Why Does my Meringue Shrink?
The science of making foams in baking (egg foams to be exact) is a phenomenon of breaking protein strands (in the egg whites) and thus lengthening them as they are beaten. This is called denaturing the proteins. Basically they stretch and lengthen and in this process they trap air bubbles. The size and strength of the bubbles determine the durability of the meringue.
An acid such as cream of tartar, makes egg-white bubbles stronger. Another way to be sure you are helping to strengthen those bubbles rather than work against them, is to gradually beat in the sugar. You have heard me say this time and again when we are beating foams. SLOWLY add the sugar. You never want to dump a heavy mass on top of a light foamy aeration that you are working so hard to achieve.
Once again in baking TIMING is everything!
If the sugar is not added before a medium foam is established, the whites get too stretchy to make a stiff foam.
On the other hand, if you add the sugar too fast, the granules won’t dissolve and the bubbles will be uneven.
Finally, if you overbeat the whites, the bubbles are stretched to their maximum so that when heated, the air pockets explode and drain liquid.
Please note that even the best made meringues have a small window of glory.
By baking the meringue as the final step, the meringue will set and get firmer.
As the meringue cools, the air in the bubbles contracts and causes slight shrinkage THIS IS NORMAL.
And the Meringue Topping as follows:
Egg Whites 6 Lg (198g)
Sugar 3/4c (150g)
Cream Of Tartar 1/2 teaspoon
Do not prepare your meringue until you have the lemon curd cooled in your pie shell and you are ready to place the meringue topping.
Since we are using a very fragile Lemon Curd here, rather than the typical cornstarch custards that are normally found in a Lemon Pie, we have to take extra precautions with cooling the curd properly.
You will normally see the lemon pie directions with a cornstarch custard that says to place your meringue direct on top of the HOT custard and not to wait until it is cooled. You may use this method here, just please be sure to handle it quickly and get it all cooled down as fast as possible due to the curd factor! (I guess they really drilled that into my head when I was in school, and so I want to be sure you are all well informed!)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F
In the bowl of your Kitchen Aid Mixer with the Whip Attachment, Place the room temperature egg whites and the cream of tartar.
Begin on medium speed until foamy.
Gradually increase the speed to high, and once you have started to achieve a medium foamy meringue, you can slowly start adding in the sugar.
Continue whipping until you have reached medium-firm peaks.
At this point you will spoon out all the meringue piled high on top of your curd in the pie shell.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes until the meringue starts to brown and puff slightly.
Let cool and serve immediately.