If you’ve been reading the blog for sometime now, it should come as no surprise to you that I have a sweet tooth, although I am partial to a great big hulking piece of cheese. Then there’s the Weight Watcher’s part of me, that really wants to dig into dessert after dessert but knows that it’s not the best or healthiest option.
Christmas is a completely indulgent time of year, which means there are lots of fabulous sweet things on offer pretty much everywhere! From the TV adverts that have me craving party nibbles to the influx of Christmas candy delights on Foodgawker. That sweet tooth of mine was nagging me to join in with the party spirit.
It didn’t take long for me to back down on the diet front and with a guest post excuse, my rather festive peppermint pinwheel sugar cookies were born. Oh willpower where did you go? To, erm… try, to counteract the cookie naughtiness, on my quest for Christmas sweet treats, I decided to create something a little simpler but also maybe a little healthier. Enter my meringues!
I love meringue! I love meringue with fruit! I love meringue with cream! I just love meringue!
And I mean, a good proper meringue. Not a dry brittle, nothing inside it but air meringue; but a nice crisp shell on the outside and soft and chewy in the middle. It shouldn’t remind you of those cheap white meringue nests you buy in the supermarket, that crumble as soon as you touch them and taste of well… nothing. They should be made with a thick and glossy meringue mix, that holds its shape when baked and not disintegrate into a blob on the baking tray.
And going back to the supermarket ones, really meringue is not difficult to make. It’s quite possible one of the simplest yet most satisfying sweet and versatile desserts I can think of. I’ll hold my hand up and admit that I have brought shop meringue before when I’ve been desperate, but they are not a patch on this meringue recipe.
My tried, trusted and pretty basic meringue recipe that I use for these Christmas Tree meringues, can be used as a basic for a Pavlova, piped into a nest shape, flavoured, coloured, dolloped, spread, crumbled, sandwiched with cream, dipped in chocolate or just eaten as it is… the list is endless.
So forget anything you’ve heard about meringues being hard to master. Just follow a few basic rules and you’ll be rocking meringues each and every time.
- Make sure that your mixing bowl is spotless and there’s no fat traces on it. Fat will cause the egg white protein to shorten, which means it won’t hold as well.
- I add a little cream of tartar, or you could use lemon juice or vinegar. The acid helps keep the meringue stable, and some say it gives you the crisp shell and soft centre. It isn’t a ‘you must do this’ rule, but it helps.
- Sugar-wise, it is best to use a fine sugar, like caster sugar. Regular granulated sugar is too coarse. I do like to use a mixture of icing sugar and caster sugar, which gives the meringue a nice light texture. Add the sugar a spoonful at a time, whisking for a few seconds between each addition.
- Whisking… please, please, please bear with your meringue and whisk it until it’s thick and glossy. We don’t want wet soggy meringue foam, it will collapse and will only be good for crumbling into an Eton Mess. Give it chance, you may think you’re over-whisking it but you’re not. Before adding the sugar, whisk the egg whites until they are starting to form stiff peaks, then start adding your sugar. Then keep going until you get that lovely glossy meringue, perfect for piping.
- Finally, temperature. Nice, long and low! If you have plenty of time and are not in a rush pop them in as low as possible for 6 hours. Most of us don’t have that sort of time, so set the oven to about 70C and let them bake for 1.5 to 2 hours.
it might seem a lot of things to do, but I’m not trying to scare you and they are really just tricks to get the perfect meringue. I really do urge you that next time your recipe calls for meringue and you have the time to whip up some egg whites and whack them in a low oven, do it!
Christmas Tree meringues for a simple festive dessert.
Weight Watchers ProPoints - 1 per meringue
- 4 Egg Whites, medium
- 100g Icing sugar
- 100g Caster sugar
- 1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar
- Green food colouring
- Sprinkles, to decorate
- Preheat the oven to 70C.
- Line two baking sheets with baking parchment.
- Place the egg whites in a large bowl and using a hand whisk, whisk until the egg white start to stiffen, about 3 minutes.
- Alternatively, whisk the egg whites with a stand mixer, on medium, with a balloon whisk attachment, for about 3 minutes until the egg white starts to stiffen.
- Add a tablespoon of icing sugar and whisk for 2-3 seconds.
- Add a tablespoon caster sugar and whisk for 2-3 seconds.
- Repeat adding the icing and caster sugar until all combined.
- Add the cream of tartar and the green food colouring. Add more colouring until you get the colour you would like.
- Whisk until the egg whites are glossy and form stiff peaks, about 4-5 minutes.
- Fill a piping bag fitted with a 1cm star nozzle with the meringue.
- Pipe the meringue in a swirl shape onto the baking parchment.
- Scatter any sprinkle decorations over the meringue swirls.
- Bake at 70C for 90 minutes to 2 hours.
- Allow the meringues to cool on a wire rack.
- Decorate with edible glitter, edible lustre spray or icing sugar and stars.
The meringues can be kept in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks, or can be frozen for up to one month.
Add a 2 tsp peppermint extract, or 2 tsp ground ginger and 1/2tsp mixed spice, for a festive flavour.