ONE BATCH MAKES AROUND 40 KISSES, 1 PAVLOVA, OR 6 BIG ONES
75g egg whites (from about 2 1⁄2 eggs)
150g caster sugar
300g caster sugar
150g egg whites (from about 5 eggs)
600g caster sugar
300g egg whites (from about 10 eggs)
This is our mother mixture. We use this method whenever we make our meringue kisses, giant meringues, pavlovas and decorative festive meringues. Our mixture is foolproof and so easy to remember – it’s a 2:1 ratio of sugar and egg whites.
Preheat your oven to 200°C/gas 7. Line a small baking tray with baking paper, pour in the caster sugar and heat it in the oven for 7 minutes. Heating the sugar helps to create a glossy, stable mixture. Pour the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk them slowly, allowing small stabilizing bubbles to form, then increase the speed until the egg whites form stiff peaks.
Time the sugar and the egg whites so that the sugar is hot, and the egg whites are stiff, AT THE SAME TIME.
Take the sugar out of the oven and turn the oven down to 100°C/gas 1⁄2. With your mixer on full speed, very slowly spoon the hot sugar into the stiffly beaten egg whites, making sure the mixture comes back up to stiff peaks after each addition of sugar. Once you have added all the sugar, continue to whisk on full speed until you have a smooth, stiff and glossy mixture. You should continue to whisk for at least 5 minutes once all the sugar has been incorporated. Feel a bit of the mixture between your fingers; if you can still feel the gritty sugar, keep whisking at full speed until it has dissolved and the mixture is smooth, stiff and glossy.
Now you are ready to go!
If you want to make kisses with your Meringue Girls Mixture, spoon your meringue into a disposable piping bag and cut the tip off (to make a hole about the size of a 50p coin). Pipe out your kisses by keeping the bag tight, straight and directly above your baking tray. Squeeze from a 2cm height above the baking tray, then let go with your squeezing hand before pulling up to form the lovely peaks.
Bake for 35–45 minutes, or until the base of the meringues comes off the baking paper clean.
BALSAMIC CHERRY PARTY PAVLOVA
For the labneh (this takes 24 hours to make, but you can use plain Greek yoghurt if you are in a rush):
1.2kg thick Greek yoghurt
1⁄2 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp runny honey
1 batch of Meringue Girls Mixture (see above)
For the macerated cherries:
60ml balsamic vinegar
110g caster sugar
300g fresh cherries, halved, and stones removed
400g fresh cherries (keep the stalks on for decoration)
a splash of kirsch (optional – if you have it hanging around in the booze cabinet)
100g slivered pistachios (see suppliers, page 220)
It wouldn’t be a Meringue Girls cookbook without a pav in there somewhere, would it? In this recipe, we soak cherries in a sweet balsamic syrup and serve them with salty labneh (a homemade strained yoghurt). The outcome is a deep crunchy meringue shell with a deliciously sweet, sour, salty and umami filling.
Start by making your labneh. Line a large colander with cheesecloth or muslin. Stir the salt into the yoghurt and pour into the cheesecloth/muslin. Set the colander over a bowl, to catch the liquid that drains off. Leave to drain for 24 hours in the fridge, then transfer the resulting thick yoghurt into a bowl, fold in the honey and set aside.
Make your Meringue Girls Mixture.
Preheat the oven to 100C/gas 1⁄2 and line a small baking sheet with baking paper.
Spoon the Meringue Girls Mixture into the centre of the baking sheet and mould into a 25cm spiky circle with your spoon. Using the back of the spoon, make a deep dip in the centre of the mound, forming a large well. Bake in the oven for about 3 hours. When cooked, the meringue should have a firm base and come away from the baking paper. Set aside to cool.
To make the macerated cherries, heat the balsamic vinegar and sugar in a saucepan over a medium heat. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat to low and allow to reduce slightly. Add the prepared cherries and take the pan off the heat. Take the cherries out with a slotted spoon, and reduce the balsamic syrup a little further until it has a nice shiny and drizzly consistency.
If you want an extra kick, soak the cherries for your decoration in the kirsch for 10 minutes before assembling the pavlova.
Place your meringue in the centre of your serving platter. Spoon the honey labneh into the well in the centre and let some ooze down the sides. Scatter with the balsamic cherries, drizzle with balsamic syrup, decorate with the fresh or kirsch-soaked cherries and finish with a sprinkling of slivered pistachios.