An old friend of mine challenged me to a meringue duel a little while ago and I have at last managed to put it all together in a post for this Fiesta Friday! Mr. A is a good friend from when I was still in high school and we have remained friends even now that I’m a Uni graduate! It was a bit of a last minute challenge, as Mr. P and I were in the middle of housecleaning when I got the message. But I couldn’t help it! It’s the first time I have ever been challenged to a food duel, and I have been eager to make meringues since the new hand mixer arrived! So of course I accepted, and soon Mr. P got pulled into the duel as well. But I think that’s the fate of all our loved ones when a food duel is on!
What started the duel was that Mr. A heard about me asking his girlfriend, Miss K, for meringue advice. I wanted to know a thing or two about it before I got started, as I haven’t made a single thing even close to meringues since we lived at our first house. It was also the first time I would be attempting meringues in a fan-forced oven versus the old, non fan-forced oven we had at our first house, which I am still getting used to even now. So Mr. A decided he would put on a batch, and I would put on a batch, and we would see whose meringues would be the winners! Given when he messaged me, his first batch was in the oven baking, I knew time was of the essence , and dragged Mr. P home with me.
As I understand it, there are two kinds of meringues. Meringues which are hard and crisp inside and out, and ones with chewer centres. To be honest I prefer chewier centre meringues. But in terms of actual kinds of meringues, there are three – from what I know. The French meringues, Italian meringues and Swiss meringues.
French meringues are made with egg whites, beaten to stiff peaks, and then have sugar gradually beaten in. This was the version I went for. But there are also Italian meringues, which I think are made with boiling sugar syrup beaten into the egg whites instead of caster sugar, and Swiss meringue, which is made by stirring egg whites and sugar together over a pot of simmering water until they’re quite warm, and then whisking the mix. I think.
I picked what seemed to be a simple recipe for french meringues. However, the first batch of this didn’t turn out at all as stiff as I was hoping at all the first time around, despite following the recipe to a T. It was a big disappointment, but Mr. P never even flinched at this. All he did was take the too thin mix, and use it as the base for his meringue idea and get me going again. No wonder I love him. So I started on the second batch with his help, and he soon taught me a neat trick for making sure that the egg whites were as stiff as I needed them to be the second time around. Stiff egg whites will cling to the bowl. If the egg whites slide around when the bowl is held on it’s side, or even held upside down, keep whipping! So the second time around we achieved stiff egg whites, which did indeed cling to the bowl when the bowl was tipped up. Mum also had some excellent advice, and so did dad!
Mum gave us the tip of adding the sugar one tablespoon at a time, regardless of what the recipe told us to do, and told us to keep the vanilla out until the end, as the mix was wet enough, and she confirmed the thought that adding more sugar would help as well. Dad had a tip from his mother, who I have been told is an incredible home cook and home baker. His tip was to grind up the caster sugar into a finer powder, which would help it get whipped into the eggs with even greater ease. All of these tips worked. Although we suspect now that the recipe itself was what was also causing us a lot of trouble. It was too wet. Too, too wet. Adding vanilla made it worse, but flavour wise we needed it in there. However, getting the eggs right the second time around, grinding up the sugar and adding it one tablespoon at a time, did give us a much fluffier, much glossier mix!
The mix was too thin to pipe, however, so we came up with the idea to use a spoon and dollop the mix onto the baking sheet instead. It worked like a charm. We soon had a lot of little ovals, all ready to be popped into the oven, and when we id pop them in we saw them puff and rise and harden nicely! However, I didn’t take them out or even open the oven door as the original recipe suggested we do. No. Miss K had earlier given me a tip about leaving the meringues in the oven overnight, and so that was what we did! We ended up with a lot of beautiful little meringues which – as Dad tells me, are perfectly crisp on the outside and lovely and chewy on the inside! Success!
