The colours! The shapes! The swirls! These damn meringues are so festive I can’t even think straight. They’re like a comic book POW in edible form…or abstract edible form, because I bet someone makes a pretty realistic looking edible POW cookie. My complete lack of hand eye co-ordination (owing, apparently, to the fact that I never crawled as a baby) precludes me from being a master cookie-decorator, so I have to take to forms of abstract food expression. And I’m not mad about it.
These meringues use a technique which I first read about in the Peyton & Byrne cookbook, and subsequently discovered again the Meringue Girls second cookbook, Everthing Sweet. And I figure if the Meringue Girls THEMSELVES recommend this technique, it must be a winner. The method is simple; it’s a standard meringue of whisked egg whites and sugar, but the sugar is heated in the oven briefly before being incorporated. The heated sugar incorporates more readily into the egg whites, which makes the process quicker, and produces a slightly more stable meringue. Having said that, I think method’s merits really come to the fore if you’re making very large batches of meringue – so if you can’t be bothered to heat the sugar, don’t sweat it.
The true joy in these beasts is one of those kitchen tricks which look incredibly impressive, and as though the baker must be a creative genius, but in reality is just a simple ingredient. In this case, freeze dried fruit powders, specifically passionfruit, raspberry and blackcurrant. You can get the freeze dried powders online from a billion different retailers and even on amazon, so nobody comment asking me about it. The powders themselves are all natural, and the flavour punch they bring is INSANE. They’re like powdered, all natural fruit tingles.
I top my meringues with a 50/50 mix of yoghurt and cream whipped to soft peaks, and a selection of soft and juicy fruits. And I went even harder into the abstract them by scattering and splodging everything randomly around, instead of neatly on top of the meringues. Not least because it would have been a crime to cover up all that gorgeous colour. So there you go, a fully fun and bright dessert, which is really a sleight-of-hand trick. No crafty handwork required, just a sprinkle of freeze dried fruit, and a little Jackson Pollock-ing with the cream. Love that.
- 4 egg whites
- 200g caster sugar
- Freeze Dried Fruit powders: passionfruit, raspberry, plum or blackcurrant
- 1 cup (250ml) greek yoghurt
- 1 cup (250ml) thickened cream
- Fruit, to serve: raspberries, strawberries, passionfruit, cooked rhubarb, currants, blackberries, plums, whatever you want!
- Preheat the oven to 200C/400F and line a baking sheet with baking paper.
- Place the egg whites into the (very clean) bowl a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment.
- Spread the sugar in an even layer on the baking sheet, and place into the oven for 7 minutes (set a timer). The aim is just to heat the sugar, not to melt or caramelize it.
- While the sugar is heating, begin whisking the egg whites, slowly working up from the lowest speed to the highest (slowly increasing the speed makes a more stable meringue) until the mixture is at stiff peaks.
- Remove the heated sugar from the oven, and turn the heat down to 100C/215F. With the mixer running on medium-high speed, begin incorporating the sugar a tablespoon at a time. Again, go slowly here.
- Oncce all the sugar is in, continue whisking the mixture for five minutes. At the end of that time, stop the mixer and rub a small amount of meringue between your fingers; it should be completely smooth. If you feel any grains of sugar, keep whisking until they are dissolved.
- Divide the mixture into six mounds on a lined baking sheet, and then use the back of a spoon to make a round indentation in the middle of each, forming a kind-of nest shape.
- Bake the meringues for 45 minutes and then turn off the oven and leave them in there to cool completely.
- When you're ready to serve, dust the meringues with the freeze dried fruit powders.
- Whisk together the yoghurt and cream to soft peaks and dollop over the meringues.
- Top with whatever soft fruits you like.