In my post for Charlie’s Leaving Cake I already mentioned my slight fear of making meringues, macarons or apparently anything involving only egg whites. However, I decided to tackle this problem head on and make my own flavoured meringues.
In almost every artisan bakery and farmers market you always see the most beautiful looking meringues. They’re always huge with a quenelle-like shape and pale pastel colours, but more importantly they always look delicious. We have even started selling something similar in the farm shop from a brand called Merangz. It’s safe to say they are pretty good sellers and it’s not hard to understand why. Hence I decided to try and recreate them.
Meringues have always been a popular dessert option, especially in the summer. They are incredibly light and versatile, working well as an accompaniment to loads of different ingredients and as a base for many different flavours. However, I am a bit of a meringue snob as I hate the ones you get in packets from the supermarket. Therefore I decided I probably should learn to master my own. In order to stick with the summer theme I decided to flavour mine with lime, cardamom and coconut. I absolutely love the combination of coconut and lime and it frequently makes an appearance when I am trying to go for a more tropical vibe. Cardamom, however, is not something I am as familiar with. I used it in a coffee cake for one of my dad’s many birthdays and, although it wasn’t immediately the most popular addition, it did eventually grow on people and gave the cake a nice warmth. Then again I did discover later, while attempting to make some chai shortbread (which needs a bit more work), that neither of my parents are particularly fans of cinnamon, cloves, or anything down that route.
As I result I was left even more unsure about my decision when I hauled my mixer out the cupboard, but I would soon find out whether my parents would thank me or not. I decided to go with a really basic meringue mix, again from the BBC, as I thought I had better not make it too complicated. While reading an article from the Guardian about how to achieve the perfect meringues, Felicity Cloake mentioned a method used by Ottolenghi which involved slightly melting the sugar in the oven before adding it. I, on the other hand, was 100% convinced I would mess this up without more practice so decided to hedge my bets by sticking with a more traditional version. However, there is one piece of advice that I did try and take from this article and that was in relation to oven temperature. Since meringues are dried out as opposed to cooked, they should be left on the lowest temperature possible for at least 6 hours. As a result I decided to make a normal meringue mix, swirl through the ingredients and the food colouring, pop the mix on the tray and bake my meringues at 40C Fan and see how they did for 6 hours.
Unsurprisingly, I was still a bit dubious. The main problems I have had with meringues in the past is that they haven’t held their shape and that they always seem to be quite golden when they came out the oven. I have always had concerns about over-beating the egg whites in the initial stages, but I think meant I never quite reached the stiff peak stage that was necessary for a good meringue. Basically, I would have had a lot of egg white on my head had I tried the upside-down test; thankfully I was never that foolish. However, this time I did try it and an immediate shower thankfully wasn’t necessary. The mix held it’s shape pretty well once everything was added. However they ended up more blob-like than quenelle shaped! But I popped them in the oven anyway, in spite of the fact they could probably be confused for tiny ogres if you hadn’t gone to Specsavers. My next concern appeared after about 6 hours where I made the brave decision to check if they were ready. The simple answer was no. Although the shell had dried out a bit, the insides were still completely raw. The next lowest setting on my oven was 100C, but I whacked it up to see if I could finish the process a bit quicker. However after half an hour, this seemed to have made them even worse! They had completely lost their smooth finish and where still nowhere near cooked, so I admitted defeat and the bin was the only one who saw them after that.
So as it stood it was Sarah: 0, Meringues: 1. But unfortunately I don’t give up that easily. I tried the meringues again with almost exactly the same recipe, but this time I added more lime because I thought the flavour was a bit lost in the last meringues. I also used regular caster sugar instead of golden. However, I decided to stick with the cooking method described on the BBC Good Food website (i.e. cooking them at 120C fan for half an hour and then reducing it too 100 for another half an hour) and then leave them in the switched off oven until it was completely cool in order to make sure the temperature reduction was not as extreme. This technique was more effective, but they were still not perfect. Due to the higher heat the meringues were slightly more golden than white which is something I was trying to avoid, but they did not leak any liquid which suggests the mix was not over beaten in the process. They also carried a much more limey flavour and had a crunchy exterior with a softer inside. This is something I personally quite like in meringues, but the texture still could have been improved as the inside was a bit more chewy than it should have been.
To finish them off I then drizzled some white chocolate and sprinkled some desiccated coconut over them and, overall, the flavours did work really well. By serving them with some lime infused whipped cream and some fresh blueberries, the meringues still made a really nice dessert even though they weren’t perfect. I think it’s safe to say that Flower & White won’t be facing any competition from me in the immediate future, but I’m coming for them! Any tips will therefore be welcomed and either way I hope you enjoy!
Lime, Cardamom and Coconut Meringues (makes approx. 8 small meringues)
- 2 Egg Whites
- 125g caster or golden caster sugar
- 6 cardamom pods, seeds removed and crused in a pestle and mortar
- zest of 2 limes
- Green food colouring (optional)
- about 50g white chocolate
- Desiccated coconut
- Preheat your oven to 140C/ 120C Fan/ 280F
- In a clean stand mixer, whisk the egg whites until stiff. You can rub the mixer with some lemon juice if you want to make sure it is definitely clean. Once you have reached the stiff peak stage start to add the sugar gradually so the mix becomes smooth and glossy.
- Add the lime zest and the seeds of the cardamom pods and fold in gently.
- Dollop the mix on a lined baking tray and use a toothpick to swirl through some green food colouring.
- Bake in the oven for 30 minutes and then turn down to 120C/ 100 Fan/ 250F for another half an hour. Once the hour is up, turn the oven off and leave the meringues in until it has completely cooled.
- For decoration melt the white chocolate over a bain marie and drizzle over the meringues. Sprinkle over some desiccated coconut and leave the chocolate to set. These meringues are lovely by themselves but also work well with some whipped cream flavoured with lime and some blueberries.