Through this challenge I have also learned a lot bout getting eggs to room temperature, fast, and the dangers of under-beating. Popping the eggs into a bowl of warm-ish water while preparing the other ingredients meant I had room temperature eggs in a flash. Under-beating their egg whites, however, created problems for both Mr. A and I. Mr. A’s first batch drooped and leaked sugar-water when b, and I ended up with a mix that was thin and impossible to pipe. Lesson learned!
Mr. P leapt in when things got rough, and used the first not so good batch of meringue mix to make little meringue discs as the bases for his meringue dish which can be seen above. He was a big help throughout this challenge, and taught me so much! So although this challenge has been one of the more challenging I’ve taken part in, and it was full of ups and owns, I have learned a lot and I am so glad I accepted it!
In the end I had cute little meringues with crisp outer shells, and which were lovely and chewy on the inside!
The original recipe also recommended dipping the base of the meringues in chocolate and then using cream between them. However, to me that seemed a little too sweet given how sweet the meringues themselves were. So I looked at a few other recipes and soon hit upon a filling I thought would work even better. It was a mascarpone and cream and mashed berries mix which took less than two minutes to whip up and put together, and which had a slightly sour taste which took the edge off the sweetness of the meringues.
- Grinding the sugar: this worked like a charm, and helped whip the sugar into the egg whites with even greater ease.
- Altering the recipe in general: the original recipe suggested adding the sugar one half at a time, but we added even more sugar, ground it up and added it one tablespoon at a time, whipping each addition into the eggs well before going on with the next, and dolloping the mix onto the baking tray instead of attempting to pipe it.
- Dolloping instead of piping: If the mix is too thin to be piped, but is still thick enough to hold something of it’s shape, it can be dolloped. I made a few little ovals on the baking sheet and those baked fine!
What Didn’t Work:
- Vanilla: In terms of flavour the vanilla was great, but I think the mix was too wet as it was to be adding extra with the vanilla.
- Perhaps too much egg: I think perhaps the recipe was too wet, and next time it might be better to find a recipe that specifies what the proper weight of the egg whites is, as I suspect ours might have been bigger than the author’s.
Adapted from BBC GoodFood’s
Makes: 18 , Prep: 25-30 mins, Cook: 1hr, plus overnight cooling
- 4 egg whites
- We ended up using up to 280g of caster sugar, ground to a fine powder. So feel free to experiment.
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 250g tub mascarpone
- 284ml carton double cream (I used 300ml)
- 1 tbsp icing sugar
- A couple of handfuls of fresh or frozen (fully thawed) mixed berries, lightly crushed
- Heat oven to 140C/120C fan/gas 1. Line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment.
- In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until very stiff – the whites should stand in stiff, not floppy, peaks when the beaters are lifted out. (Do the bowl tip test!) Once you have reached this point, start adding the ground up sugar one tbsp at a time, mixing each addition in before adding the next.
- If you like meringues with soft, mallowy centres, just add 1 tsp cornflour and 1 tsp white wine vinegar to the mix along with the sugar. (I haven’t tested this tip though.)
- Gently dollop oval shaped spoonfuls of the mix into the baking sheets. You can leave a little space between them, as they will spread, but not overly much.
- Bake in the oven for 1 hr, turning the heat down to 120C/100C fan/gas ½ after 30 mins.
- The original recipe said at this stage to remove the meringues from the oven and cool them on a wire rack. But I think it’s still better to switch the oven off and leave them in there to cool overnight.
- To make Cream & chocolate meringues for dessert, put 100g dark chocolate in a glass bowl and melt over a pan of gently simmering water. Carefully dip the base of each meringue in to coat, then place on their sides on a plate or tray to set. While the chocolate sets, whip 300ml double cream. Assemble the meringues in pairs and sandwich their chocolate bases together with a good spoonful of cream. Delicious served with ice cream, raspberry coulis or fresh berries.
- OR: When ready to serve the meringues, beat the mascarpone until smooth. Pour in the cream, add the sugar and whisk again to soft peaks. Very lightly stir in the fruit so it is rippled through the cream. Sandwich the meringues together with fruit cream. Pile onto a plate and eat the day they are made.