This article could well have been called 'marvelous meringues' for that is what they are. quick to make, mouth-watering to look at, and delicious to eat, meringues are everyones dream dessert.
The basic mixture is made from castor sugar and egg whites. for perfect meringues use fresh whites and, when separating the yolk from the white, make quite sure none of the yolk has slipped into the white. Egg yolk contains fat and any type of fat will prevent egg whites from frothing.
So make sure all bowls, whisks, and spoons being used are free from grease by plunging them into boiling water, then dry well before use.
The proportion of whites to sugar is 2oz (25g) sugar to each egg white. meringues are usually made with castor sugar rather than granulated sugar, as the latter contains large sugar crystals, which can puncture the beaten whites.
Have everything ready before beginning. egg whites are fragile and easily collapse after beating. so get everything ready before starting - and ignore the ringing
telephone! switch on the oven and prepare the baking trays. if your trays have sides, use the base of the tray instead of the top, then grease and line with baking parchment - not greaseproof paper as meringues stick to the surface. It is a good idea to draw penciled shapes as a guide, for instance, circles, onto the parchment, then turn the paper over onto the greased tray. Next weigh and sift the sugar.
It depends on the number of egg whites used as to which piece of equipment to choose. a large food mixer makes a marvelous job of beating egg whites, but makes little impact on only one, which will sit forlornly in the base of the bowl. It works best with three or more. so when whisking one or two whites, use either a hand or electric whisk.
Start by whisking slowly, then, as the whites become frothy, turn up the speed and whisk until you have what is known a 'soft peak', meaning that the mixture is white, frothy and will softly peak when the whisk is lifted. now begin introducing the sugar. sprinkle two tablespoonfuls at a time over the whites, and whisk well after each addition. once all the sugar is added the meringue mix will be thick and white. Test by pulling the whisk up and the mixture should stand up in a firm peak.
A large,cotton icing bag, together with a big plastic nozzle, are ideal for piping meringues. make a circle of the first finger and thumb and place the bag into this space. now, use a tablespoon to drop the meringue mixture into the bag. If you find this method difficult, place the bag into a wide-necked jug to give it support while being filled. Never fill the bag more than two-thirds full. twist the top of the bag, then hold it in one hand, while giving support with the other. If you find the idea of using a piping bag too intimidating, the mix can be spooned onto the baking tray.
Place in a cool oven (around gas mk 1, 275ºf degrees or 140ºc) and leave to dry out for about one hour - this depends on the size of meringue. Turn the oven off and leave in the oven until cold. once dry they should lift easily off the baking parchment.
Meringues are traditionally filled with whipped cream. If there are any left, these can be stored in the refrigerator until the next day. by then the cream will have softened the meringue - different, but still delicious.
Pat Lock is a cake decorating expert with over 25 years experience who runs the excellent Cake Decorating Tips website. She has won awards at the prestigious international competition at Hotel Olympia, London and is also an accomplished author.
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