Meringue is a light and airy confection made from whipped egg whites and sugar. While meringue is often used to top pies and other desserts, it can also be baked on its own to create a delicate and sweet treat. However, meringue has a tendency to shrink after it is baked, which can be frustrating for bakers.
There are several possible reasons why meringue may shrink after it is baked. One possible cause is over-whipping the egg whites. Meringue is made by whipping egg whites with sugar until they form stiff peaks. If the egg whites are whipped too much, the proteins in the whites may become denatured and the meringue may deflate or shrink. To prevent this, it is important to stop whipping the egg whites as soon as they form stiff peaks and to avoid over-beating them.
Another possible cause of meringue shrinkage is under-baking. Meringue should be baked at a low temperature (usually around 200-250°F) for a long time (usually 1-2 hours) in order to dry it out and set the structure. If the meringue is under-baked, it may be too soft and may shrink as it cools. To prevent this, it is important to bake the meringue for the recommended amount of time and to check it frequently to ensure that it is not over- or under-baked.
A third possible cause of meringue shrinkage is humidity. Meringue is sensitive to moisture, and if the air is too humid, the meringue may absorb moisture from the air and shrink. To prevent this, it is important to bake the meringue in a dry environment and to store it in an airtight container.
In conclusion, there are several possible reasons why meringue may shrink after it is baked, including over-whipping the egg whites, under-baking, and humidity. To prevent meringue shrinkage, it is important to carefully follow the recipe and to be mindful of these factors.