How to make the perfect meringue

Texas Big Hairs_Sweet on Texas_web copy

Photo by Robert M. Peacock

Look at that meringue, with its stiff peaks and brown edges. The above photo is from Oak Cliff resident Denise Gee’s newest cookbook, “Sweet on Texas: Lovable Confections from the Lone Star State.”

Gee, a former food editor for Southern Living, styled all the photos in the book, which was released this past October. Her husband, Robert M. Peacock, shot all the photos. Read more about Gee (whose previous book, “Porch Parties,” was inspired by living in Winnetka Heights) and her new book in the February Advocate.

The meringue tart up there is called a “Texas big hair.” Cute, huh? Texas big hairs are pastry chef Rebecca Rather’s recipe for lemon-lime meringue tarts. Here’s how Gee achieves that big Texas “hair”:

• Use large, perfectly clean metal bowl. If there’s a trace of fat in it, the eggs won’t reach their proper volume.
• While whisking and heating the meringue, take a little of the mixture and rub it between your fingers to ensure all the sugar grains have melted.
• Use a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment to whip the meringue on low speed first (usually about 5 minutes), then high speed (usually 5 minutes more) until the meringue is stiff and shiny.
• Pile the meringue on top of the filling. Style it with your fingers by plucking at it to tease it into jagged spikes. (Having a bit of meringue stuck to your fingers will help you form big spikes.)
• Since perfectly browned edges are often elusive, use a kitchen torch like this one. Hold it 2-to-3 inches away from the meringue and move the flame slowly around the meringue until is browned all over.
• To create a good “seal” between layers and to avoid a “weeping” meringue, do not allow the filling to cool before topping it with the meringue.
• Meringue will only look fabulous the day a dessert is made, so know the clock is ticking.
• Meringue pies cut more easily with a wet knife blade.
• Don’t do what a Southern Living reader once told me she’d done when calling to complain about a recipe: She’d used tartar sauce instead of cream of tartar. She said, “But they’re the same thing . . . right?”


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