Whipping egg whites into a frenzy isn’t going to make up for missing Sarah’s wedding. She was however, cooking dinner for the boy and I and I’m always loathe to arrive anywhere without bringing (making) something, so I had the perfect excuse to trial meringues in the new oven. Sarah can’t eat diary—meringues are the perfect answer.
I’m afraid of meringues.
It’s irrational, I know. I’ve told myself it’s because meringue-making is overhyped. All the chatter about temperature, over-beating, texture, and type of mixing bowl has contributed to my fear.
It’s been a good few years since I’ve made a pavlova, and even then I was following my mother’s foolproof recipe, and during all that time the meringue angst has grown, reducing me to something akin to inertia. (I’m aware I sound as though I’ve developed a egg-white-whipping syndrome of sorts…)
Convinced that I couldn’t arrive for supper without miniature cocoa-flavoured white marshmallow-textured sweet things I bit the bullet.
Clearly bemused, the boy watched while I searched all my cookbooks for a trustworthy recipe. My bookshelves didn’t satisfy. We looked online; too many choices.
And, then I remembered a recipe by Orangette that had struck me as reassuringly straightforward.
Some items were missing from my cupboards—I didn’t have cocoa nibs, which no doubt are better than plain chocolate chips. And I used a quarter cup of icing sugar, as well as granulated. But what follows is essentially Orangette’s recipe.
45 minutes later, much to my delight, I opened the oven to find rows of perfectly formed meringues; still white, not cracked. I can’t recommend this simple approach enough. They melt on your tongue, still soft—not too chewy—on the inside, while retaining their crumbly outer skin.
We packaged them up; added a bottle of something fizzy, and trundled off to Sarah’s to fill them with berries and cream. At Sarah’s, where we gorged ourselves on smoked ham with roasted vegetables, I whipped cream, and we assembled our meringue and raspberry sandwiches over glasses of champagne. (They’re still happily ensconced in wedding mode.)
I can’t wait to make more—thank you Orangette.
Meringues with chocolate, adapted from Orangette’s recipe.
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 icing sugar
1/2 cup egg whites (4 large eggs), preferably at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup of plain chocolate chips
Whipped (unsweetened) double cream
Raspberries (or any other fresh berries)
Makes: about 20 small meringues
Place two oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, and preheat to 100C.
Line two baking sheets with baking paper.
In a large ceramic bowl, whisk the eggs whites and salt using a hand-held electric beater. Start on a low setting, and slowly increase the speed to the medium setting. Beat until the mixture holds soft peaks and the egg white bubbles are small, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Increase the speed to medium-high, and slowly add the sugar, bit by bit. Continue to beat the mixture until shinning, stiff peaks form. The bowl will suddenly seem cloud-filled. This takes about 4 minutes. Add the vanilla at the last moment.
Gently fold in the chocolate chip. (If you’ve found cocoa nibs, true to Orangette’s recipe, use these.)
Immediately spoon the meringue mixture onto the lined baking sheets. If like me you’re currently without any type of piping device, using a tablespoon is the easiest fallback option. Scoop up a dollop of the mixture onto the spoon and gently place on the tray, in whatever form you like. (Mine were pretty abstract peaks.) You should be able to fit around 10, spaced, on each sheet.
Place the sheets in the oven. Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes, rotating and switching the sheets halfway through. If, when you open the oven they appear to be cracking or browning, reduce the temperature slightly.
When the meringues are ready, remove them from the oven, place them on a wire rack and leave to cool.
Whip some cream, and enjoy. Keep any unexpected broken pieces for a decadent breakfast topping…(or a spontaneous Eton mess).
In an airtight container they should last for two weeks.