Peaks and swirls of meringue are the crowning glory to some of the most beloved pies -- banana cream, coconut cream, chocolate cream, and lemon meringue. To reach the peak of perfection for these lofty toppings, check out our step-by-step guide for light and airy but sensationally sweet meringue toppings for pie.
Step 1: Bake piecrust and filling
Meringue is added to the pie after it's finished baking. Follow your recipe directions for making and baking the piecrust and filling first, then follow our steps below for preparing the meringue.
Step 2: Separate egg whites
Separate the eggs and place the whites in a large bowl. Let the egg whites stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before you start to make the meringue. (Egg whites that have been allowed to stand at room temperature beat to a greater volume than ones taken directly from the refrigerator.)
Step 3: Beat egg whites to soft peaks
Add cream of tartar and vanilla before you begin beating the egg whites (cream of tartar helps stabilize the meringue).
Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. At this point, they will curl over when the beaters are lifted.
Step 4: Add sugar gradually
Add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, while beating on high speed. The sugar must be added gradually as the egg whites are beaten to stiff peaks (tips stand straight). Adding the sugar too quickly will knock air out of the egg whites and make them difficult to mix thoroughly.
Tip: If you're using a hand-held mixer, move the mixer around the bowl to beat all of the mixture evenly.
Step 5: Beat egg whites and sugar to stiff, glossy peaks
Continue beating on high speed until the sugar dissolves and stiff, glossy peaks form. When you lift the beaters, the tips will stand straight up. The mixture should also feel smooth when you rub it between your fingers; you shouldn't be able to feel any sugar granules
Note: Beading is a common problem for pie meringues and is caused by undissolved sugar. To solve this problem, beat until the sugar dissolves.
Step 6: Spread meringue over filling
Quickly spread the meringue over the hot pie filling. Spread the meringue to the edge of the pastry to seal it and prevent it from shrinking when it bakes. The hot filling helps to cook the meringue from underneath and prevents weeping.
Tip: If you find weeping to be a problem with meringue pies, next time, try making the meringue before the filling so it sets slightly before being used.
Step 7: Curl peaks
Curly peaks give a lovely texture to a meringue pie top. Use a spoon to swirl and twist the meringue.
Bake the pie as directed until the meringue is a golden brown. Let the pie cool for an hour on a wire rack, and then refrigerate for 5 to 6 hours before serving.
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