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Mastering meringues at Divertimenti

By 6th September 2019Recipes
Divertimenti-meringue

Makes 36 mini, 8 individual, or 1 large meringue

Not long ago, in attempt to address a custard-induced glut of egg whites, I made some meringues. Chucked the whites in the mixer with a load of sugar, whisked it all up, dolloped it out onto a baking tray and shoved it into the oven. Easy, right?

I told myself they’d come out fine and enthusiastically brandished them at the kids like the demented sugar-pusher I am. Three under-10s accepted eagerly, sunk their rapidly disintegrating teeth into the crunchy shells and, to a man, lost interest halfway through eating it.

However you dress is up, a meringue is essentially a sugar-delivery system masquerading as a fancy dessert, a biscuit without any fibre to redeem it. Out of everything that can come out of the kitchen, nothing touches the meringue for unadulterated, unredeemable indulgence. So if you make it, you make it good.

I made it bad. My meringues weren’t the wonderful balance of crispy shell and chewy centre I aspired to, they were crunchy and grainy on the outside, and disappointingly soggy on the inside. A good meringue is an edifice of architectural beauty. Mine were a shanty town after a flood. They hung around in a Tupperware for a week, then quietly left the house via the bin.

A couple of weeks later, I made meringue again. This time, it was textbook. A beautifully friable exterior, giving way to a toothsome mallow-like softness inside. If there were awards for meringues, these would have been… well, at least a runner-up – let’s not get ahead of ourselves, here.

So what was the difference? There were two: 1) A Kenwood Chef Titanium, and 2) Samantha Harvey.

Samantha is the chef tutor of Divertimenti Cookery School in West London, and the host of the school’s Kenwood Chef Masterclass (which, to the uninitiated, is a country-wide free-cookery-class programme the National Cookery School Guide organises in partnership with Kenwood to help home cooks make the most of their culinary appliances). She’s also the keeper of the secret to meringue magnificence, which is – whisper it – to whisk in the sugar slowly. Slow as in, a tablespoon at a time over the course of 10–12 minutes, rather than heaping it in with wild abandon like I had in my first effort. The difference is staggering.

That’s not the only secret Sam knows. Over the course of the three-hour class, she showed me and eight or so other aspiring mixer-masters how to coax the Kenwood into making feta and mint scones, lamb koftes, quinoa flatbreads and a knockout harissa mayonnaise – which, by making use of egg yolks, is the ideal companion to meringue (from a thrifty cook’s perspective, not a diner’s).

I came away from the course with an arsenal of kitchen insight to put into practice back home, as well as a boxful of meringue 2.0. I’d love to say that this time, the kids loved it, but the truth is they never got to have any. That night, my wife and I scoffed the lot.

Ingredients

For the meringue:

4 egg whites

220g caster sugar

1 tsp white wine vinegar

1 tsp cornflour

1 tsp vanilla extract


For the whipped cream:

300ml lightly whipped cream

1 tbsp icing sugar

4 tsps rosewater


For the filling:

2 ripe medium mangoes, peeled and cut into chunks

Freshly grated parmesan to serve

Method

  1.  Preheat the oven to 100ºC/80ºC fan.

  2.  Take a medium-sized mixing bowl (make sure it’s spotlessly clean or the egg whites won’t froth properly), add the egg whites and begin whisking at low speed, increasing as the whites start to expand.

  3. Whisk until the whites form stiff peaks (if they hold their shape when shaken slightly, you’re there; alternatively, turn the bowl upside down – if the whites stay there, they’re ready). Take care not to over-whisk or the whites will lose volume.

  4.  Add the sugar, a tablespoon at a time. Whisk continuously for about a minute between each spoonful, not adding more until the whites have taken on a pearly gloss and all the sugar has been incorporated. This should take around 12 minutes in all so don’t get bored and give up too soon.

  5. Once the sugar has been mixed in, and the cornflour, vinegar and vanilla extract and whisk to combine.

  6. Line a large baking sheet with greaseproof paper. For individual meringues, take two large kitchen spoons and use them to drop big spoonfuls of the mixture onto the baking sheet. For a single meringue, spoon it all out into a flattish round. Use the back of one spoon to create an ident in the middle of each meringue for the cream and fruit.

  7. Transfer the backing sheet to the oven and bake for 25 minutes., then reduce the temperature to 70ºC/50ºC fan and leave to dry out for another 40 minutes, until crisp on the outside and mallows within. They should come off the baking parchment easily. Remove and leave to cool on a wire rack. (From this point, you can keep the meringues in an airtight container for up to a week, or freeze them until needed.)

  8. Combine the cream and icing sugar. Whip the cream until it just holds its shape, then fold in the rosewater. (Top tip: if – shock horror–  you’ve over-whipped your cream, you can rescue it by adding unwhipped cream and gently stirring it with a whisk to loosen it again.)

  9. To serve, place a meringue in the centre of each plate and fill with a dollop of cream and arrange the mango on top.

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