combining sugar and egg whites in a bowl and stirring them over a water bath until the temperature reaches 145 degrees F. Once the egg whites are warmed and the sugar dissolves, the mixture is whipped to stiff peaks. The resulting meringue is dense like marshmallow fluff, as the early addition of air interferes with the capture of air bubbles.

Care must be paid when warming the egg whites over a water bath. Keep the water at a simmer, and move the bowl on and off as necessary to slowly increase the temperature. The protien in egg whites will begin to coagulate at 150, and grow firmer as the temperature rises. This is great for poached eggs, but bad for meringue. We want to bring the eggs to the brink of coagulation, then begin whipping as soon as that happens.

Another reason to heat the whites slowly is to give the sugar time to dissolve. Should your whites rise in temperature while much of the sugar remains in crystalline form, your efforts are in vain. Bring the two up together slowly, stirring with a spatula, until you have a clear egg white and sugar syrup that is 145 degrees F. Then whip at medium high speed.

We can ignore previous demands for medium to slow whipping- the warm proteins are loosey-goosey and uncoiled, and the sugar is dissolved. At the risk of adding large air bubbles, we want to get air in our meringue quickly!

This dense and stable meringue can be used in place of French or Italian meringues in most applications, should you prefer this method, so long as you are comfortable with the sacrifice in volume. However, generally speaking, Swiss meringue is used exclusively to make Swiss buttercream. Swiss buttercream is silky smooth, and thanks to the denser meringue, more pliable, making it ideal for the cake decorating. Swiss meringue doesn’t suffer loss of air, like it’s fluffy Italian cousin, when it’s gathered up, stirred, put in a piping bag, squirted into flowers and what not, squeezed back into a bowl, and stirred together again. The same goes for masking cakes, where Swiss buttercream spreads and spreads, staying velvety through out the entire process.

Swiss Meringue

200g egg whites

250g sugar

5g cream of tartar

10g vanilla extract

  1. Place the egg whites and sugar in a metal bowl. Find a pot with a mouth an inch or two smaller than the bowl you’ve chosen and fill it with 2 inches of water. Place the pot over medium high heat and cook until the water comes to a boil. When the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer, then place the metal bowl with the egg whites and sugar over the pot.
  2. Stir gently over the heat until the sugar has dissolved and the egg white syrup reaches 145 degrees. Take the bowl on and off the pot as necessary to keep the eggs from over heating, or to allow the sugar time to dissolve before the egg whites reach 145 degrees.
  3. Once the egg white syrup is clear and at 145 degrees, transfer it to the bowl of a mixer and add the cream of tartar and vanilla extract. Whip on medium high speed until the meringue forms stiff glossy peaks, and has grown about 5 times it’s original size.
  4. Congratulations, you’ve made the most obscure of all meringues! Give yourself a pat on the back, and go make Swiss buttercream! There’s a 99% chance that’s why you’ve chosen to make Swiss meringue.