Traditional vs. Italian Meringue: The Difference and How To Make Each
When it comes to baking, meringue is a beloved ingredient. So whether you’re making a lemon meringue pie, meringue cookies, or Swiss meringue buttercream, it’s important to use the right type of meringue. But if you’re unfamiliar with the different kinds, you may be wondering what the difference is between traditional and Italian meringue.
In this post, we’ll discuss the differences between the two most popular types of meringue so you can choose the right one for your recipe. By breaking down the essential ingredients and tools and step-by-step instructions, we’ll also show you how to make each meringue type so you can perfect your baking skills.
Overview of Italian meringue
Italian meringue is stiffer and more stable than traditional meringue. It’s made by slowly heating sugar to a high temperature and adding it to egg whites, then whipping the mixture into peaks. Depending on the recipe, its texture can range from light and airy to thick and creamy.
Italian meringue can be used in many desserts, such as pies, cakes, cupcakes or even ice cream. It can also be used as a topping for tarts or other baked goods. In addition, it’s often combined with other ingredients, such as chocolate or fruit, to add flavor and texture to a dessert.
Overview of traditional meringue
Traditional meringue is made by whipping egg whites until stiff peaks form, then slowly adding sugar while continuing to mix until stiff peaks return once more. It has a softer consistency than Italian meringue and requires less effort.
Traditional meringue can be used as a topping for pies or other desserts. It can also be used to make delicate cookies such as macarons or pavlovas. This type is popularly piped into shapes such as petits, fours or swans for decoration as well.
Comparison of traditional and Italian meringues
The main difference between traditional and Italian meringue is the ingredients used to make them. For example, traditional meringues require egg whites and sugar, while Italian meringues require heat-resistant sugar such as confectioners' or superfine sugar in addition to egg whites. Additionally, Italian meringues involve adding hot syrup while whipping the egg whites into peaks, while traditional meringues do not require this step.
The texture of an Italian meringue will be much stiffer due to the addition of hot syrup. This makes it much more stable than traditional meringues, which are softer in texture. Additionally, Italian meringues hold up better when exposed to heat, making them ideal for making dishes such as baked Alaska which require higher temperatures during cooking or baking.
Due to the additional step of heating syrup, Italian meringues also require more skill and technique than traditional ones because there’s a greater risk of burning or overcooking the syrup if not done properly. Although both types can be easily made if you follow the instructions, Italian meringues may take more time and effort to achieve desired results due to the extra step involved in making them.
How to make Italian meringue
To make an Italian meringue, you’ll need:
- ½ cup (120 ml) water
- 1 cup (200g) granulated white sugar
- 3 large egg whites (room temperature)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
If you’re using confectioners' sugar instead of granulated white sugar, use 2 cups (240g).
To make this dessert, you’ll also need several kitchen utensils and tools, including:
- Thermometer that goes up to 230 degrees Fahrenheit
- Mixer with the whisk attachment (such as a Hamilton Beach hand mixer)
- Medium-sized saucepan
- Heat-proof bowl and measuring cup(s)
- Wooden spoon and rubber spatula
- Begin by heating the water and granulated white sugar in the saucepan over medium heat until it combines into a syrup and reaches 230 degrees Fahrenheit. Occasionally stir with a wooden spoon until the desired temperature is achieved; avoid stirring more than necessary as this could affect temperature readings from the thermometer. Keep your eye on thermometer readings to ensure you don’t overcook the syrup.
- Meanwhile, start whipping the egg whites with your mixer on low speed until frothy. Add salt and increase speed until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted from the bowl.
- Once the syrup has reached 230 degrees Fahrenheit, carefully pour it into a heat-proof measuring cup, then gradually pour it into the egg whites while they’re being whipped. Reduce the mixer speed before adding the syrup so it doesn’t splash everywhere!
- Pour syrup into egg whites in a slow, steady stream while continuing to whip on low speed. Increase the mixer’s speed once all syrup has been added so that the mixture forms stiff peaks when the beaters are removed. If desired, add vanilla extract before beating any further.
- Transfer the finished mixture to a baking dish or desired container. When ready to serve or add to a recipe, scoop out the desired amount with a rubber spatula and spread it onto desserts — enjoy!
How to make traditional meringue
To make a traditional meringue, you’ll need:
- 3 large egg whites (room temperature)
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- ¾ cup (150g) granulated white sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional).
If you’re using superfine caster sugar instead of granulated white sugar, use 1 cup (200g).
For this dessert, you’ll need several kitchen utensils and tools, including:
- A hand mixer or a stand mixer with the whisk attachment
- Medium-sized bowl, preferably glass or stainless steel
- Rubber spatula
- Baking dish or container
- Begin by adding egg whites into a clean bowl. If you're using the cream of tartar, add it at this point too, then begin whisking on low speed until frothy.
- Increase speed slightly and add granulated white sugar in small amounts, allowing each addition enough time to dissolve completely before adding more. Continue adding sugar until all of it has been incorporated.
- Increase the speed to the highest setting possible on the mixer. Once the mixture forms soft peaks when the beaters are lifted out, reduce speed slightly, then add vanilla extract at this point.
- Continue whipping at a reduced speed until stiff peaks form when the beaters are lifted out. Check the consistency with a rubber spatula to make sure it's recognizable as stiff peaks before turning off the mixer.
- Transfer the finished mixture into a baking dish or desired container; when ready to serve or add to a dessert recipe, just scoop out the desired amount with a rubber spatula — enjoy!
With this information about the differences between traditional and Italian meringue, you’re ready to tackle any baking project. Whether you’re making a meringue pie, cookies, or buttercream frosting, you can choose the appropriate meringue type to get the desired results. The key is knowing what ingredients and equipment you’ll need and having the recipe handy. With practice, you’ll soon become a master in meringue and create delicious treats in your kitchen. Happy baking!