Meringue powder consists of dehydrated egg whites that have been ground into a very fine powder. It often contains a bit of cornstarch to lend consistency to its texture, and some varieties contain added sweeteners and a bit of vanilla flavoring. It's easily reconstituted by adding water and beating at a high speed until it forms those quintessential fluffy meringue peaks. However, meringue powder can also be used in place of traditional meringue in recipes for baked goods such as angel food cakes, and doing so has a variety of benefits. It's convenient, easy-to-measure, shelf-stable, and doesn't leave you with the mess that comes with separating eggs. As an added bonus, you're not stuck with trying to figure out how to use the egg yolks after separating out the whites.
Here's what you need to know about using meringue powder:
Meringue Powder Has an Extremely Long Shelf Life
If you're like many people, baking isn't a part of your everyday routine. Instead, you bake for holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions, which means that you run the risk of ingredients going bad between baking sessions. Meringue powder's exceedingly long shelf live makes it ideal for this kind of approach to baking — it can last as long as two years provided you store it in a cool, dry place between uses, such as a back corner shelf in your pantry or cupboard.
Meringue Powder Offers Optimal Convenience
The major problems with using egg whites are that not only do they have to be separated, they need to be brought to room temperature before they can be used in the recipe. Meringue powder can be used right away with no additional time-consuming preparation, which is an important attribute for many of today's busy cooks. Who doesn't enjoy having ingredients on hand that require a minimal amount of fuss?
Meringue Powder Makes Fabulous Frosting
Do you ever look at those professionally decorated cakes and wonder how they make that fabulous frosting? Chances are, the frosting has been created using meringue powder. Meringue powder provides the structure necessary to craft the elaborate flowers and other designs so often seen on cakes decorated by professionals. It's most often used to make something known as 'royal icing,' which is a thick, easily-molded icing that holds its shape and is traditionally used in decorating wedding and other special occasion cakes. It's also used on cookies, cupcakes, and anything else that needs decorating. Royal icing is traditionally made using egg whites, confectioners' sugar, and whatever coloring the cake decorator wants to use to achieve the desired effect. Despite its elaborate appearance, it's extremely easy to make — and even easier if you use meringue powder instead of separating egg whites and whipping them into stiff peaks.
Meringue powder is also used to make buttercream frosting. Besides convenience, one of the main advantages of using meringue powder in frostings is that raw egg whites may be contaminated with bacteria that could result in a Salmonella infection. When you use meringue powder, you don't have to worry about anyone getting sick from frosting made with raw egg whites.