What makes a perfect meringue? In my view, it's a light crispy shell leading to a chewy, teeth-sticking interior. If it can look pretty too, then that's a bonus. Meringues are great for pavlovas, or just to ladle fruit over, and are the perfect way to use up any left over egg whites that you might have hanging around after making custard or mayonnaise from the yolks.
Meringues are not difficult to make and these home made beauties knock spots off those miserable little nests that you get from the supermarket. Here are my top three tips for getting perfect meringues.
1. Weigh your egg whites. Eggs are all different sizes so it's best to go by weight rather than number.
2. Leave the oven door ajar. With electric ovens, moisture can build up inside and stop your meringues from drying out beautifully. Bea (from Bea's of Bloomsbury) says the best way to get a professional finish at home is to wedge your oven door ajar with a wooden spoon.
3. Give it time. The best meringues are cooked long and slow, on a low heat.
Meringues (makes two large meringues)
I go by the Ottolenghi method of heating the sugar in the oven first. It's easy to scale this recipe up or down as required, just weigh your egg whites and use double the amount of caster sugar. Some people like to add vinegar or cornflour, but I don't find it necessary.
60g egg whites (approx 2 egg whites)
120g caster sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 200c.
2. Line a baking tray with baking parchment and spread the sugar evenly on it.
3. Put the sugar in the oven for 7-8 minutes, until it just starts to melt around the edges.
4. When the sugar is almost ready, put the egg whites into a food mixer and whisk until they start to get frothy.
5. Slowly add the hot sugar to the egg whites. Put the mixer speed to the max and let it whisk until cool. This takes about 10 minutes and when it's ready the mixture should hold stiff peaks. Meanwhile, turn the oven down to 110c.
6. Shape the semi-cooked meringues into large balls on another tray lined with baking parchment. I did this with two large spoons.
7. Pop into the oven for 2 hours.
This is the recipe for a plain meringue, but why stop there? You could swirl in a fruit coulis before baking, roll the meringues in crushed nuts or stir in some rosewater. These meringues will last a couple of days in an airtight container.