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November 13, 2007

Meringue powder (Recipe: royal icing)

Updated January 2012.

Plaidcookie

The items in The Perfect Pantry fall into three categories.

Use it once a day (onions, mustard, spices),

Use it less often, but in many ways (pasta, chili paste, rice).

Use it only one way, but for that one way, nothing else will do.

Meringue powder is one of those one-time, one-way items.

Once a year, when I'm organizing Drop In & Decorate Cookies for Donation events, I stock up on dozens of ounces of meringue powder, which is nothing more than dried egg white mixed with sugar, cornstarch and arabic gums to stabilize and bind it. When mixed with water and confectioners sugar, meringue powder has the same consistency as beaten egg whites, but magically it morphs into royal icing. And when royal icing is colored, applied to cookies, and left to harden, it morphs into a work of art.

Meringue powder

Pastrybags

Icing1

Bluecookie

I never use meringue powder for anything other than icing, where the proportion of sugar to meringue is so high that no additional flavoring is needed. However, if you use meringue powder in chocolate buttercream or coconut cream pie or buttermilk cupcakes, you likely will want to add some pure vanilla extract or other flavoring to moderate the slight cornstarch aftertaste.

If you're planning to give your baked goods to a shelter or food pantry, it's good to know that meringue powder is gluten free, safe from salmonella, and some brands are certified kosher. Meringue powder has a long shelf life (up to two years), as long as it's kept dry and not contaminated by dipping a wet or used spoon -- or icing-covered finger -- into it. 

Can you substitute powdered egg whites for meringue powder? Absolutely. Can meringue powder be substituted for powdered egg whites? Yes, in recipes that call for beaten egg whites. 

Drop In & Decorate royal icing

This recipe makes icing that's fluid enough to flow through the tip of a pastry bag, yet hardens overnight to a perfect and delicious coating. If you don't know how to use a pastry bag, ask for a quick lesson at your local bakery. It’s easy; we’ve had children as young as age 3 decorate cookies with pastry bags. Makes 2-1/2 cups, enough for one batch of cookies.

Ingredients

1 lb + scant 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
5 Tbsp meringue powder
1/2 cup cool water (add more, a teaspoon at a time, if needed for desired consistency)
A few drops of paste food coloring

Directions

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, combine first three ingredients and mix on low speed until glossy and fluffy, 7-8 minutes. To color, place some icing in a small bowl or plastic cup, and stir in a few drops of food coloring until desired shade is reached. Royal Icing hardens quickly when exposed to air, so use immediately, or transfer to an airtight container; it will keep overnight at room temperature. Beat well before using.

*Production note: If you're doing multiple batches of dough, you'll need more icing. An easy way to do this efficiently is to make the icing, one batch at a time, and pour into an airtight container. Make several batches of icing. Then, using a ladle or 1/2 cup measure, place a small bit of the icing in a plastic cup. Mix in food coloring to desired shade, and fill a pastry bag. Repeat until you have all the colors you need. To keep the icing from hardening, place bags tip down in a bowl that has a damp paper towel in the bottom.

**Remember, place the decorated cookies on a tray and leave out overnight, uncovered, to harden. The next morning, package in food-safe cellophane bags or cookie tins.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Chocolate refrigerator cake
Spice cake

Comments

It is one of my most favorite things...makes royal icing so easy.

new to me too. I don´t think we have that here. Might explain why my cookie decorations are so abysmal.

Lydia, I have never heard of this powder. Thanks for the info of another product! And the design of the cookies is simply stunning!

Very interesting. I've never heard of this powder before. Thanks to you, now I have. I love the decorated cookies above. Awesome!

Paz

I am in love with the plaid cookie! I have never been a cookie decorator, but almost, you tempt me!

The cookies are beautiful! What great results, and now I know that meringue powder is the secret ingredient.

You make amazing cookies with that! Wow!

Interesting product, I had never heard about it before.

OHhhhh.... how pretty!! These'd be perfect for Christmas or at anytime of the year!
You're one talented baker & cook!

I think I'm gonna need some meringue powder soon - I intend to decorate loads of cookies for Xmas!
Lydia, if I lived in the US you bet I would take part in this beautiful event!

Peabody, I agree -- I'm never going back to egg whites!

Lobstersquad, this is a real convenience, especially for a non-baker like me. I can send you some if you'd like to try it; email and let me know.

Anh, I'd never heard of it either until I went to a baking supply shop, and the owner suggested I try it. She was right; it's great.

Paz, thanks. This meringue powder is great stuff.

Christine, the plaid cookie is the creation of my husband, whose hands are in the photo. He is one crackerjack cookie decorator -- someone who really thinks outside the box.

