The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Why does my meringue weep?

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BettyR's picture
BettyR

Why does my meringue weep?

It’s a very small problem but I wish I knew how to make it stop. If anyone knows I would appreciate any help I can get.

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

http://www.ochef.com/904.htm
How to Keep Meringue from Weeping

Q. What causes my meringue on cream pies to weep? A syrup forms between the filling layer and the meringue, which then comes out if pie is tilted or when cut. I have tried many variations - cooling the baked shell and filling before adding the meringue, using warm filling and adding the meringue, always having the meringue touching all edges of the crust, etc. I use 2 tablespoons of sugar for each egg white and usually use 3 egg whites per pie. I always have the whites at room temperature, add 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar, and beat the meringue stiff before adding sugar. The pies always look like a picture, but then when cut, are not solid.


A. Yours is not an uncommon problem (we have four questions on this subject in the hopper right now) but there are a variety of solutions. The reason meringues weep is that they are undercooked on the bottom, and some of the moisture that is held in suspension in the egg foam seeps out all over the pie filling. So the first part of the solution is never to let your filling cool before smoothing on the meringue. In fact, the filling should be piping hot to help set the bottom of the meringue. That may not be enough, though.


An option many people take is to add a teaspoon of cornstarch to the sugar before beating it into the meringue. The cornstarch absorbs extra moisture, and has the added bonus of keeping the whites from becoming overbeaten. Shirley Corriher, author of Cookwise (Canada, UK), uses a slightly different method. She blends a tablespoon of cornstarch with 1/3 cup of water, heats it until it forms a thick gel, and then adds it to the meringue a tablespoon at a time after all the sugar has been added. She says this keeps the meringue from shrinking, lowers the chance that beads will form on the surface, and makes a meringue that is tender and easy to cut smoothly.


Roland Meisner, pastry chef at the White House, is said to sprinkle very fine cake crumbs over the surface of the pie filling before adding the meringue. If the meringue weeps, the crumbs absorb the moisture, and, whether or not there is weeping, the crumbs dissolve into the pie.


Rose Levy Beranbaum, author of The Pie & Pastry Bible (Canada, UK), says a method devised by Michael Field called for adding 1/4 teaspoon of the nutritional supplement bone meal (yum, yum) for every three eggs. It works brilliantly, Beranbaum says, except that there is a perceptible grittiness that one does not normally associate with lovely homemade pies. She is looking to bone-meal manufacturers of the world to produce a finer powder, but we aren't holding our collective breath.


Beranbaum does not care for the cornstarch slurry method either, by the way, as she says it "compromises the etherial lightness of the meringue." She would rather use a more stable Italian meringue if it comes to that.


So there are several options, any of which may involve some degree of compromise. You may have to do a little experimenting to see which method you like the best.

BettyR's picture
BettyR

I think I'll skip the bone meal...euwwwww

I'll give the cornstarch a try...thanks. Also I guess I was calling it the wrong thing. I get the beads on top not that liquid between the layers that they call weeping.

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

http://www.fitnessandfreebies.com/food/meringue.html
The Perfect Meringue

Many prefer the light, sweet meringue topping over a regular crust topping. The most common problems cooks run into with their meringue toppings are beading, weeping and shrinking.


 



  • Beading occurs when the formation of water droplets occur on the surface of the meringue. The main cause of this is overcooking.

  • Weeping is a loss of water between the meringue and the pie filling itself and is caused by undercooking.

  • Shrinking is a loss of volume during baking. With a few tricks of the kitchen, you can produce a beautiful meringue topping.


Always use a clean, dry bowl to beat your meringue. Glass, ceramic, stainless steel and copper bowls are fine but avoid the use of plastic bowls as even if they are clean in appearance, they have a tendency to hang onto trace amounts of oil.
 
Be sure absolutely no yolk gets into your egg whites during separation. Even a tiny amount of yolk will ruin your meringue.


 


Meringues include the use of a stabilzer such as cream of tartar, white vinegar or lemon juice. Most recipes will add 1/8-teaspoon of one of these per egg white to the unbeaten eggs. Note: In a copper bowl, the use of cream of tartar is not necessary.


Whip your whites to medium-soft peaks. Beat in 2-tablespoons of white sugar per egg white. Beat until the whites are glossy and hold a firm peak. If you find you have a shrinking problem with your meringue, use a mixture of cornstarch and water. Heat it to form a gel and beat gradually into your meringue.


Spread your meringue over your piping hot filling and spread to the edges of the pie to seal. It is important your filling is hot as this cooks your meringue through to the inside. This also prevents weeping. You can also sprinkle cake crumbs lightly over your pie filling to absorb liquid between the layers as a prevention against weeping.


The preferred baking method is one that combines high temperatures with a short baking time. This prevents overcooking the outside and avoids beading. Bake at 425-degrees for four to five minutes.
 

BettyR's picture
BettyR

How funny...I have been baking my crust at 425 then reducing my oven temp for the meringue. I guess I'll stop doing that.

kutzeh's picture
kutzeh

My Mom worked at a resturant and their recipe called for 1 T cornstarch beat into the whites along with the sugar, which I use. Seems to help.

Pablo's picture
Pablo

As a child lemon meringue pies in my house always wept.  It was part of the eating experience to have the droplets.  I think that I would miss them if I ever did a pie without them.


:-Paul

BettyR's picture
BettyR

I just would rather they not be there. :)

ananda's picture
ananda

Betty, would you be able to reduce the liquid content in your pie filling?


I think mrfrost has clearly identified how weeping occurs.   If there is less liquid in the filling, maybe you could avoid this particular problem?   Just a question of whether you then don't open yourself up to any other adverse effects!


