Forget cupcakes and traditional puddings, this Christmas’ most fashionable desserts are pretty and pastel meringues inspired by cooking duo The Meringue Girls. Olivia Purvis visits their kitchen in East London to discover the art of the perfect meringue
If there’s one thing that has as many changing trends as fashion, it’s food. In the magical world of culinary goodness: cupcakes, macarons, cake pops and cronuts (the cool elder sister of the croissant and doughnut) have been on everybody’s lips in 2014 (literally and metaphorically) – and now our little egg-white, sugar-fuelled friend, the meringue is having its moment in the spotlight – making it the perfect alternative pudding this Christmas.
The meringue’s newfound popularity is partly down to the vision of two incredibly talented chefs: Alex Hoffler and Stacey O’Gorman AKA The Meringue Girls. The pair met while working in a restaurant in London and soon bonded over their love of sweet things. Together, they have set up an incredibly successful bakery that supplies restaurants, markets and parties across the capital and the pair are about to release their second cookbook in spring 2015. I travelled to their kitchen to experience one of their incredible masterclasses to get some festive inspiration.
I, for one, am a bit blasé when it comes to attempting meringues. I’m prone to throwing all of my eggs in a bowl, heavy-handedly pouring in the sugar then continuing to whisk until I’m a little blue in the face. But Alex and Stacey are the queens of the process and kindly took me through the basics.
For example, the sugar should be heated in the oven before use and the egg whites should be mixed to form stiff peaks before adding any sugar (a spoon at a time) – and whisking times are just as specific. With a range of flavours from coconut and watermelon to a seasonal mince-pie flavour (it tastes so much so like the original, I may have yelped “THIS IS MAGIC!” after the first bite), these girls have the meringue knack down to a tee. Plus, you know – with treats this airy and small, they can’t be too naughty – making them ideal post-Christmas dinner.
See below for one of the girls’ amazing recipes – and have yourself a very Merry Christmas.
Meringue Girls’ mixture
This is our mother mixture. We use this method whenever we make our meringue kisses, giant meringues, pavlovas or decorative festive meringues! Our mixture is fail-proof and so easy to remember: a 2:1 ratio of sugar and egg whites!
150g egg whites
2 tbsps of cocoa powder
- Preheat your oven to 200C. Line a small baking tray with baking parchment, 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 a mixer and whisk them slowly, allowing small stabilising bubbles to form, then increase the speed until the egg whites form stiff peaks.
- Take the sugar out of the oven, and turn oven down to 100C. With your mixer on full speed, very slowly spoon the hot sugar into the 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 sugar has 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.
- You are ready to go!
(If you want to make kisses with your Meringue Girls’ mixture, spoon your meringue into your disposable piping bag and cut the tip off (about a 50p-size hole). Pipe out your kisses by keeping the bag tight, straight and directly above your baking tray. Squeeze from a 2cm height from the baking tray then let go before pulling up to form the lovely peaks. Sprinkle over your cocoa powder.
Bake for about 35-45 minutes or until bases of meringues come off the parchment paper clean.)
The Meringue Girls