Whether huge, chewy clouds or crisp shells bound by thick whipped cream, meringues are a dessert that always rises to the occasion. A mixture of whipped egg whites and sugar that is baked at a low temperature for several hours until dry on the outside and sticky on the inside, meringues are easy to prepare and extremely versatile. Make them into pavlova, Eton mess, baked Alaska, lemon meringue pie or individual desserts covered in melted chocolate, cream, fresh fruit or toasted nuts.
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Meringues keep for a good few weeks in an airtight container.
The three main types or meringue are: ordinary meringue (the simplest, sometimes called meringue Suisse, which is just egg whites and sugar whisked until stiff); Italian meringue, which is made with a hot sugar syrup; and cooked meringue, which is made by whisking the egg whites with icing sugar in a bowl set over simmering water.
Meringue is used as a topping on pies and tarts, or it can be piped or spooned into nest shapes then baked in a low oven. The texture of your meringues depends on the ratio of sugar to egg whites and the temperature at which the meringue is baked.
The Food Standards Agency recommends that pasteurised egg should be used in any dish in which the egg will not be completely cooked. Pasteurised egg is available in frozen, liquid or powder form and eggs pasteurised in their shells are also available.