From Grandma's Kitchen: Making Meringue
My maternal grandmother loved to bake and I loved to eat what she baked. Pie was and still is one of my favourite deserts.
My tastes have changed over the year’s today I prefer a strawberry-rhubarb pie but back when my grandmother was doing the baking it was lemon meringue pie. The meringue was my favourite part.
Meringue is a combination of eggs and sugar or sugar substitute; more specifically it is a combination of uncooked egg whites and sugar. When you bake meringue, say on a lemon pie, it becomes a fluffy or crisp topping that looks good and tastes just fine.
The egg white must be allowed to reach room temperature before you beat them. If you beat them when they are cold they will not rise to their full extent and you will notice a difference in the final product.
The sugar helps determine the firmness of a meringue as it strengthens the whites. If you want a spreading meringue you will use approximately two tablespoons of sugar to reach egg white, however, if you want a firmer meringue you need to add four tablespoons of sugar to each egg white.
If you want a very firm meringue, you can add the sugar in two stages. First beating in some of it and then folding in the rest.
Beating in the Sugar:
To beat in the sugar you separate the eggs and then drop the whites into a large bowl. You can set aside the yolks for another use. Next you let the whites warm to room temperature.
You can beat in the eggs with a whisk or use an electric beater. You beat the whites until the foam forms soft, rounded peaks.
Continue to beat and sprinkle in all the sugar (two spoonfuls at a time) you plan to use. You stop beating as soon as the foam rises in firm peaks.
Folding in Sugar:
Beat the eggs whites to soft peak stage as above. Next whisk in half of the sugar and continue whisking until the foam forms firm peaks.
Next use a spatula to gradually fold the remaining sugar by lifting the whites from the bottom of the bowl over the top of the mixture.
To avoid deflating the foam, stop folding when the mixture is properly mixed.
As soon as your meringue is ready, it must be used, you cannot make it ahead of time. The eggs if allowed to sit will lose volume as they surrender moisture. The dissolved sugar will cry beads of liquid that become hard bits when the meringue is cooked.
If you really need to save time but still want a real meringue then use frozen pie shells and a lemon pie mix.