andy mueller | in the kitchen with chef andy | feb. 2018
I never much thought of myself as an accomplished baker. After all, cooking is an art, baking is a science — and my strong suit never rested comfortably in the scientific arena. In a world where one teaspoon too much or a "scant" pinch of that can mean the difference between success and the circular file, my culinary interests gravitated to the place where you taste as you go and name it when it's done.
Every so often, I get the need to construct something that has intrinsic difficulty with a heavy dose of satisfaction for a job well done built right in the recipe. Rarely do I get that urge, but when I do, I reach for the recipe box that has sweet comfort written all over it.
When I'm looking for something sweet, with that visual bang, more often that not, I'll reach for meringue. A super sweet, protein-rich gooey pillow of decadence that gives you the feeling you've accomplished something in the kitchen. A perfectly constructed meringue is a thing of culinary beauty, as it requires a deft hand and proper temperature control to the exact degree with a very small margin allowed for error. Pull this Italian meringue off and bragging rights are yours for a long time to come.
Italian Meringue vs. Standard Meringue
Italian meringue is different from our common meringue in that the common meringue (the one we see on lemon meringue pie) is merely egg whites and sugar whipped to peaks with a little cream of tartar. It is raw and needs to be either broiled or baked to firm up and finish cooking. It is not very stable and can fall apart easily if not firmed up in the oven. Italian meringue incorporates boiling hot sugar into the egg whites to form a very dense and very decadent creamy topping that can be consumed as is or used to top the ultimate dessert: baked Alaska. You can make individual baked Alaska martini's for Valentine's Day by placing cubed pound cake and Neapolitan ice cream (or your favorite ice cream) in a martini glass, then topping it with a dollop of this meringue and giving it a quick broil to brown or use a kitchen blow torch to achieve the same result.
This is a pretty common recipe you can find just about anywhere with a few additions or modifications, but the most important thing to focus on is the temperature of the boiling sugar mixture.
In a small saucepan over medium heat add:
12 ounce granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
6 ounces corn syrup
As the mixture starts to simmer, place a candy thermometer into the saucepan and monitor the temperature. It will slowly build to 240 degrees, which is the magic number in Italian meringue. When the sugar mixture starts to reach 225 to 230 degrees, begin the next step.
In a separate metal mixing bowl or electric stand mixer with a whisk attachment add:
1-cup egg whites (make sure there are absolutely NO egg yolks in the whites; the proteins will prevent the meringue from forming). If a drop of yolk gets in the pool, use an eyedropper and squeeze it to remove every bit.
Start to beat the whites until soft peaks form. As the temperature of the sugar mixture reaches 240 degrees exactly, remove from heat and slowly add to the whites in a thin, steady stream. DO NOT add all the sugar at once. Make sure the stream of hot sugar is thin and steady, and make sure the whites are peaking as you add the sugar. Continue to add and whip until all the sugar is added. The mixture should have a dense texture and a beautiful glossy sheen. Enjoy!
--banner image courtesy Enrico Giubertoni
Chef Andy Mueller is a well-seasoned Chef with over 30 years in the restaurant business. He's been on Food Network with Guy Fieri, was Reggie White's personal chef during their Super Bowl run in 1996 and has been Executive Chef at Zimani's in the late '80s, the original Executive Chef at Black & Tan Grille the first four years of operation and owned restaurants in Door County including Glidden Lodge restaurant north of Sturgeon Bay and Hillside Restaurant in Ellison Bay. He currently owns the massively popular supper club 'Galley 57' in Allouez at 2222 Riverside Dr.