You have had this compulsion to make meringues at home. So you go on ahead and get the ingredients, and get into the process of making the meringues.
But you run into problems. The meringues are sticky.
And you feel like you did all that work for nothing. Making meringues for the first time, giving up is very easy.
Don’t lose hope yet.
Because, in this article, we are going to learn how to make meringues that are not sticky.
It’s a promise.
So, What’s Wrong with Sticky Meringues?
They probably taste amazing. However, the key to perfect meringues is the crispiness. The temptation to continue to ignore the signs of potential sticky meringues is great.
But, before you do, you need to know how to spot sticky meringues.
It Sticks to Fingers and Each Other
Meringues are a type of dessert that looks like some kind of hard whipped cream. So when meringues stick to your fingers or each other, they are ruined.
And if they are sticky right after being beaten, the stickiness is bound to get worse. Meringues are meant to be a single lump of a cookie, sticking together is a problem since now you will have a problem with serving.
This is not what you set out to do.
Worse if they stick to each other. It will look like a big lump of a mess. These meringues will disappoint anyone.
The Texture Gets Ruined
Meringues should have a soft and melt in the mouth interior and a smooth and crisp outer layer. Ruined and sticky meringues will usually have a lumpy appearance and will be chewy on the inside.
If the error was in the ratio of ingredients, you will have runny meringue that does not stiffen at all. Another result is a stiff mixture that has grainy bits.
These are disasters waiting to happen.
The Meringue Sticks To Foil
Think about it.
How will you even use a meringue on a pastry, if it won’t come off the foil?
When you are ready to bake your meringue, you will place them on a baking tray lined with foil.
During baking, you will know good meringue because they will lift off from the foil. Sticky whipped egg whites will not lift, they will stick to it instead.
How to stop meringue from sticking to the foil? Whip up a good batch straight from the start.
Weeping And Stickiness In Meringues: What’s The Catch?
Why Do Meringues Weep Or Get Watery?
The section above may have been a bit dismal, but most times it’s not any of your faults.
There is a reason for meringues to weep or leak out water. This is the primary reason for stickiness in soft meringue or softness in crisp meringue.
Still, want to know why the meringues got moist? Well, we got you:
- The humidity in the atmosphere was high and the sugar in the meringue drew the moisture.
- Overcooked or undercooked meringue.
- Undissolved sugar in the meringue.
The Relation Between Weeping and Stickiness
Nothing is more annoying than when a perfectly good meringue weeps.
Weeping is when brown beads of moisture appear all over the meringue surface. They give the appearance of tears, hence the term weeping.
You wonder how this affects the texture of the meringue, it softens the meringue.
Soft meringue leads to sticky meringue.
That’s why you end up with a messy pile that won’t hold together or stick to every surface.
Honestly, it’s not very presentable either.
3 Ways You Can Face Sticky Meringues
Now that you are looking at a bunch of sticky meringues, regretting the day you decided to make them. This however doesn’t mean you throw them out. You can reclaim them from ruin.
How about we do a bit of meringue troubleshooting?
Knowing exactly how and when the meringue got sticky will help in knowing how to fix the sticky meringue.
- Sticky when Freshly Brought Out Of Oven
Meringues straight from the oven should be smooth with a crisp outer layer.
When you take out freshly baked meringues from the oven and they are clumped together, the weeping happened in the oven.
The number one reason for this was that you probably kept opening the oven to check on them. Another is that the egg white-sugar ratio was a little off with sugar being too much and consequently attracted moisture.
Or, the temperature was too low and baking time was too short, the meringue is undercooked.
In this case, return the meringue to the oven preheated at a higher temperature, and allow enough time to bake.
- Sticky After 3-5 Minutes Of Keeping Out In The Air
Your meringue got sticky after keeping it out in the air for a few minutes?
Well, it is because you did not allow the meringue to cool in the oven after baking. Out in the air, the meringue drew moisture and got that sticky result.
After baking, shut off the oven and keep the meringue inside to cool slowly. This prevents a sudden drop in temperature which will also lead to cracked exteriors.
Covering them with a paper towel or parchment paper will help prevent the meringue from attracting moisture. Once cool, you can take them out.
