Meringue forms the basis of many classic desserts. From simple meringue shells sandwiched together with cream and fruit through to pavlova, lemon meringue pie, baked Alaska and floating islands (soft poached meringues on vanilla custard), they are all made using the same basic mixture from just egg whites and caster sugar.
Watch the video to learn how to make basic meringue with 4 eggs, sugar, cornflour and vinegar.
Itís not difficult to make meringues but there are a few golden rules. Firstly, when separating the eggs make sure there is no trace of yolk in the egg white. If there is youíll never get the egg white to whisk until thick and foamy. The same goes for the bowl and whisk, they must be spotlessly clean and dry with no trace of fat as this will also prevent the egg white whisking. To make sure, you can rub a cut lemon over the bowl and whisk and then dry with kitchen paper. The egg whites should also be at room temperature, if used straight from the fridge the volume of finished meringue will be less.
Use 55g caster sugar to each medium egg white. You can use half caster sugar and half light muscovado for a toffee flavour which is delicious but the texture will be chewier. When whisking in the sugar add it just 1 tablespoon at a time and whisk really well in between each addition. This will result in a thick glossy meringue.
Cook meringues in a really low oven to keep them white. If you like them soft inside remove them from the oven after the cooking time, for a crisper texture leave them to cool and dry out in the turned off oven.
Line a baking tray with non stick baking parchment. Set the oven to 130C, gas Ĺ. Place the egg whites in a large clean grease-free bowl.
With an electric whisk or in a free-standing mixer, whisk very gently until the eggs create a good foam. When the egg whites are getting thick and foamy, increase the speed of whisking until the egg white forms a stiff peak when the whisk is lifted.
Add the sugar, 1tbsp at a time, whisking well in between each addition until the meringue is thick, smooth and glossy. Mix together the cornflour and vinegar to make a paste, then fold into the meringue mixture.
Place large tablespoonfuls of meringue onto the baking tray, or place the mixture in a large piping bag and pipe into nests or shapes onto the tray. Bake for 45 mins to I hour until crisp and dry, they should peel away form the baking parchment easily.
Once cooled, the meringues will keep in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Serve with fresh fruit and cream.
Draw a 20cm circle onto a sheet of baking parchment and spread the meringue to fill the circle and make a nest shape. Bake for 1 hour then turn the oven off and leave to cool in the oven. Fill with whipped cream and raspberries, strawberries or tropical fruits.Chocolate meringues
To the basic 2 egg white meringue mixture whisk in15g sifted cocoa powder with the last spoonful of sugar and lightly fold in 35g roughly chopped plain chocolate. Bake as basic recipe above.
Pink swirled meringues
After the last spoonful of sugar has been whisked in, add a couple of drops of pink food colouring and just gently fold it through the meringue to give a swirled effect. Spoon onto the lined baking tray as bake as before.
Mini baked alaskas
Hot meringue with cold ice cream inside is always an impressive quick dessert. Cut a Swiss roll into slices. Place on a baking tray and top with a scoop of ice cream. Freeze while making the basic meringue above. Quickly spread the meringue over the ice cream and sponge enclosing it completely. Bake in a pre-heated hot oven 200C, gas 6 for 3-4 mins until it's just golden. Serve immediately.