Luckily the only thing you need to remember about meringues is that you use twice the weight of sugar to egg white. Also in my freezer were some frozen berries from the summer (sigh) so all I needed was some cream and melted chocolate and – voila! - an impromptu winter Eton Mess was born. Necessity being the mother of invention and all that.
Ingredients (makes around 2 oven trays of meringues)
100g egg whites (around 4 medium egg whites)
200g caster sugar or icing sugar
The key to a good meringue is starting with untainted egg whites (no bits of yolks please!) and a clean, non-greasy bowl and electric whisk. If you get any fat into the egg whites they won’t whisk properly, and you won’t get the air you need for that light and fluffy, melt-in-the-mouth consistency.
Put your egg whites into a clean bowl and start whisking on a low speed, gradually increasing the speed until your egg whites form a ‘peak’ when you life the whisk out. This will take a few minutes.
Next, add the sifted sugar a bit at a time, whisking as you go, until you have a silky, glossy mixture that holds its shape when you take out the whisk.
Line a few baking trays with baking sheets and dollop on a tablespoon amount of mixture for large meringues (ideal for the Eton mess above) or you can put smaller dessert spoon amounts to make meringue biscuits.
Bake in the oven for around 25 mins for the small meringues, and 30 – 40 mins for for the larger ones. They will turn a nice golden colour when ready.
When they are ready let them cool for 10 mins on the sheets, then peel them off and place on a wire rack. You can reuse the baking sheet for the next lot if you want to.
To make the Eton Mess, crush a few meringues in a bowl and top with 2 tbsp of fruit in their juices, and 1 – 2 tbsp of cream, to taste. Melt some good quality, dark chocolate in the microwave, or in a bowl over a pan of boiling water, and drizzle over the top.
The good thing about meringues is that they store for ages in a air-tight container, so you can make them well in advance of a dinner, or have them on standby for those days when you fancy something sweet.