When they get sticky, return them to the oven and bake for about 5 minutes until the outer layer is crispy again then cool in the oven while it is off.
- Sticky After Storing On A Contoured Space
Even after they are cooled sufficiently, storing meringue is also very particular.
Storing meringue on a contoured surface, probably on a shelf with racks or a cooling rack, even perfect meringue will get sticky after a while.
Store meringue in an airtight container and place in a cool dry place. This prevents the sugar in the meringue from attracting water.
If you have sticky meringue, return them to the oven and once crispy again, store them correctly.
5 Reasons & Solutions For Sticky Meringues
- The Meringue Is Underbaked
The most common reason for sticky meringues is undercooking.
This happens when the meringues are baked in low heat and insufficient time. This causes liquid buildup in the centre, collapsing the foam and will eventually seep out.
Another reason for undercooking is using cold eggs when making the meringue. As the eggs thaw out while in the oven, the meringue gets soft.
The Solution to Undercooked Meringue
- Increase the amount of sugar to decrease the water content in the meringue. This helps in making meringues that hold together without leaving moisture in the middle.
- Add a little cornflour to your egg whites at the end of whisking. cornflour helps to stabilise the egg whites during baking and prevents the protein bonds from tightening too much.
The flour also helps in absorbing excess liquid in the meringue. However, too much flour will cause the meringues to get a chalky texture, so about 1 teaspoon of cornflour per egg white should be used.
- Do not over-whip. Only whip the meringue mixture until the sugar dissolves and not any longer.
- Bake the meringue at a higher temperature or for a longer time. You will notice that when properly baked the meringue lifts from the tray without lifting.
So, in the case where you did all the above and your meringue still comes out undercooked, stick them back in the oven at 275°F (140°C) for 30-35 minutes.
The meringue will come out firm.
- The Meringue Is Overbaked
While low temperatures and short times in the oven causes underbaking, the vice versa is true.
Blasting the meringues with too high heat will cause beading. Beading is when sugary water droplets form on the outer layer of the meringue. High temperature over a long period causes ‘browning’. Burned meringue.
How To Fix Overcooked Meringue
While baking, check on your meringues. If you notice the appearance of ‘sweat’ which crystallized sugar, take them out and then do the following:
- Fold in one egg white at room temperature into the ruined mixture. Then whip it up some more till you get firm peaks. The egg white will help restore stability.
- Pipe the mixture onto a tray and bake them at a higher temperature for about 10 to 15 minutes or until done.
- Shut off the oven and let the meringue cool completely without taking them out of the oven.
- In the case of ‘browned’ meringue, consider making cookies out of the burned meringue.
- Stiff Peaks (Improper Beating)
Your meringue is done the moment it starts forming peaks.
Soft meringue forms firm peaks and are not granular are most ideal.
However, meringue that is lumpy and flops is trouble brewing cause it will deflate in the oven.
This moldiness is caused by beating the meringue for too long.
How to Fix Meringues That Have Stiff Peaks
Mostly when you overbeat meringue it is too firm you can’t fix it.
You will need to start over.
However, you can do the steps below to avoid getting meringue that’s too firm:
- Whisk the egg whites over medium speed to get soft peaks. Soft peaks are firm but will collapse onto themselves softly.
- Increase the speed as the sugar is added.,
- Also remember that cold egg whites incorporate less air when whipped, so use room temperature egg whites.
- Improper Sugar Ratio
Let’s talk about sugar.
Sugar acts as a stabilizer to keep the meringue from collapsing. Sugar blends with the water in the egg whites and holds them in the meringue. Otherwise, this water will just evaporate.
And the most common use for sugar, taste. Without it, your meringue is going to be bland.
However, there are proper ways to use sugar in meringue to avoid grainy mixtures.
How To Fix Sugar Ratio
- Timing. If you add the sugar to the egg whites before beating them, it may delay the formation of the meringue.
This is because the sugar will interfere with the protein bonds of the egg whites.
So, add the sugar after you have been beating the eggs for several minutes.
- Texture. In baked meringues, sugar gives them a crunchy texture and a melt in the mouth quality.
