Thursday, 26 May 2011

Basic White Meringues

Recipe Number Forty One:  Page 355.

Today was just one of those days where I had to accept that I wasn't going to get anything done! My little boy is getting increasingly active; I have to have my beady eye on him constantly. Also, naps were not on his agenda today! So, it wasn't until Neil got home from work that I was able to leave him to entertain the little man whilst I escaped to the kitchen. I was quite nervous about making this supposedly basic meringue recipe. I made meringues years ago and I can't say I enjoyed the experience. I hated piping the sticky mixture and got in a right mess with it. Today is the first time I have dared to try again.

There are only two ingredients in this recipe, just egg whites and sugar; no butter for a change! I gingerly broke the eggs and put the whites into my mixing bowl. Typically, one of the egg shells crushed in my hand, so I had to hold the yolk and let the egg white drip through my fingers into the bowl; I am quite squeamish and pathetic so this made me feel rather queasy! After all the whites were in the bowl, I washed my sticky hands so that I could retrieve my electric whisk. I was feeling even lazier than usual so used my free standing mixer; this allowed me to stand back and observe whilst sipping on a hot cup of tea. Mary says to whisk until stiff but not dry. This encouraged me to pay attention; I stopped the machine several times to check the egg whites were getting to the right consistency. It took quite a lot of whisking until I felt it was ready for the sugar. My heart sank a little when I saw that the sugar had to be added a teaspoonful at a time, yawn!! It was hard for me to control the urge just to chuck all the sugar in and be done with it! However, I resolutely added a teaspoon of sugar and whisked – teaspoon – whisk- teaspoon – whisk – yes very tedious! When the meringue was stiff and glossy, I started to spoon it into my piping bag. I soon realised that the meringue was not as stiff as I had at first thought; if anything I found it to be rather runny. I decided to give it another whisk, but this didn't seem to make any difference. I went back to adding the meringue into my piping bag; I soon noticed that some was leaking out through the nozzle. I hurried over to my awaiting baking trays, trying to avoid meringue dripping all over the kitchen floor! I attempted to pipe the mixture onto the baking paper; I had to do it quickly as I couldn't stem the flow. To be honest, I could have had the same result if I had just used a spoon to dollop it onto the trays, hey ho! I put the meringues into the barely warm oven and left them for the recommended hour and a half.

These meringues seem almost virtuous due to the lack of fat in the recipe - that is until you sandwich them together with double cream! I poured the said cream into a bowl and gave it a good old whisk. At this point our cat took a keen interest in what I was doing! The next job was to collect the now cold meringues from the oven. After the hour and a half cooking time, I'd turned the oven off and left the door ajar as instructed by Mary. By then it was almost 9pm and ‘The Apprentice’ was about to start. The thought of this made me pick up my pace! I peeled the meringues off the baking paper one by one; they came off easily until I came to the baking tray that had been on the second shelf of the oven. Some of them broke when I tried to lift them and were a bit gooey. I should have thought to give them longer to cook as I don't have a fan oven. I sandwiched together some meringues with a good helping of cream and plonked myself in front of the television. Neil and I had one each and we both enjoyed them. We thought they were a little chewy in the middle, but tasted like any good meringue should.

To be honest, I still think they are a bit of a faff to make and wonder if it is worth the effort as very decent meringues can be purchased at a reasonable price. However, maybe I am missing something as I know plenty of people who enjoy making their own and have very successful results. I am looking forward to making Mary's pavlova recipes as they look a bit more fun and, as they are meant to have a chewy centre, I should be ok!!
They tasted good - despite my dodgy piping!!

Recipe Variation: Brown Sugar Meringues

It was a hot day so meringues sandwiched with a thick layer of double cream sounded very appealing. We just needed some fruit to accompany them. We made the most of the glorious sunshine and headed to a 'Pick Your Own' farm. Isaac loved picking strawberries and raspberries but sampling the fresh fruit was of course the best part!

Once home I felt compelled to make a start on my meringues. I knew they would take a long time to cook and I wanted them to be ready for Isaac's tea time. Since making the original recipe I have developed a real meringue love affair. I didn't think much of them to start with but they really are so easy to make and eat. I whisked the few egg whites together until they were stiff which didn't take long at all. Adding the sugar a teaspoonful at a time was of course a little tedious. Once nearing the end I couldn't resist speeding up the process and chucking in the last heap of sugar!!! This time I was to use half caster and half light muscovado sugar. Although the meringue wasn't a pale white it didn't turn as dark as I'd expected.

When making the original recipe I had piped the meringue onto baking sheets, this time I spooned it on. I just couldn't be bothered to dig around in the draw for a piping bag and nozzle!! It was a bit time consuming just using a spoon but I didn't think it any worse than my previous effort.

I found that the meringues took almost an hour longer in the oven this time. Learning from my previous experience I switched the two trays at intervals so they both cooked at the same pace. After the meringues were cooked through and no longer sticking to the paper I left them them to cool in the oven with the door ajar.

By the time Isaac had wolfed down his quiche and salad the meringues were ready. I sandwiched them with a generous helping of double cream and added fruit to wipe out the guilt!! Isaac loved his meringue and would of had more if I'd let him. Neil and I really enjoyed them too. They had a delicious toffee almost treacly flavour. They were crisp and provided a satisfying crunch with each bite. I know I'll be making these again!
I promise I didn't eat both!!!

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