Working with meringue can be tricky.
But don’t be scared.
There are a few things you can do to help your mixture reach its maximum volume and form the confection’s signature stiff peaks.
First, make sure to carefully separate the eggs so no speck of yolk makes it into the sugar-and-egg-white mixture. Carefully clean all utensils, bowls and beaters, too. Even the smallest amount of protein from the yolks or leftover grease from another cooking project can prevent the meringue from forming those perfect little peaks.
If yolk does make it into the mixture, use the egg shell to scoop it out. Skin’s natural oils can affect how the mixture foams up.
When whisking the sugar and egg whites on the stovetop, be sure to warm the mixture – warm egg whites achieve more volume – but do not cook the egg whites.
Also, mix the egg whites and sugar until the sugar is fully dissolved. It should feel smooth – not gritty – between your fingers. (If you use a handheld mixer instead of a stand mixer, this will likely take longer than the 8 minutes Martha Stewart’s Sweet Bones recipe suggests.)
You might also consider using super-fine sugar rather than regular, granulated sugar. If you can’t find caster sugar at the store, make your own in a food processor with a metal blade, processing the granulated sugar on high speed for 1 to 2 minutes, then letting the sugar dust settle before using.
The meringue is ready when it forms stiff peaks that stand on their own and curl over like the cap of a soft-serve ice cream cone when you remove the beaters.