meringues, sort of


When I think of the phrase “spectacular disaster” I think of an implied double meaning. Is it a disaster so notable that it will be long remembered? Or was it as disaster that turned out rather well, unexpectedly? In my case, this Sunday, it was the latter.

I tried to make meringues and failed. Failed miserably as they were the flattest, saddest looking things you’ve ever laid eyes on. Fluffy and cloud-like they were not. Instead, they were crispy, flat, thin, two-dimensional. They were so deflated and when I took them out of the oven, they deflated even more, thus crushing my already-fragile cooking ego to a paper-thin level.

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Growing up, my mother would make meringues that dreams are made of. They were impossibly airy, beautifully crumbly and dissolved on your tongue like a fairy-tale dessert. In fact, my favorite way to eat them would while reading Grimm Brothers’ Fairytales – stories, I am still fond of to this day. All she used were egg whites and sugar. And they were perfect every time.


I decided to give my meringues a little edge and added vanilla and lemon zest. I’m not sure whether it was the timing of adding sugar to the egg whites or the lemon zest itself, but I never wound up with stiff airy peaks like you’re supposed to. And perhaps I should have stopped right there, but I decided not to trust my gut and bake these guys anyway.

After I pulled the out of the oven, they were a pathetic bunch. I might have heard a sad sigh from one of them, or it could have been all in my head. Still, I refused to throw them in the garbage and when I bit into one, I was pleasantly surprised. They weren’t bad.


Now, I’m the first to admit failure when I am faced with one. If I took a class on meringues, and this was going to be my final product, I would expect an F. And yet, these egg white crisps were not bad, they were quite tasty, but in a completely different way. I might even try to make them again because they were quite intriguing, these crisps.

And so I wonder, as I bite into another crisp – a spectacular disaster? Perhaps not spectacular per se, but certainly a palatable one.

2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
zest of 1 lemon


Combine eggs whites, vanilla, and salt. Beat with an electric mixer until stiff but not dry.

Beat in sugar gradually until mixture forms stiff peaks and has a satiny sheen.

Fold in lemon zest.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a lightly greased cookie sheet.

Bake at 300 degrees for 25-30 minutes.


  • jennywenny

    I’m just wondering if a little grease was around and deflated your egg whites? Lemon zest should have helped by adding acidity, I would have thought. Sorry they didnt work out so well, at least they tasted nice!

  • robin

    Maybe it was the lemon zest, if they were too wet? And I’ve always used a stainless steel bowl for whipping, since I can be 100% sure it’s clean. Beyond that, who knows, meringues are fickle.
    I’m interested in the crisps though, I think I might like them more than meringues.

  • Helen

    Hmmm, maybe you had some grease in there somewhere? Anyway, who cares, if they tasted good that’s all that counts! You may have just invented something new, trouble is, you don’t know how you did it…

  • radish

    Yeah, they did wind up being on the good side of okay, but i still feel a bit annoyed they didn’t do what i _wanted_ them to do. Because I’m demanding like that. I don’t think it was the grease or the moisture. I was pretty good about those things, i think i started out a bit too ambitious with the beating of the whites. And apparently, they HAVE to be at room temperature.

  • Ellie @ Kitchen Wench

    That picture reminds me far too much of my first meringue attempt – tasty, but depressing as all heck! And having the egg whites at room temp does help :) I’m sure they’ll turn out perfectly next time, just don’t let this experience put you off the cheeky little buggers!

  • Tim

    I’m sorry to hear that they didn’t work out, but they actually look kind of cool. My first thought scrolling down the page was that you had a container of shaved white truffle!

  • Claire

    Have been reading back issues of your blog and am not sure if you read comments from this long ago, or indeed if you’ve solved the problem.. but.. others are right in making sure your bowl is scrupulously clean. Then beat the egg whites until they are airy and then add the sugar (caster which is fine ground in the US I’d guess) one teaspoon at a time until the egg whites look glossy then add the rest in batches – you need the sugar to dissolve. Then add the flavourings (vanilla, lemon zest) and one tsp white vinegar with one tsp cornflour dissolved in it and beat one last time. This helps stabilise the mixture. Bake in a low oven 140C for about an hour (depending on size of meringues). Oh, and my quantities are 1 egg white to 2oz sugar. Works every time for me!
    Good luck.

  • Erin


    I usually make fine meringues but I was trying out a new recipie and added the vanilla before I really started beating the eggs. They never fluffed up and I learned that the vanilla can debase the egg whites if added too early in the fluff process. Thats probably why the recipe wanted me to use vanilla seeds instead of the liquid….

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