The Key Step That Makes Italian Meringue Unique

If you jump for joy at the thought of dessert, then it's likely that you've had the pleasure of enjoying meringue once, twice, or several times! Whether enjoyed on its own, as a base for treats like macarons, or used to give frosting a bit of body, meringue is an incredibly sweet and almost magical dessert. While there are several different types of meringue, like French or Swiss, there's something that makes Italian meringue especially unique.

A good meringue should look almost cloudlike; however, oftentimes, it has a delicately crisp texture that gives way to a slightly chewy interior. A sugary surge of sweetness when you take a bite, meringue is basically just a foam made with egg whites that have been stabilized by sugar, notes MasterClass. Although the basics remain the same among the varieties of meringue, there are notable differences in stability, as well as how they are prepared and used.

Piped into pastries and folded into batter, Cook's Illustrated explains that French meringue is the least sturdy but most simple as it involves adding sugar to stiff peaks of beaten egg whites. In contrast, Swiss meringue involves beating egg whites and sugar over a double boiler, which produces a smoother, denser result that can be used in buttercream frosting. However, the Italian meringue reigns supreme when it comes to light featheriness and insane structure, making it suitable to add to pastries, frostings, mousses, and sorbets.

A drizzle of hot sugar syrup

The most elaborate of the meringues, La Cucina Italiana explains that Italian meringue is the most stable meringue thanks to its complex preparation that involves rapidly whisking together egg whites as warm sugar syrup is drizzled in. What this does is cooks the egg whites, resulting in a soft, glossy finish similar to a Swiss meringue and is safe to eat without baking, unlike a French meringue.

While Italian meringue is quite versatile as it's able to be enjoyed as is or baked until perfectly crisp, it can be tricky as it requires careful attention to detail. But, with the advent of a stand mixer, most of your concentration can instead be focused on the sugar syrup.

Working with two parts sugar and one part water, Serious Eats recommends using a candy thermometer to ensure your syrup reaches an ideal 240 degrees Fahrenheit. As egg whites are being whisked at a higher speed, take extra care to slowly (and carefully) drizzle in the sugar syrup until stiff peaks form — just like that, you'll have an Italian meringue that's tasty and super sturdy!