I’m going to have to hold my hands up in the air and declare a truth. I’m not one of those girls who’s mad on meringue. It’s not that I don’t like it. It’s kind of hard not to like. It’s more that I can always find other things on a menu I prefer. However I have married into, and now given birth to, a family of meringue fiends. So it is very much in my interest to create new meringue based recipes each year. Though let’s be honest, a good old Eton mess always goes down well when the fridge is a little bare.
Makes about 10 but all depends on the size of the nests.
Top tip: make these just before you go to bed so the meringue can cool to room temperature VERY slowly and thus avoid cracking in a volcano like fashion.
– 120g egg whites (about 4 but depends on size of your eggs)
– 200g castor sugar
– 5g cornflour
– 5mls white wine vinegar
– 1 x tin chestnut puree
– 50g raisins
– 30mls brandy
– 200g double cream
Whisk your egg whites until beginning to hold their peaks. Then whisk in 1 teaspoon of the castor sugar at a time. I know this is laborious but if you rush it and throw the lot in you’re less likely to make sure it all dissolves into the egg and you might end up with weeping meringue. Might.
Once the sugar’s all in, the mixture should look really white and glossy, then add in the cornflour and white wine vinegar. Whisk again. The combination of these ingredients makes for a mallowy chewy middle to your meringue so whilst they’re desirable they’re not a reason to run to the local shops if you don’t have them.
Pop some foil or baking parchment on a baking tray, fixing it down with a little sticky meringue. Then spoon about 2 heaped tablespoons of the meringue onto the foil/parchment to make each nest. You can leave in a big snowy heap or use your fingers and the back of a teaspoon to slightly hollow out the middle for holding double cream later. Up to you. (You can squash the meringues after baking instead to make a pocket for the cream if you prefer, but they will crack as you do this.)
Then bake at the bottom and on the middle shelf of a preheated oven at 140C. (For these are the coolest areas of most ovens and we’re trying to dry these meringues out, not bake them so that they brown.) As soon as they go into the oven turn it down to about 100C, or 90C for a fan. Then after 45 minutes turn the oven off entirely but don’t open it.
About 35 minutes into baking I tend to open the oven door and have a little prod to make sure the oven has worked it’s magic and the outsides of the meringue are hard. If not they need a little longer than the aforementioned 45 minutes. Then I DO NOT OPEN the oven for the last ten minutes of baking. I turn the oven off and then leave the little snowy meringues to slowly come to room temperature for a few hours. Easier to just make these last thing at night and leave them until the morning in your oven.
Once completely cold I fill with whipped cream, pipe a little chestnut puree on top and then crown with raisins I have soaked in brandy by heating them gently on the stove and letting them come to room temperature. But you can top with anything you like. The unadorned meringues last for 3 days or so in a tin at room temperature so you can easily get ahead with this easy pud. Don’t forget to add any broken meringue to vanilla ice cream along with some lemon curd and crunched up digestives. Lemon meringue ice-cream is too much of a joy to be missed.