But, the sugar should not be grainy in the meringue. It has to fully dissolve. For this to happen without hitches, add the sugar in bits as you whip.
- Avoid using granulated sugar as it takes longer to dissolve. In place use caster sugar or grind normal sugar to get an ultrafine powder.
- Amount. For every 4 egg whites, use 1 single cup of sugar. If you use too much sugar, try adding more egg white till the ratio is within reasonable limits.
- Humid Weather (Hydrophilia Of Sugar)
After you have made meringues several times, you are going to realise that nothing is as bad as humidity.
You will get away with most mistakes, but when high humidity is in play, your meringues are doomed.
Sugar is one of those substances that attracts and retains moisture easily, you have to do everything to avoid moistness when making meringues.
In the case that it’s a humid day, we can try to prevent it from affecting the meringue.
How To Fix Meringue That Has Been Exposed To Humid Weather
- When making meringues and it’s humid, add a bit of cornstarch to absorb the excess moisture and stabilise the whipped mixture,
- Also, make sure that all the sugar in the meringue is dissolved, or it will attract all the moisture it is possible to
- When all goes well and your meringues are perfect, cool them, store them in an airtight container and place them in a cool, dry place. This way you don’t trap any moisture in the container.
- Avoid refrigeration. Storing meringue in the fridge will guarantee moistness and meringue that’s gooey.
3 Things You Should Not Do With Meringues
Don’t Store Them In The Fridge
We already know that meringues love water as cockroaches love light.
Storing your meringues in the fridge will ensure that when you take them out, you will have a sweet goop in its place.
It’s advisable that you only make enough to use at the time and not more.
But since estimating may be a bit tricky with our love for abundance, just let the meringue cool completely.
Then put them in an airtight container and store the container in a cool dry place.
Here, we are trying as much as possible to discourage the formation of water droplets.
Don’t Mess Up Egg White – Sugar Ratio
Yes. Amounts of sugar. Very problematic.
Though it is one of those things you can always control.
In 4 egg whites, use 1 cup of fine sugar. Any more and your meringue will be grainy in texture and not soft and smooth.
Less is not as bad, however, since sugar helps with holding together the protein bonds, too little will take you longer to whip up the meringue.
Avoid Baking Meringues On A Humid Day
Humid weather equals soggy meringues.
Avoid baking meringues on humid days for perfect meringues.
Alternatively, you can add a bit of cornstarch to the egg whites to draw out excess moisture. This method is not foolproof so the meringue may go either way.
While baking you can check on the meringue, so you can be forewarned.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)
What should I do with failed meringues?
You’re staring at a batch of ruined meringue, wondering if you will have to throw them out.
Well, do not despair, you turn these failures into super amazing cookies. You have your choice of macaroons or any other creative ideas you may have.
Just incorporate any of the ingredients and voila! Cookies!
Does meringue collapse when sticky?
Sticky meringue means that it either has too much water in it or was not whipped properly.
Either way, they will collapse during baking. But no worries.
You can always beat an egg white and gently fold it into the ruined meringue. Then proceed to whip the mixture to perfection.
Why is my meringue watery?
When the meringue simply cannot stiffen, it means that the egg whites were not properly whisked before the sugar was added.
It usually helps to whisk the egg white before then add in a tablespoon of sugar. Whip up this to medium peaks before adding in the rest of the sugar also in bits.
Why are my meringues sticky and chewy?
To make perfect meringues, you need to be very precise at all times. Chewy meringues are usually due to any or all of three reasons.
Wrong baking techniques i.e. wrong temperature and time, improper beating or too much moisture will lead to sticky and chewy meringues.
Why are my meringues sticky on the bottom?
Perfect meringues are full of sugar, so they will attract moisture from the outside until they are all just goo.
Follow the steps to avoid moisture retention. It also helps to cover the baking tray with parchment paper to help absorb the moisture.
This article had better help all of you bakers in making meringues.
If you had been failing to make perfect meringues or were having trouble with a step, now you have the tools for you to shine in the kitchen.
Be attentive to these hacks and tricks and don’t be surprised if you can make meringues with your eyes closed and one hand tied behind your back.