Thursday, 12 September 2013

Meringue Girls

Are you sitting comfortably?  Today I am fan-girling over meringues, but not as I have
 previously known them.  I'm blogging Meringue Girls.
It's pretty rare that you have a book that makes you go out straight away and buy what you need
to make one of the recipes as soon as you get back.  My meringue obsession shows no signs to disappearing.  This is a little review, in case you've got this book on your radar and wondered
whether to buy it [which you should!] and also a little show and tell of my first attempt at
 their famous meringue kisses.
This book is a colourful inside as out - gorgeous pictures and simple, clear instructions that make you want to try everything immediately.  Recipes are not limited to their kisses and include larger desserts, show stopppers [rainbow layer meringue cake! Yes please!] and ideas for pudding for any meal.

The book talks you through the main things you need to know to recreate the Meringue Girl recipe with tips and secrets of their trade along the way.
My first try was the kisses.
The method is slightly different to my usual and I couldn't find egg whites, favoured by MG in my local supermarket, but if like me, you are unsure of what to do with the egg yolks, there are a few recipes in the back to help you use them up.

The process involves heating the sugar in the oven before mixing.  To help, as I was using a handheld mixer and baking on my own, I poured the sugar from the oven into a jug so that I could pour it in batches to the mixture.  I've never used the method before and have always opted for golden caster sugar in the past for a more caramel-y taste, but this method made the mixture not only more glossy, but it felt much thicker and dense once mixed, so no panic your meringues will collapse once piped! 
The colouring took two attempts - I've not had the best of luck with colouring - and the same applied here - don't be shy with the amount of colouring used - for slightly lighter shades of colour, I ran over any lines made with a pastry brush:
...and around 90 minutes later, they're ready:
They sort of, don't really, look exactly the same as the MG ones!   Pretty sure they'll be calling me to join their team if they see these.

If I could offer any tips or advice after my first attempt, it would be this:
  • Do not start whisking your egg whites until the sugar shows some signs of melting at the edges - my oven decided to have a little paddy and refused to heat the sugar with any sense of urgency, so I whisked my whites and then lost the batch as the time that the sugar then took to get to the consistency recommended spoilt the whites.  Whisking the whites doesn't take very long at all, so start this as soon as you see the melting occur around the edges so that you don't waste anything.
  • Don't compare your creations in shape, size or appearance to the Meringue Girls - they are another level - but you can come pretty close and the key is practice, so I'm hoping after a few more attempts, I'll get there.  But I have 30+ meringues that need eating before I can have another go.  The key I found towards the end was even pressure all the time, until flicking away at the end to create the peak.
  • If you can buy them, use the plastic/disposable piping bags.  Especially if you are going to try lots of different colours.  Washing the piping bag I had in between colours was a real faff and as it is not disposable, was quite rigid, making it not as easy to work with as the disposable versions.
  • Be wary of your measurements and whether your equipment will allow you to use them.  I went with the 300g sugar | 150g egg white ratio to create around 30 kisses, but my biggest mixing bowl only just [read: didn't really] allowed for this volume and I think I would have mixed the two together much better with a bigger bowl/smaller batch.
  • Use gel colouring if you can - it keeps the colour consistent and stops the mixture getting too wet and lose its shape.  It's much more vibrant and keeps its colour during the 'baking'.
I cannot wait to try this again and all the other recipes in the book - I found the book completely inspired me to be more creative with some of the simpler recipes that I know and use regularly -
I don't think my meringue kisses or pavlova will be the same again.  I'm a bit obsessed.

See you next time x


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