This meringue mix itself is very simple and very versatile. It takes just 40 minutes in the oven. It looks better if you pipe it into a nest but spooning big dollops of meringue onto baking parchment is very satisfying itself. I eat these halved with vanilla ice cream and soft fruits – harder fruits can be cooked down over a heat until soft. Crush them up into chunks, mix with whipped cream and add strawberries for Eton Mess or make my version of a Neat Eton Mess @ https://andrewinthekitchen.wordpress.com/2013/09/27/neat-eton-mess/
The cream of tartar and the lemon juice are both acids (tartaric and citric respectively) which denature the protein structure in the egg whites, allowing it to change into a structure that allows air particles to be trapped.
One of the best tips is to use an electric hand whisk and a large bowl or a free-standing electric mixer – free-standing mixers are good if you have a big kitchen and bake very often but are quite expensive. I personally have the Kenwood Prospero, which comes with blender, citrus juicer and food processor attachments – at the time, it cost £129.99. A KitchenAid (£429.99 in Lakeland) is also a very good machine but is quite pricey.
4 egg whites – at room temperature so they whisk to their maximum volume
Squeeze of lemon juice (2 – 3 drops)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
225g caster sugar – one of the only times I use caster sugar as it dissolves more readily into the egg whites
1 tsp vanilla
- Preheat the oven to 130°C. Cut out two sheets of baking parchment to fit your trays. If using a piping bag, mark out 6 circles with a pencil onto each sheet using a saucer or bowl, depending on the size of your tray. Flip the paper over so the pencil is facing the tray and set aside.
- Taking the grease-free, clean metal bowl of your mixer or just a big bowl – do not use plastic as plastic bowls tend to retain a film of fat that may hinder the egg white’s volume – put the egg whites in. Sift in the cream of tartar and add the lemon juice.
- Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. This means that when you lift the whisk out, it is opaque yet quite floppy.
- With the whisk on, add the sugar 1 tbsp at a time. It is tedious but ensures a very stiff and shiny meringue. Continue until all the sugar has been added. Add the vanilla and then test for a stiff peak. This means that when you lift the whisk out, it is very shiny and does not flop over. Alternatively, test by holding the bowl over someone’s head.
- Using leftover mixture on the whisk, stick the parchment down by dabbing mixture onto the tray. If using a piping bag, attach a star nozzle, giving an attractive meringue nest, and fill the piping bag half full. Then pipe mixture so it fills the circles drawn earlier on. Do enough for 12. At the end of each nest, do not apply pressure, allowing the mixture to naturally curve around the nest keeping it a lot neater.
- If not using a piping bag, take a large spoonful of the mixture and use a palette knife to smooth the outside so it looks like an egg, or a quenelle (a rounded oval shape) and shake the meringue onto the tray – it is the only way I have found not to ruin its shape.
- Bake for 30 – 40 minutes (I find it takes towards the higher end of time) until the outside is lightly golden and you can tap the outside of the meringue without cracking. You should also find you can lift it off of the tray when done.