Meringues, You Suck

Or maybe it is I who suck. Jury’s still out.

I was the fortunate recipient of a new hand mixer this Christmas and tonight I decided to make meringues for the first time. Basic, vanilla, maybe a little cocoa. Nothing fancy, it was my maiden voyage after all.

Let me just say that I, as a city dweller, do not own a car. I have three grocery stores near me, two in walking distance for the hearty and one that I only walk to when it’s nice out. And it’s not nice out. It’s 9 degrees as I type this and it wasn’t much warmer four hours ago when I set out for my ingredients. The store closest to me has everything I need, but at a steep price. I’m not too proud so I shop at Aldi when I can. Tonight was an Aldi night. I had everything but one item: a small jar of Cream of Tartar. Because frankly, if Aldi did carry it, it would come in a gallon drum and there isn’t enough gingerbread house frosting in the world to require that. So what does a person do? Walk to the other store when she can’t feel her toes?

Second best, google “do I need cream of tartar to make meringues?” and badaboom – the answer is “no”, so says Swami Google.

Not entirely true, Swami. I beat my whites and just as they were about to get to a stiff peak stage, added the recommended vinegar only to have them stall and collapse on the spot. By this point I’d already added the cocoa and in a daring move, cinnamon. There was no going back. I prepped the Silpat, preheated the oven, then dropped the sad (yet still tasty) medium-peaked blobs on and in they went.

Per the recipe, they are to sit in a 350 degree oven until it cools on its own, or overnight. So there they sit. I don’t know what went wrong. It’s entirely possible I used too much vinegar and effectively killed the whites (they hate moisture, which you may or may not know). In hindsight, I should simply have omitted it and gone with my gut instinct – that I didn’t need it. Stabilizer… what happens without it? They explode upon biting? So note to self and the two of you who may actually read this thing: cream of tartar or omit entirely. Screw the vinegar suggestion.

In my hunt for answers, I also found this neat little tip sheet. Just in case you decide to try to make meringues yourself.

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