Hans Freudiger is the meringue king of Switzerland. I don’t think anyone makes more of these little cloud like desserts than him. He produces 30,000 meringues per day, which he says amounts to about 3,000 meringues per hour.
"I was born and raised in the Emmental," he says. "My mother and grandmother ran a bakery in our village where I grew up; this is where my passion for baking started. As a little boy I loved to be around different kinds of flavors and creating new things for my hometown. Later on, at 16 years old, I started my internship as a baker and pastry chef. I graduated with the highest grade in Switzerland. I was lucky to work in the greatest kitchen in five-star hotels as the head pastry chef."
It was at this time that he met his wife Judith Freudiger, when she was just graduating from hospitality management school.
They started off together with three bakeries. Hans was the head of the "creative happenings" in the bakeries and Judith was the one controlling the numbers.
They then bought an old mill from a small chocolatier who had to sell his belongings due to financial crises. With the mill came a small meringue machine, and it all started from there.
They started making meringues in 1992; as their Emmentaler Backwaren Freudiger AG grew, they sold their three bakeries and focused only on meringues and other products baked in Biglen, such as chocolate and breads.
They currently have 30 employees. 90 percent of their employees are women. "Since our products are wrapped and packed handmade, we need the sensitiveness of a woman’s hand," Freudiger said. "The only men in our factory would be me, my son, our chef in the bakery, and our meringue man. He is the one who is lifting the heavy masses of meringues and baking them."
"Our factory does not run 24 hours, although I have to say almost. The latest who leaves is usually my wife," Freudiger explained. Hans's wife arrives at around 5 a.m. and leaves the office by 8 p.m. on an average day. "Our meringues stoves are never empty and are baking overnight as well," he said.
They currently have around ten different kinds of meringues. Different flavors, including chocolate covered, stratciatela, hazelnut, pistachio, and strawberry, are made there. They also make meringues in different forms. Some are created specifically for a cake. Little ones are made for coffee. Hans and his wife are always on the hunt and eager to find new inspiration for their next product.
"This is a family company and hopefully will be in the future," Freudiger said. "My wife is running the office for our company. My part is to accumulate new guests and spread out our product mainly in Switzerland and also in our neighbor countries such as Germany and Austria."
"My son Lukas, 18 years old, is an engineer, creating bakery machines. My daughter Claudia, 22 years old, is currently a student at the same hospitality management school my wife graduated from 28 years ago," he says.
What is so special about his meringues?
"Our meringues are the best because they are not sticky inside and have the color of caramel and not snow white. This is because we are using only the best and local ingredients and do not add any chemical supplements to our meringues," he says.
Hans's tips for baking the perfect meringues:
"For good meringues at home, it is very important to use very fresh egg white. After beating the egg white/sugar mass, it is important to bake the meringues without any humidity and on very low level of heat. Some even leave the stove open a gap, to get the humidity out and keep the low heat."
My favorite way to eat meringues is with a good traditional cream, from our local cheese diary, and homemade vanilla ice cream.