Grease and flour 2 baking sheets. Combine egg whites, cream of tartar, salt, and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat (at medium speed if a mixer is used) until egg whites hold soft peaks. Gradually add 3/4 cup sugar, a tablespoon at a time, beating continuously. Continue beating until meringue is very stiff and dull. It has been beaten enough when a bit, rubbed between thumb and finger, is no longer grainy. The meringue should be stiff enough to hold it’s shape when formed with a pastry tube. Gently fold in remaining sugar.
Meringues should actually be dried rather than baked. Herein lies the secret of making meringues which are tender, delicate, and light-colored, rather than overly crisp, tough, and too dark to be either attractive or delicious. The best meringues are baked by the following method:
Set oven teperature at 200 degrees before beginning to beat the egg whites.
After shaping the meringue mixture on baking sheets, place in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Then turn off the oven heat. Allow the meringues to remain in the oven with the heat rurned off for at least 4-5 hours — the longer the better. If your oven has a pilot light, the meringues will be ready a little sooner. The meringues should be totally dry before removing them from the oven. If you can, leave them in the oven overnight.
For many of us, however, time is a factor. If you can’t take the time to bake meringues this slow, slow way, accept second best and simply bake them slowly, setting the oven temperature for 200 degrees or less if possible.
At 200 degrees, meringue layers will need to bake for about 40 minutes;
small meringues may take a little less time.
Whatever method you use, it is important to prevent the meringues from coloring, since even a light tan color changes their texture and taste as well as their appearance.
When thoroughly dry, meringues can be kept covered in a dry airy place (NOT in a tightly covered box) for several weeks.
ALTERNATE MIXING METHOD by ELECTRIC BEATER Combine egg whites, cream of tartar, salt, 1/2 cup sugar and vanilla in large bowl. Beat at high speed until egg whites hold peaks. Add 1/2 cup sugar, all at once. Beat at high speed until mixture is very stiff and there are no grains of undisolved sugar. Fold in remaining sugar.
To shape Swiss Meringue into layers and rounds follow directions given below.
Grease and flour a large baking sheet. Press the rim of a 9-inch layer cake pan or a 2-inch cooky cutter lightly into the flour on baking sheet to make guides. If Baking Pan Liner Paper is used, the guiding circles will have to be traced with a pencil. Spread mixture within circles. OR: Fill a pastry bag fitted with a No.3 or 5 tube with prepared mixture. Starting in center of each circle, press out bater in a long, continuous, pencil-thick strip, curling it round and round until traced circle is completely filled in (spiral). For best control, press out batter slowly, holding bag at least 1 inch away from sheet.
Bake in a 325 degree oven, 25 minutes for small rounds, 35-40 minutes for 9-inch layers.