In awe of meringue’s transformative powers, senior editor Matt Preston celebrates its many guises and adaptations.
Matt gets misty-eyed over meringue.
WE SHOULD REALLY rename December ‘meringue month’, because it’s when recipe searches for pavlovas, meringue nests, meringue sheets and even just everyday meringue sky-rocket.
Of all culinary techniques, meringue is right up there with cakes and mayonnaise (which also benefit from the properties of eggs) for the most miraculous of transformations. How can something so fluffy and glossy come out of the oven so strong and set? There is something magic about meringue: how it can capture bubbles of air, how it can be chewy or crisp, how it can be mousse-like in an Aussie pavlova. Here are (just some of) my thoughts on meringues.
MERINGUE 101 There are three different ways of making meringues: French, Italian and Swiss. The most common is the basic French method, where cold eggwhites at the soft-peak stage are further whipped with cold sugar added. The Italian method has you whisking the eggwhites as you dribble in a hot (115°C) sugar syrup for a more stable and robust result – ideal for piping, torching, as topping on a lemon meringue pie, or to cover a baked Alaska. The Swiss method involves whisking the eggwhites and sugar over a pan of hot water until the temperature reaches about 50°C, then whisking it until it’s cool – perfect for frosting cakes and making yakitori meringues. What? I hear you ask. YAKITORI MERINGUE is a hot new thing replacing meringue shards and torched plumes of meringue on trendy desserts. Skewered meringue may all be a bit ‘so what?’ for those who make their pavs in the barbecue, but I suppose toasting Swiss meringue on a stick is similar to toasting marshmallows the same way. Anyway, I reckon it’s the ‘liquid puff pastry’ of 2018. MERINGUE SHARDS are slowly being left behind, back in the mists of the Turnbull era (along with ‘soils’, ‘the smear’ and those disgusting soul patch ‘beards’). These once trendy shaped meringue sheets were flavoured with something robust, like pink peppercorns, rosemary or lavender, to match all the sugar. Why not make them for your next retro-themed dinner party by spreading out a layer of your favourite meringue on a silicone mat. Bake in a low, slow oven and leave to dry out in the cooling oven. THE RECIPE And while we are on meringue desserts, let me introduce this month’s offering, which crashes the flavour of Black Forest gateau into that fine New Zealand dessert, the pavlova (which no one would have ever heard about if Australia hadn’t adopted it and championed it around the world).
The kirsch cherries bring a boozy flavour of Northern Christmas to the Aussie summer. Combining them with plump new-season fruit offers enough acidity, juicy freshness and brightness to balance the richness and sweetness of cream and meringue.
Of course, the big question remains: would meringues have been as successful if they had kept their Olde English name, ‘pet’? This was given to them because they were so light and airy, apparently, which is fair enough. The trouble is, the word ‘pet’ comes from the French and Dutch word for ‘fart’. Not sure how many ‘French farts’ you’d sell!
If all this has you wanting more of my material on meringue, head to delicious.com.au to get my take on the history of this magical dessert, plus other mouthwatering ways to serve it.
INDIVIDUAL CHEWY BLACK FOREST MERINGUES MAKES 6
130g dark (70%) chocolate, plus extra finely grated to serve 6 eggwhites 300g caster sugar 60g Amarena cherries (small cherries in syrup – from good grocers), plus 1/4 cup (60ml) Amarena cherry syrup, plus extra syrup to serve 300ml thickened cream, whipped 200g fresh or frozen cherries Toasted flaked almonds and tarragon leaves, to serve
Preheat the oven to 120°C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
Chop 80g chocolate. Fill a small saucepan one-third full with water and bring to a gentle simmer. Place chopped chocolate in a small heatproof bowl set over pan (don’t let the bowl touch the water) and stir until chocolate is melted. Remove from heat.
To make the meringue, place eggwhites in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk to soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar, whisking until all sugar is dissolved. Gently swirl melted chocolate into meringue – do not mix it in. Spoon 3 large spoonfuls of meringue, 3cm apart, over each prepared tray. Using the spoon, press a small well into the top of each meringue for filling later. Bake for 1 hour or until dry to the touch. Remove from the oven, cool completely, then transfer to serving platters. Melt remaining 50g chocolate and stir through cherry syrup. Divide cream among meringue wells. Top with Amarena and fresh cherries, and scatter with almonds, tarragon and extra grated chocolate. Drizzle with chocolate cherry syrup and extra cherry syrup to serve.