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Great Italian Desserts

By Nick Malgieri

Published 1990

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Though meringue is supposedly Swiss in origin, Italians are great lovers of the confection in all forms. Pastry shops abound with delicate, baroque pyramids of meringues interspersed with rosettes of whipped cream and strawberries or generous dollops of chestnut filling. Chocolate meringue, flavored with cocoa powder, is also popular, but it is not, to my knowledge, used interchangeably in desserts with plain meringue.

The type of meringue most commonly found in these desserts is an ordinary one in which the egg whites are whipped, a portion of the sugar is then whipped into the whites, and the remaining sugar is folded in by hand. The meringue is piped or shaped and baked at a low temperature until crisp and dry. For chocolate meringue, cocoa powder is added with the second part of the sugar, and it is baked at a slightly higher temperature. So-called Italian meringue, the type in which the egg whites are whipped and then doused with a hot sugar syrup, is used mainly in the preparation of semifreddi, or frozen desserts (see Ices and Frozen Desserts), to lighten them and is not usually baked.


  • 4 large egg whites
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup sugar


Place the egg whites in a clean, dry 2- to 3-quart bowl and add the salt. Whip the egg whites, either with a hand mixer set at medium speed or in a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the whip. Continue whipping until the whites become very white and opaque and begin to hold their shape. Increase the speed to the maximum and whip in half the sugar in a slow stream. Continue whipping until the mixture is very stiff but not dry and grainy. Stop whipping, scatter the remaining sugar over the mixture, and fold it in by hand, using a rubber spatula. Immediately, shape and bake the meringue according to the individual recipe.