Follow these simple tips to create sculptural swoops and swirls like the ones on the Sweet-Potato Puree with Toasted Meringue, or to pipe decorative flourishes like those shown on the Pumpkin-Cheesecake Pie with Gingersnap Crust.
- Keep in mind that eggs are easiest to separate when they are cold, and that the whites whip up best at room temperature.
- Make sure your bowl and beaters are clean and dry; any traces of fat or water will prevent whites from whipping properly.
- If combining sugar and egg whites over simmering water, whisk until the sugar dissolves completely and the whites are warm. Feel the mixture between two fingers: It should have a smooth consistency, without any granules.
- Meringue hardens quickly, so use it immediately.
- Use a small offset spatula to achieve swoops and swirls. Use a piping bag for decorative finishes: For the pumpkin-cheesecake pie, we fitted a bag with a large leaf tip (Ateco #115) and piped leaves around the border.
- You can brown meringue in the oven, but for more control and better results, use a kitchen torch. Hold the flame at a 90-degree angle three inches from the surface of the meringue. Move it back and forth until the meringue starts to brown.
Learn which type of meringue is best for your lemon tartlets: