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Mastering meringues

These cloud-like divinities are my obsession for good reasons; impressive, not fattening and quick to whip up. Sturdy too, they last for over a week stored in a tin (that won’t happen though, they go quick). Owning a standing mixer helps immensely. Hand mixers produce decent results but not quite the same. Kitchen Aids are £400 (gasp, I know), but they are beautiful, practical, and a great investment. If a fire occurred in my home, I would be dragging it into the street along with my children.

I first learned to make meringues when I worked in Books for Cook’s cafe, in Notting Hill. We produced them in all sizes, shapes and flavors. Once you master the technique your creativity can be unleashed on the world. Almonds, hazelnuts, chocolate, cinnamon, pistachios, orange or rose water and berries are just a few ingredients that can be dallied with.

Techniques/recipes for meringues vary. The Italian method uses melted sugar slowly poured into the whipped egg white, producing a powdery crisp texture. (London-based Ottolenghi and Gail’s Bakery use this type). Australian pavlova uses a little vinegar and cornflour(cornstarch) folded in at the end, resulting in a chewy marshmallow texture. I just have to slip in a little beef here- in Ottolenghi’s cookbook he neglected to share the secret of how to do the raspberry splash on his giant meringues. Perhaps his second upcoming book will divulge.

There are a few iron-clad rules when meringue-ing that must be followed. Most importantly, the egg whites must be room temperature. If your eggs are cold then place them in a bowl of hot water for 10 minutes to warm up. Secondly, the bowl must be clean. Any grease and the whites will go foamy instead of glossy (there is a scientific reason but I’m not going there). The last is to separate your eggs carefully so that none of the protein gets into the white, because once again, you will get the foam factor. Disobey these rules and you will be looking at little cow pies in your oven instead of glorious white puffs with crisp, peaked edges.

The ingredients in this recipe are the same as other Pavlova recipes but the baking method is different. Typical recipes bake 5 minutes at a high temperature and then reduce it to low for 1 hour. Here, its baked quite low for 35 minutes and then cooled in the oven for a couple of hours. It gives you the best of both worlds; a chewy, toffee-like centre and powdery exterior.

Enough waffling, here is the recipe with the addition of lemon curd, whipped cream and blueberries to top it off.

Individual meringues with lemon curd, blueberries and cream
10 minutes prep
35 minutes cooking and 2 hours cooling
makes 12

4 eggwhites (150ml/5 fl oz/2/3 cup)
200g/7oz/1 cup castor sugar
2 tsps cornflour(cornstarch)
1 tsp white vinegar

small jar lemon curd
350ml/12 fl oz/1 1/2 cups double cream
150g/1 1/2 cups blueberries

Preheat oven to 150c/300f. Place eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until soft peaks form. Add the sugar a spoonful at a time until incorporated. Keep whisking until gloss stiff peaks form, another minute or two. Sift the cornflour over and add the vinegar. Fold through the mixture.

Line two large baking trays with non-stick parchment paper. Make 3-4 inch dollops of meringue on the pans, making 12 in total. Reduce the heat to 120c/250f and bake for 35 minutes. Turn the oven off and let them cool for a couple of hours. This is an important step because if you take them out at this point they will be soft. The cooling process makes them crisp. Store in a tin or airtight container until using. When serving, top each meringue with a spoonful each of lemon curd and whipped cream. Sprinkle the blueberries over.

blueberry lemon meringue

5 Comments

  1. Charmaine says:

    I could not get enough of those meringues you made that other time! The chewy, toffee-like texture is unforgettable. I actually was never a huge fan of meringues until that day… incredible huh? I’ll have to make these soon!

  2. Jean says:

    These meringues sound fabulous. I’ve never tried making them–odd, as I am such a fan of lemon meringue pie. A question: do you ever make home-made lemon curd..and would it be the same process as the filling in lemon m. pie?

    I’m now going to make a deep, dark, culinary confession: I’ve always been a dweeb at separating eggs. Is there some genetic gift I am lacking? I’ve even been tempted to buy one of those egg separators…I’d have to use it in secret because this seems like a skill any reasonably accomplished home cook should have mastered long ago. Tips?

  3. mealsinheels says:

    Thanks Charmaine you won’t regret making them!

  4. mealsinheels says:

    Hi Jean,
    I have a dirty little secret as well- I buy lemon curd for meringues because they make so many good ones these days. I save my home-made versions of curd when I want to make different flavors like passionfruit or blood orange or lemon meringue pie.

    Egg separators- I would go for it and know one has to know. Let us know the results!

  5. Jean Hanson says:

    I just got my copy of Meals in Heels, and I wanted to let your U.S. readers know it’s simple to get the book in the states. Order through amazon.co.uk. If you’ve got a U.S. Amazon account, you’ll be able to log into the UK site. There’s even an easy way to see how much it’s going to cost you in dollars. Yes, you will pay a bit more than you will if you wait until the book comes out in the states…but then again, why wait when the book is this spectacularly good? You can have it in your eager little hands in less than a week. Thanks, Jenny, for another real winner.

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