Pile ’em high: colourful meringues to grace any occasion

A mound of white, pink, yellow or blue meringues looks stunning at a family gathering

Pink meringues. Photograph: Harry Weir

Pink meringues. Photograph: Harry Weir

 

Some of the best chefs I know leave the meringue-making to their mums – no one else is able to make them quite so deliciously crunchy, with a powdery outside and chewy centre. Meringues served with freshly whipped cream and strawberries is a winning combination at any occasion, and you can make them up to a week in advance. Doubling the recipe is a breeze with a large enough bowl and a powerful mixer.

Bakeries all over the country display gargantuan mounds of giant pink meringues in their shop windows to catch the attention of passers-by. My eight-year-old daughter recently requested coloured meringues for a party (she says she is too old to like pink), so I was instructed to make them blue. The excitement in her little face as she saw the streaks of colour ripple through the white meringue mixture was worth breaking my cardinal rule of never colouring food blue. 

White, pink, yellow or blue, meringues look stunning piled high at a family gathering – colour gives a nod to frivolity. For aspiring meringue makers, remember that to successfully whisk egg whites, use glass or stainless steel bowls rather than plastic, which can retain traces of grease. Also, in order to avoid any speck of egg yolk getting into the egg whites, I always take the extra time to crack each egg white into a small bowl, to check that no egg yolk has tainted it, before I add it to the mixing bowl.

Avoid adding too much food colouring, as it will add moisture to your meringues. Since meringues can be stored in an airtight container for up to one week, any leftover meringues can be broken up and folded through whipped cream then combined with quartered strawberries to make Eton Mess.   

PINK MERINGUES: MAKES 12

4 egg whites, room temperature
Small pinch of salt
225g caster sugar
Food colouring (paste or gel)
250ml cream, freshly whipped

1 Preheat oven to 100 degrees (fan oven). Grease and line two baking sheets with parchment paper (not greaseproof paper, which tends to stick to the base of the meringues. See note below for alternative).

2 Using an electric whisk and a spotlessly clean, medium-sized glass or stainless-steel bowl, whisk egg whites and salt to stiff peaks (when whisking, start on a low speed, increasing to high as soon as the eggs start to froth).

3 Add the sugar in three to four batches while continuously whisking on a medium-high speed, ensuring the sugar is fully incorporated between batches. Whisk for another five minutes until the sugar has fully dissolved and the mixture is thick, glossy and holds its shape. 

4 To make coloured meringues, set aside half the mixture in a separate bowl. Dip a cocktail stick or skewer into the food colouring and add it to the meringue in the whisking bowl. Whisk once to pull the colour through the meringue or whisk the colour in fully, if you prefer. Dip a clean cocktail skewer into the food colouring again but this time simply dip the stick into the second bowl of white meringue in a few spots. Barely fold both meringues together until you see a ripple effect (the colour will meld further as you shape the meringues).

5 Using two large spoons, drop large dollops of stiff meringue mixture on to the parchment paper, leaving a half width between them (keeping the dollop high, rather than wide, will make it is easier to shape). Shape from around the outside with the back of a spoon, ending with a peaked swirl on the top, or pipe the mixture on to the tray using a piping bag and nozzle. 

Place tray in the middle shelf of the preheated oven, leaving space above each tray for the meringues to rise. Bake for 1¾-two hours without them browning. Once baked, leave meringues inside the oven to cool fully. Serve with freshly whipped cream.

Variation

Parchment paper is a nonstick waxed paper. Should you have difficulty finding parchment, you can line the baking tray with tin foil, then grease it liberally with sunflower oil so the meringues don’t stick to the foil. 

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