According to Epicurious, a meringue consists of sugar and egg whites beaten into a foam which can either have a soft or crunchy texture. Though the list of ingredients to prepare meringue is short, many problems can arise during the making and baking of meringues. The amounts of sugar, egg whites, oven temperature setting and even the weather can thwart the best intentions when making meringues. Overcome these challenges by troubleshooting your own meringues.
Wait for a dry, clear day before making meringues as excess humidity or dampness in the air can prevent the egg whites from properly beating.
Check the proportion of sugar to egg whites in your recipe. Use 2 tbsp. confectioner's sugar, which combines sugar with cornstarch, for soft meringues as the cornstarch stabilizes the egg whites. Use 4 tbsp. ultra-fine sugar when making hard meringues.
Add 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar per egg white to the whites after beating them to soft peaks.
Mix in the sugar only one tablespoon at a time to the egg whites when after the egg whites form soft peaks that droop when you lift the beaters from the foam for soft or hard meringues.
Beat hard meringues until the peaks of the meringue mixture stand up stiffly on the end of the beaters when you remove the beaters from the bowl and hold them upside down. Mix soft meringues only until the peaks of foam at the end of the beaters stand bend only at the tips of the peaks.
Avoid beading or weeping meringues by sprinkling 3 to 4 tbsp. fine cake crumbs over hot pie filling, to absorb excess moisture. Spoon the meringue over hot filling and bake in a preheated oven.
Bake soft meringues in a preheated 425 to 450 degree Fahrenheit oven for five minutes until the peaks have browned and the valleys look golden. Cook hard meringues overnight in an oven at the lowest temperature setting with the door slightly ajar to thoroughly dry the meringues and make them crisp.