I’ll do anything to avoid packing. The last week has been filled with box-related activities. Scavenging for boxes, filling boxes and moving boxes—our lives have been neatly packaged and put away.
I had a hankering to bake, and I found some amaretto lurking in the cupboard, begging to be used before we moved. Separating egg whites from yolk seemed like a a perfect way to pass the time, a legitimate excuse to avoid the endless packing and cleaning.
A lot of noise is made about the difficulty of meringue-making, but it’s always seemed relatively straightforward to me. That said, I’m not aspiring for perfection—my meringues are a motley crew, all shapes and sizes. Ottolenghi recommends baking the sugar slightly, so the egg white is slightly cooked. Apparently this improves the texture. I accidentally caramelised two batches of sugar in the oven along the way.
Other than the cooked sugar, the method is exactly the same—beat whites, add sugar, and wait until they are glossy and stiff. I added a few drops of amaretto near the end, just for a bit of kick.
Spooning the mixture was easy—each blob held its shape and height. I decorated half the meringues in flaked almonds for extra crunch and and texture.
Patience is not my virtue; the notion of leaving this little drops of sugar in the oven for up to 6 hours was an anathema to me: I aimed for 3. The oven temperature needs to be extremely low, the idea is that you’re drying out the blobs, not cooking them. I suspect an Aga would come in handy for regular meringue-making.
Just 3 hours later, I removed a dozen meringues from the oven. Chewy, sweet and crumbly—exactly what was I looking for. Just in time for a cup of tea and a break from packing.
Recipe, inspired by Ottolenghi
Makes about 10 large ones.
300g caster sugar (golden if you prefer a more caramelised flavour and colour)
5 eggs, whites only, at room temperature
1/4 cup of flaked almonds (optional)
1 tbsp of Amaretto (optional)
1. Heat the oven to 200C. Spread the sugar over an oven tray lined with baking parchment and cook until it has just begun to melt at the edges, but not caramelise (about 8 minutes).
2. Meanwhile, crack the eggs, being careful not to drop any yolk into your whites. If you lose any bits of shell, scoop them out with a clean spoon rather than your fingers.
3. Wipe the inside of your mixing bowl, and the whisk, with the cut side of the lemon and add the eggs. As soon as you spot the sugar beginning to melt at the edges, set the mixer to whisk at high speed while you take the sugar out of the oven.
4. The mixture should be just foamy by the time you add the sugar. Wearing oven gloves, pick up the baking parchment with oven gloves and tip the hot sugar slowly into the still-whisking mixer. Continue whisking until the mixture has cooled, and is glossy and will hold its shape. Turn the oven down to its lowest setting.
5. If you want to fold through any spices or other flavourings (a little Amaretto), or roll the meringues in nuts or another topping, this is your moment.
6. Line a baking tray with parchment, and spoon the meringue on in great gorgeous blobs – remember they’ll increase in size as they dry out. Put them into the oven and bake until they are crisp on the outside, and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom: depending on their size, this could take six hours, so don’t wait up.
7. Turn the oven off and leave them in there until it has cooled, then immediately transfer to an air-tight container.