Meringues and Easter were made to go together. It just seems so appropriate to make an egg-based dessert at Easter time, and meringues are the ultimate in egg magic. Made into individual nests, they are the perfect vessel for lashings of cool cream and piles of cute chocolate eggs. And even better, they can be made ahead of time if you’re planning a big Easter Sunday feast and don’t want to be rushing around the kitchen or juggling oven timings any more than you have to. These meringues will store perfectly in an air-tight container until the next day, but will even keep for three or four days after baking.
I mentioned many of the following tips in one of my very first recipes for chocolate-dipped meringues, but a few key pointers to keep in mind:
– Make sure you don’t get even a drop of yolk or a miniscule shard of egg shell in the whites, as this will prevent the whites from whisking properly.
– For the same reason, make sure your bowl and whisk are spotlessly clean.
– Stick down your baking parchment (not greaseproof paper since meringues can stick to this) with a few dabs of the meringue mixture under each corner.
– After baking, turn the meringues upside down, turn the oven off and leave to cool completely in the oven. Cooling in the oven helps the meringue form a crisp exterior. I have literally no idea why you turn them upside down but my mum does it so there.
– Meringue making is essentially science in the kitchen, so weigh out your sugar exactly and stick rigidly to the cooking time and temperature. Some meringue recipes will call for a certain weight of sugar, but this is the most basic meringue recipe: equal weights of egg whites and caster sugar.
Ingredients (makes 3 dessert-sized meringue nests)
2 medium eggs
Same weight as egg whites in caster sugar
Optional: food colouring gel, cream or yogurt to fill, mini eggs
1. Preheat the oven to 120C/100C fan/Gas 1. Separate out the egg whites from the yolks and weigh the whites.
2. Whisk the eggs to soft, fluffy peaks in a large, clean bowl – try not to over whisk at this stage.
3. Weigh out the same quantity of caster sugar as you had of egg whites. Add to the whisked egg whites one dessert spoon at a time, whisking in between each spoonful. You should end up with a thick, glossy meringue mixture.
4. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. If you don’t want to pipe the meringues freehand then draw around a bowl or plate which is roughly the size that you want your nests to be.
5. Place your piping bag nozzle-down into a large glass – this makes adding the colouring and the meringue mixture much easier.
6. Using a paint brush or a long skewer, paint two stripes of food colouring gel on opposite sides of the bag. The amount I used produced pale, pastel-coloured meringues, but if you want a more striking effect then you will need to be extremely generous with the amount of colouring you use.
7. Fill the bag with your meringue mixture and pipe into nests on the baking tray.
8. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes until crisp and dry on the outside. Turn the meringues upside down, turn the oven off and leave to cool (or do this on a board if oven space is tight).
These meringues are crisp and crumbly on the outside, but very soft and chewy on the inside. Since they’re so sweet, I always think that meringues are best paired with a sharp Greek yogurt or crème fraiche rather than whipped cream, but choose whatever you fancy.
Top with a pile of mini eggs for the ultimate Easter treat.