How to Make Chewy Centred Meringues

Choc dipped & choc pistachio sandwich

It seems a lot of people are frightened of making meringues – don’t be!  They’re actually not that difficult to make and a good fresh meringue is a thing of wonder.  Bonus point, other people are always ridiculously and unnecessarily impressed by them 😉

Here’s a quick meringue 101 for you:

Strictly speaking, a true meringue contains only sugar and egg white, and is not so much cooked as dried out in the oven.  It should be a light, crispy, sugary kiss that dissolves on the tongue then vanishes.

Meringues can have a softer centre, depending on time/temperature of baking/drying (moisture retention = softer centre), but they won’t be chewy.

Chewy meringues, or pavlovas, have cornflour and vinegar added, which helps create that chewy centre.

Pavlovas tend to have a slightly higher cooking temperature but shorter baking time.

This recipe is therefore really for a pavlova – a confectionery cloud that melts sweetly and gently on the tongue, to be followed by a chewy caramelised centre of sticky goodness…my idea of meringue perfection.

The cardinal rules of meringue making are:

1. Make sure all your equipment is completely grease free.

Tip: Give everything (bowls and whisk) a precautionary wash in extra hot water and detergent then wipe round your mixing bowl with a cut lemon.

egg whites

2. Make sure no yolk gets into the egg whites.

Tip: When separating multiple eggs, don’t risk losing a whole batch to a late coming errant yolk.  Use a three bowl method and work with one egg at a time: separate the egg, catching the white in the first bowl and dumping the yolk in the second.  Once the yolk is safely out of the way, tip the white into your mixing bowl (the third bowl).  Repeat the process until you have enough whites.  Using this method you only ever risk losing one egg at a time!

Nearly there, but not quite
See how the foam  sort of separates on the whisk?  Not quite there yet…keep whisking!

3. Make sure your egg whites are stiff enough before starting to add the sugar.

Tip: If your beaten whites sort of ‘split’ from the whisk, it’s not quite stiff enough.  It’s nearly there though…just a minute or so more…

4. Add the sugar slowly.

Tip:  Have some sing along music playing so you can get into a good groove to keep yourself entertained while you hover at the mixer  It’s really important to add that sugar slowly, so be patient and don’t get tempted to chuck the last half in all at once or you’ll end up with grainy, weepy meringues.

If you follow those basics you can’t go far wrong 🙂

4 large egg whites
A small pinch of salt
250g caster sugar
2 teaspoons cornflour
½ to 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar (or similar – for this batch I used apple cider vinegar, as it’s all I had in, and they turned out fine)

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180ºC/350ºF (yes, really, that high!)

20160228_133508Line baking sheets with baking parchment.

If you want very evenly sized meringues, draw circles onto the reverse of your parchment paper (make sure the pen/pencil side goes underneath ‘cos you don’t want that baked into your meringue bottoms!)

Now it's readyWhisk the egg whites and salt until they’re holding firm peaks but are not too stiff.

Continue beating and start adding the caster sugar, one spoonful at a time, allowing time for each spoonful to be incorporated before adding the next.

All the sugar whisked inWhen all the sugar has been added you should have a bowl containing a billowy, pillowy, mallowy, satiny cloud.  When you rub some between your fingers it shouldn’t feel gritty – if it does, beat a little longer.  The more sugar grains you can feel, the more likely it is that your meringues will ‘weep’ (ooze sugar syrup) during baking.

Corn flour and vinegar folded inGently fold in the cornflour, vanilla and vinegar.

piped meringueUse a tiny dab of meringue to secure down the corners of your baking parchment, then pipe or spoon meringue into required shapes.

Put into the preheated oven, immediately turn it down to gas mark 2/150ºC/300ºF, and bake for 20 to 30 minutes: bite size take around 20 mins and more regular sized ones 30 mins.

Turn the oven off but leave the meringues in there for another 30-40 minutes – they should peel easily from the paper when ready. Remove from the oven.

Carefully slide the parchment paper, with the meringues still on it, off the baking sheets and onto wire racks to finish cooling.

chocolate dipped meringue bitesWhen cool, carefully dip in melted chocolate and set on parchment paper until dry.

chocolate & pistachio ganache filling

Also perfect for making chocolate pistachio meringues.


Nancy and the Scarlet Slipper

Hot on the heels (sorry) of the dragon slaying shoe, I was asked to do another shoe cake – this time a friend of mine wanted to surprise one of his friend’s on her 50th birthday.  He said she likes shoes and her favourite colour is red…apart from that, the design was left to me. Shoe cakeTaking a huge amount of inspiration from the extremely talented Iris Rezoagli of Cake Dreams by Iris, I created this high heeled shoe cake.

The shoe box cake is a four layer vanilla Madeira cake, filled with strawberry jam and vanilla Italian meringue buttercream.High heeled shoeThe gumpaste shoe was made using the heel mould and sole cutter from the kit I used last time.  However, because I decided to go with a platform sole, it was necessary to create my own toe and heel strap templates.  There was some cursing involved.  And maybe a little bit of pencil throwing.  Got there in the end though.

The upper of the shoe was created using two layers of gumpaste; I made the lacy detail with a heart shaped cutter and two broderie anglaise cutters.  I was initially planing to use Cake Lace but the lace mat I’d purchased wasn’t big enough, and patching bits together wasn’t going to work.  Not to worry, Plan B came out just fine.

(As it happens, I have a future cake planned that will utilise the cake lace, and allows me time to buy a larger lace mat!  That’s assuming I can make it work.  General consensus is that it’s a doddle to use, but I reserve judgement until actual usage has occurred 😉 )

The bow on the shoe and the black flowers (of undetermined species) are both embellished with non-edible diamanté.

PoppyHand modelled gumpaste poppy(ish) flower set against black satin ribbon.

ImprovementsThere are a few key areas for improvement, as detailed above, plus the top of the cake was still sloping at the edges – dammit I will get a straight finish!

That said, I’m really, really pleased with how the shoe came together and the over all look of the cake.  I had fun making it.

The recipient was reported to be delighted and amazed and so all is well in my little corner of the universe.