BW


Andy

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

We have a torte sold in the local bakery, made with currents on a cake or cookie dough and the currents are mixed with meringue and spread across the dough and baked.  It is scattered with berries in the surface of the miringue and yes, it gets wet dropplets on top.  Ever taste one?  All by itself?  It is sweet like syrup not like water.  Like caramel sugar drops.  Yum!  It has never bothered me, it does tell the age of the torte.  And tends to happen into the afternoon for a morning baked torte.  I figured it was humidity in the air attracted to the merigue surface or too much sugar.  I've tried to duplicate it.   Interesting... too long baked?   Nah! 


OK, I'll try that the next time.


Mini in Austria

BettyR's picture
BettyR

then I may as well get used to the beads. I live on the Texas Gulf Coast and it is always humid here. The dew is so heavy on the grass in the mornings that it's usually noon before the grass is dry enough to cut.

This is my back yard.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

eat all the pie before the meringue has time to weep!   ;-)


Paul

BettyR's picture
BettyR

That would work. :)

BettyR's picture
BettyR

supposed to get the whole thing brown?!?

davidinportland's picture
davidinportland

Hi there, a lot of the comments are correct or partially correct about the weeping meringue vis-a-vis cause. I'm guessing you make an French Meringue (what we all grew up with -- sugar whipped with egg whites, maybe cream of tartar). The sugar never fully incorporates and bonds with the egg whites. That's why the sugar weeps out of the meringue on your pie. This would happen even if it were sitting on a dry pie shell (doesn't have anything to do with the contents of the pie).


The surest and easiest way to fix this is to use a cooked meringue, ideally an Italian meringue which is made a boiled syrup and this will eliminate the problem forever. The consistency is different, smoother, but it is excellent and used the world over in professional baking.


Swiss Meringue is different still (made over a double boiler) and best used for piping (like a pavlova).


 


Have fun! 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

could be heated to 160°F (to kill germs) and not over 165°F or risk weeping.  Use a probe thermometer stuck into the meringue only.    I did not find out how hot the oven should be. 


The culprit is the egg whites themselves not sugar or humidity (although I would gladly use that for an excuse if I needed one.)  I think I would say, "It's been touched by the sugar fairies."  Which is indeed true if they use a hot touch.  (I've heard they carry wands.) 


The high heat damages the protein structure in the meringue releasing the sugar bound to the water, resulting in dropletts of sugar water.


Mini

BettyR's picture
BettyR

I'm afraid I'm not dedicated enough to getting rid of the little sugar beads to go to all that much trouble with worrying about probe thermometers. I don't have one and living out in the sticks as I do I'd probably have to order one online. I like the sugar fairy idea much better. I do appreciate all the trouble you went to to find that out though.


 


I'm a pretty lazy pie maker as it is. I bake my crust, bring it in and cook my filling in the microwave while I'm beating my egg whites. Then pop it back out in the oven to brown my meringue. My guys go through a pie a couple of days and pie is their favorite food group. That coconut pie in the picture is gone and I'm making a lemon pie today. I like cooking cream pies better than fruit pies...you don't have all that peeling and slicing to do. I have some bananas getting ripe on the table and they will go in a pie probably on about Wednesday or Thursday.

Dillbert's picture
Dillbert

you got my vote.  if it tastes as good as it looks, nadda problem!


since you're meringuing it regular, you could easily experiment and see what works in your kitchen [g]

BettyR's picture
BettyR

I mixed 1 tablespoon of cornstarch in with my sugar and beat that into my meringue for my lemon pie this morning. We shall see how that works.

qahtan's picture
qahtan

Your pie looks super, I have found time and time again that you  MUST have no humidity about, like if it's raining out side or if some thing on the stove is steaming or you have the awful humidity like we have here,  that will cause your meringue to weep.,,,


if it turns out great like yours and you want to put it in the fridge for later, forget it, it will weep in there,,,,,,,        try it.... qahtan


gaaarp's picture
gaaarp

Am I the only one who hears George Harrison singing whenever I see a new post ?in this thread?

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

Maybe you subconsciously read the 7th post(by pablo).

bonnie1345's picture
bonnie1345

The weeping is caused by putting the meringue on while the filling is still hot. Allow it to cool first. I am famous for my lemon meringue pies and 50 years of making them, qualifies me to answer this one, lol.

bdatxmama's picture
bdatxmama

Hi I have made coconut cream pie several times and every time I make them, they get worse and worse w. the liquid in the pie.  I have tried several tricks to prevent this but I made them again over the weekend, they were so runny I wanted to cry. I have a question, is it best to use fresh eggs and if so, should they be room temp.?  I have chickens so fresh eggs is not a problem.  My next question would be, is the reason you have to place the meringue on the topping while it is hot, is because you are trying to cook the raw egg whites?  If so, we use uncooked eggs all the time in our homemade mayo, now granted it does have vinegar in it, but still we are eating raw eggs.  Finally, my last question, could I make my filling, place in cooled pie shell, let it cool completely, then make my meringue, and bake in oven, wl. that help w. not having a watery filling?

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

" My next question would be, is the reason you have to place the meringue on the topping while it is hot..."

Let the pie cool first, put on the beaten egg whites and bake again.

bdatxmama's picture
bdatxmama

Thanks mini oven for the tip.  I read up above in one of the comments that is what someone else does and she has been making pies for 50 years.

andychrist's picture
andychrist

Might cream of tartar help at all in this case?  Found it helps enormously in getting whites to crest, even under relatively high humidity. Have never baked meringue separately though, only incorporated it into my cakes. So don't know for sure whether COT would continue to stabilize a topping once inside the oven, but suspect it would.