Until fairly recently, I was often at a loss when I had leftover egg whites. Especially when making something yolk-heavy, like custard or crème brûlée, I didn’t want to throw away such a plethora of egg whites that could otherwise be given a productive use. Nobody in my house enjoys egg white omelets, and I never want a recipe that requires an extra trip to the store — the whole point of using the egg whites in the first place was to be thrifty!
Fortunately, I have recently discovered the joy that is these meringue cookies. They are light and delicate, melting in your mouth almost as soon as they hit your tongue. They don’t require fancy ingredients, and since they’re low in fat, they’re a nice option to share with friends who are trying to be conscious about what they eat. Plus, they’re gluten free and vegetarian, so they can be a great option for friends on specialty diets.Jump to Recipe
This recipe is slightly magical because it isn’t limited to producing cookies. Depending on what shapes you pipe in the final step of the recipe, you can use the meringues as a base for all kinds of things – pavlova, Eton Mess, cake ornamentation…the list goes on and on.
To be truly technical, this recipe is for a French meringue. Like a Swiss meringue, it is easy to pipe and will bake into a firm, crispy shape. Most American households are more familiar with Italian meringue — their soft cousin, which is used as the topping for coconut cream and lemon meringue pies. All use egg whites as their base, but French meringue is my personal favorite in terms of simplicity.
To start, separate your eggs. When making any type of meringue, it’s crucial that no bits of yolk are retained in your egg whites. (It will prevent the whites from forming the beautiful peaks we need for our final cookies.) When separating your eggs, I recommend cracking each new egg into a “new egg bowl”, and pouring the white into a communal “egg white bowl” once you’ve confirmed that the yolk has not broken in the process. (Those tips from 7th grade home economics class are finally coming in handy…) You are also welcome to use egg whites from a carton; I’ve provided a weight measurement in the recipe for that purpose. If you have time, allow your egg whites to come to room temperature before whipping; they will form the ideal structure faster if they aren’t fresh out of your fridge.
Once your eggs are separated, pour the whites into a clean, dry mixing bowl. I prefer using a stand mixer for this recipe, but you are welcome to utilize an electric mixer (or your arm and a whisk, if you have a lot of stamina!). Whatever you use for mixing, make sure they are quite clean. Any leftover fat — be it from a previous recipe, a stray bit of butter, or a pan that got overzealously greased — may interfere with the structural formation of your cookies.
Finally! We are ready to start. Preheat your oven to 225 degrees F and, using the whisk attachment, start beating your egg whites on medium speed. You will notice the color gradually become white and opaque, and tiny bubbles will start to take shape.
Continue beating the eggs until soft peaks form. As you can see in the photo below, soft peaks have some structure, but can’t quite support their own weight. They are floppy and like to fall over.
This is where we add the flavoring! Add the cream of tartar and vanilla bean paste. (While it won’t significantly impact the flavor, cream of tartar will help provide your final product with more structure.) Resume whipping your egg whites and add your sugar, one tablespoon at a time.
One note on the sugar: if you have extra time and energy, you may first place your sugar in a blender and blitz it briefly, to make superfine sugar. By breaking the crystals down in the blender, you make it easier for them to absorb in the meringue – reducing the likelihood that your meringues may end up gritty. This is optional; I did not blitz my sugar for the pictures you see below, and the meringues turned out fine.
Continue to whip your egg whites until they reach stiff peak stage. Below you can see two stages – almost-stiff-peaks and true stiff peaks, to have an idea of what you should be looking for. True stiff peaks should be glossy and smooth, and will maintain their shape even when the mixing bowl (or whisk) is turned upside-down. Once you reach this stage, stop! You have reached perfection. If you over-whip, your egg whites will turn grainy, and you should seek help from a professional food blogger (not me, sorry).
Since your peaks are stiff, it is now time to form your meringue into cookie shapes! Prepare a baking sheet with either parchment paper or a silicone mat. If you’re so inclined, prepare a piping bag with your preferred tip; if you’re disinclined, use a gallon Ziplock bag and cut off one of the corners. You can also dollop tablespoons of meringue onto your baking sheet. I prefer piping, as it allows for structured creativity when shaping your cookies, but it’s not important when it comes to the final taste.
Bake your cookies for 1 hour on the middle rack of your oven; they will require more time if you pipe them into larger shapes. If they start to turn brown, you have overcooked them, so watch smaller cookies closely. When they are done, don’t remove them from the oven. Instead, turn off your oven, crack the door, and go about your business until the oven has cooled. Does this feel like it takes forever? Kind of, yes — but it will prevent the cookies from cracking, and is absolutely worth your time in the long run.
Finally, once the oven has cooled, your meringues are ready to remove from the oven and to eat. These will stay good for a couple of days if kept in an airtight container, but really should be eaten or shared as close to baking as possible to get the optimal texture.
I hope you enjoy this recipe! If you make this recipe, please tag #WhiskAverseBaking on social media or leave a message in the comments.
- 3 egg whites 3.3 ounces or 90g total
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F.
- Using the whisk attachment, beat egg whites until they reach the “soft peak” stage.
- Add cream of tartar and vanilla bean paste. Beat in sugar one tablespoon at a time; continue beating until the mixture reaches “stiff peak” stage. The meringue should appear glossy.
- Gently place meringue into piping bag OR use a tablespoon to drop the meringue of your preferred shape onto a prepared cookie sheet.
- Bake for 1 hour. When baking time is done, turn off oven and crack the door open, but allow meringues to remain in the oven. If your meringues start to brown, they are overcooked. The larger your meringues, the more oven time they will require.
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Serve within 3 days.