TW, our policy around here is "more icing, more icing!" The meringue powder really works well for us.

MyKitchen, I agree -- our cookie decorations are amazing! Not your typical holiday cookie!

Link, the plaid cookie was a monotype -- but Ted might be encouraged to do it again this year. Takes a bit of time and a steady hand.

Bea, you must try this for royal icing -- and you are such a wonderful baker that you will find other ways to use it.

Valentina, our cookies definitely don't have the traditional Christmas look, and they are perfect all year round.

Patricia, I'd be happy to send some if you can't find it locally. I hope you'll be able to come to my own Drop In party some day!

Lydia- you are now a baker extraordinaire. My confession is that royal icing scares me (bright colors icky taste). So are you kidding me that that icing 2 1/2 cups only frosts 1 batch of cookies? This whole thing is intriguing me more and more, we're talking about doing it too.

Wow! Your photos and directions almost make me think that I could do this! All of those little bags of icing look kind of scary to me--lots of patience required.

Callipygia, no kidding -- we believe in lots and lots of icing! But remember that the 16-20 cookies are 4-5 inches, which is much larger than your average cookie, making a batch the equivalent of 3-4 dozen cookies. Now the icing doesn't sound like quite so much!

Kathy, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. You can do this, really -- I am a complete baking idiot, and if I can do it, you can do it, I promise!

Jonathan, thanks for stopping by! Your method is exactly the one I use, with toothpicks as the spreaders. I'll be posting a video demo on my Ninecooks web site in a couple of weeks. The other way we flood the icing is by using a #2 tip to pipe the border, and a #3 tip to fill (the icing will flow more quickly through the larger #3 tip). That way we can use the same consistency of icing without having to dilute.

One of the cookie/biscuit actually reminded me of the game called "pick up sticks"! Im sure you know which cookie!

OMG! That plaid cookie makes me want to stand up and shout yippeeeee! It's so FABULOUS.

I've never used meringue powder before. Come to think of it, I'm not sure I've ever seen it before. Thanks for introducing me to it, Lydia.

Tigerfish, I remember pick up sticks! Did you know that someone makes a giant set you can play outside? Looks like so much fun.

Ann, I'm going to make sure my oh-so-talented husband sees your comment -- he's behind that plaid cookie!

Susan, you're welcome. It really makes great icing that's easy to work with and hardens well (not rock hard, but perfect for wrapping).

I wonder if this is the same as what I thought was just powdered egg whites. I was ordered powdered egg whites but when I got it , it said contains sugar and thickener. I did not know it was used in royal icing... thanks!

Veron, I'll be that's what happened -- because powdered egg whites should be just that, no sugar or stabilizers added. If you still have it, try it for icing.

I never knew royal icing was made from meringue! So THAT'S how you get your cookies to look so great! Thanks for sharing your little secret.

Hillary, the reason I started using meringue powder was to avoid possible problems for people with compromised immune systems or who are pregnant -- and when you're donating cookies, you never know who will be receiving them. But the meringue also makes great icing, so it's serving two purposes. And it tastes good, too!

I'm not sure if we get this here or not, but it makes for a great icing!

Kelly-Jane, it does make great icing. If you can't find it, I'd be happy to send some.

Hello from snowy Minnesota & a DIAL UP LINE, but the first batch is rolled. :-)

Alanna, dial up? I hardly remember it! We made a single batch of cookies and icing last night, for a photo shoot. Did you taste while you baked? Ours taste delicious, and of course they already have four colors of icing. Did I tell you our motto? "More icing, and sprinkles improve everything!"

can i make divinity with this meringue powder.

I made too much frosting. How long can I keep the leftover icing? I have it in a ziploc and in the fridge. BTW - I used the icing to make details on chocolate footballs for my son's birthday. Once whipped, it turned a beautiful white and was so easy to pipe onto the cookie. I'm bookmarking your blog!!!

Beth, you can keep the leftover frosting for a couple of months, as long as it's in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It might separate a little bit, in which case you can whisk it and it will come together again. Sugar is a natural preservative, and the icing will keep for much longer than you'd imagine, even after it's been colored.

Can this recipe be made without the sugar and yogurt powder added----making icing for dog cookies? Also how long will the frosting stay in a pastry bag & covered container before hardening.

Karen, I absolutely don't know the answer to the first question, as royal icing *is* sugar. As to the second, the frosting can stay for weeks in a closed container. You will need to stir it when you're ready to use it, but sugar is a natural preservative and the icing will be just fine.

So excited to try this for Christmas Cookies this year, wish me luck!!! I'll let you know how they turn out :)

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About The Perfect Pantry®

  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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