Ever heard of meringue? It’s French for egg whites beaten with sugar and baked into a delicious, featherlight, snow-white perfection. You can enjoy meringue without further ado, letting the small crisp meringue biscuits melt in your mouth, or turn it into a more refined and even more delicious dessert shaping it to your liking and using just a few other basic ingredients.
4 egg whites
220 g sugar
1 tsp potato starch
1 tsp white wine vinegar
a pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 120 °C. Lay a sheet of baking paper on a baking tray and set it aside. In a bowl beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form little peaks when you lift your whip and become light and fluffy. Also, you should be able to turn the bowl over with the egg whites still inside. At this point you need to gradually add sugar into the bowl still whisking the egg whites. When you’re done, the mixture should be thick, firm and glossy. Finally add the starch and vinegar and beat for another 2 minutes.
Now you have a bowl of perfectly beaten egg whites ready to be turned into all kinds of shapes. If you’re looking for the classic meringue, simply spoon the egg whites onto the baking sheet. Using two spoons at once comes in handy. You can also form the mixture into little circles or small pyramids. Be creative – just make sure your meringues all have a similar size so they’re done baking at the same time. Bake them 20 minutes at 120 °C, then lower the heat to 100 °C and continue baking for another 45 minutes. The meringues should be white and crisp on the outside and slightly moist and airy inside.
Keep the meringues in an open bowl or on a tray and stay away from lids or your meringue will get soggy. You can prepare the meringue well in advance and turn it into a dessert dish shortly before serving.
You can make your meringue more refined and flavourful by adding vanilla bean seeds or cinnamon into the egg whites just before you’re done whisking them. You can also flavour your meringue with some orange or lemon zest – simply put a spoonful of zest into the egg whites at the last stage of beating.
Making meringue is really easy once you get to know the basics. There are a few rules to follow during the preparation process it and if you stick to them there is no way your meringue won’t be a success.
Be sure the bowl you’ll be using to beat the egg whites is all clean and dry. The same goes for the mixer and the whisk. Even the slightest trace of grease can prove fatal to the beating process and spoil your meringue at the very beginning.
Roughly crush some meringues. Cut larger strawberries into quarters, smaller ones into halves. Also, in a separate bowl, mash a handful of them together with the sugar. Put all strawberries into a large bowl and gently fold in the crushed meringue and the whipped cream. Now take several small dessert bowls or cups and put in your yummy concoction. Decorate with some mint leaves and/or strawberries.
You can swap the strawberries for mangos or passion fruit. For the mango, peel it, then cut up the fruit flesh into small cubes, blend a small portion of it with a teaspoon of sugar, adding if necessary a tiny bit of water to help the mixer if the mango purée is too thick.
For the passion fruit version of the dessert, you just cut up the passion fruit in half and scoop out the inside. Add a small amount of sugar to the pulp. Don’t forget: the whipped cream already has some sugar in it and you don’t want the dessert to be oversweet. Now you can gently combine the fruit, the cream and the meringue together just like in the previous dessert.
Since we’re talking treats here, why not show you another delicious dessert you can use beaten egg whites for? Add coconut flakes and sugar and you’ll end up with something really good and incredibly easy to make.
Emmanuel’s coconut snowballs
3 egg whites
100 g sugar
a pinch of salt
200 g fine coconut flakes
Preheat the oven to 180 °C. Put a sheet of baking paper on your baking tray. In a large bowl whisk the egg whites with the salt until they’re white and fluffy, add the sugar and whisk for a few more minutes till the mixture is firm and glossy. Always be careful not to overbeat the egg whites, both before as well as after adding the sugar. Then with a large spoon or spatula gently fold in the coconut flakes. You’ll find the mixture quite thick. Now, using a teaspoon and your hands, form small coconut balls and place them on the baking tray. Forming the balls will be much easier if you dip your hands into a bowl with cold water once in a while. Bake the coconut balls for 10 minutes, then take out and leave on the baking tray to cool off.
If you want them to stay nice and slightly crispy, keep them out in the open, on a tray or in an uncovered bowl. If you prefer the coconut balls soft and slightly moister though, you can use a box with a lid to store them.
Gordon’s coconut balls
200 g sweetened condensed milk
80 g of fine coconut flakes
a handful of coconut flakes for later on
Pour the milk into a large pan and slowly heat it up. Now stir in the coconut flakes and cook the mixture for a couple of minutes. Set aside so the mixture cools off, thickens and the coconut flakes absorb all the milk. After a few minutes using a spoon to ensure a similar size, form small balls with your hands. Grease your hands with some oil so the mixture doesn’t stick to them. Once you’re done forming the balls, roll them in the remaining coconut flakes so they have a nice white appetizing coating. Put them on a tray and place in the fridge for an hour to set. A very sweet, very rich but still incredibly delicious treat.