Tag Archives: Meringue

Cracked in the Box

Foodie Penpals July Box

A Box of Treats

It’s that time again when I can reveal my matches for Foodie Penpals. I have to say, I really am enjoying this, from deciding what to send out, and trying to make that as tailored as possible to my penpal; to receiving my own box and thinking about some great recipes to make with the contents.

This month, I was matched with Kay at KayTeasCakes and I got a parcel from Teresa from Rockspring Crafts.

Unfortunately, at the time of writing, I have just heard from Kay that her parcel has not arrived. I am away at the moment, and don’t have a tracking number, although I am trying to sort something out. I am really sorry that there has been this problem for Kay, but if I have to I will recreate her parcel and send it to her as soon as I get home. In the worst case scenario, Kay will get two parcels next month, but I hope that her parcel will arrive soon. Please go and cheer Kay up by marvelling at the beautiful cakes that she makes for her stall in Harringay, or even popping along and buying some if you are in the area.

I was very lucky to be matched with Teresa this month. She was also kind enough to notice that I am an expat, and ask me if there was anything I needed from home. I am really appreciating these offers from my penpals, it is nice that people think that there will be things I am missing.

Teresa sent me a lovely box of goodies, some of which have really got me thinking. She obviously had a good time finding me unique items.  An added bonus is that she is a fellow Westcountry person, so, it has been great to get products from almost home!

Firstly, was a lovely lamb, with garlic, fennel and chilli recipe. I love lamb, and we can get very good Texel lamb here, so I know this is going to be a winner. There was also some pineapple and papaya. I make my own muesli (mostly because too many shop-bought mueslis have unwelcome banana chips in), and this has already featured as a very tasty addition. I am thinking of doing some baked goods with the rest soon. Of course, I shall blog it when I do. Also included was some onion salt. I have never used flavoured salts before, but this is a great addition to salad dressings, and I am sure it will be in many more things to come.

Foodie Penpal Cayenne Pepper and Nutmeg

Spice and More Spice Make all Things Nice

These spices will certainly come in handy. Spices form an essential part of my store cupboard, and I use both cayenne and nutmeg regularly. I have already grated a bit of nutmeg into some rogue nettles that popped up in my broad bean patch. I wasn’t about to let them go to waste, so I cooked them like spinach, and added butter and nutmeg after I had squeezed out all of the moisture. I love this way of eating nettles, and definitely recommend that you give it a go. They are also fantastic as a spinach substitute in curries and greek dishes, like spanakopita.

Foodie Penpals One Shot Garlic and Marmite Cheese

New For Teresa and Me

Teresa says that she enjoys finding a few new items to include in her foodie parcel. This time it was One Shot Garlic and Marmite Cheese. Originally there were three of these moreish little cheeses, but I think everybody gets one item that doesn’t make it as far as the photo, and this may have been mine this time. Ahem!

Foodie Penpals Meringue and Chocolate

The Makings of a Great Dessert

Teresa took a chance and sent me a meringue. Unfortunately, this was the cracked in the box that I refer to in the title. However, I am really pleased, because the two of these ingredients are the basis of a great dessert that I first had in Sweden. It is called Meringue Suisse, and I will make and blog that soon. It requires broken meringue, and I am lazy, so the Foodie Parcel has saved me a job.

A Hand Made Mug Rug

A Hand Made Mug Rug

To help pack things together, Teresa included a mug-rug that she made herself. . I am always in awe of people that can make their own things. I did roughly six weeks of needlework at school, and the teacher made me unpick and re-sew everything that I ever made. I caught her out once, when I just returned to my seat, and didn’t unpick nor re-sew anything, returning for her approval a little later, and she passed it. I found that really discouraging though, and have never attempted to make things with textiles again.

I really love my mug rug. Teresa makes them from scraps leftover from quilting and other projects that you can see on her blog, and of course, I love leftovers! She says that the idea is to have something bigger than a coaster & smaller than a placemat to hold a cuppa with space a couple of biscuits or treats. And look, that is exactly right.

Mug Rug, Tea and Biscuits

My Mug Rug in Action

Thank you so much Teresa, for such lovely treats, and to Carol Anne for organising Foodie Penpals in Europe.

Here’s the rough outline of how it works:

  • All interested parties in the UK and Europe – bloggers and blog readers alike – sign up by the form available at the bottom of this post
  • Participants are matched on the 5th of the month
  • Penpals send thoughtful, food related parcels, on or before the 20th of the month. The parcel must include something hand written – a note explaining the box’s contents, a recipe card, whatever you like. The price limit for the boxes is £10 – this is a limit, the point is not the cost, but the thought (no, really!)
  • Penpals open their boxes and rejoice!
  • At the end of the month, everyone blogs about their box, or writes a guest blog post if they are usually a blog reader and not writer. Everyone reads one another’s posts and rejoices some more. Posts are made available on Lindsay’s blog so we can all find each other easily
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Making Meringues

I am sure that you may have noticed by now that I use a lot of egg yolks – in stuff like custards, mayonnaises, pasta, pastry and sauces. This leaves me with a lot of egg whites to use up.  Since I hate waste, I try always to use them, which invariably means making macaroons, and meringues. I need to expand this repertoire, so expect to see consommés and more stir fries appearing here soon. If you have other suggestions for using up egg whites (although not the egg-white omelette, please, some things are a step too far, even for me!) feel free to leave them in the comments.

I had originally intended to make advocaat, in keeping with the Anglo-Dutch theme for my party, but I ran out of time. However, this time, the advocaat was actually the by-product of the intention to make meringues, instead of the usual situation where I have a load of egg whites left over from something else. No one missed the advocaat, anyway!

Since I make them so much, I thought that I would share my technique here. I haven’t given a recipe, as it will depend on how many egg whites you have and to some extent how old they are.

Start by heating the oven to 110°C. Then measure out  45 g sugar for each egg white. I like to use raw cane sugar, but you can also use caster, granulated or icing sugar. I have also seen sugar solution, but that seems to be for Italian or Swiss style meringues, and I tend to stick with French. It is possible to use soft brown sugar, but be aware that this makes it very hard to get a crisp, dry meringue. I think this technique may be best left alone or, if you insist, only use it to top lemon meringue pie.

Put the egg whites in a very clean bowl. There must be no fat or detergent in it. If you are unsure, wipe it with the cut side of a lemon (or other citrus), which will act as a degreaser. If the bowl has any fat, it may affect the ability of the eggs to maintain the air that you are about to whip into them. The same goes if there are any traces of egg yolk, so be careful when separating the egg, too. Note that the fresher the egg, the less likely that the egg yolk is to break when you separate it.

Next, whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. This is when the egg whites look drier, the whisk or a spoon will create peaks when you remove it from the mixture, and if you are brave, you can upend the bowl and the egg white will not slide out. I would advise using an electric whisk if you don’t want it to take you hours.

Egg Whites at the Stiff Peak stage

The stiff peak - sadly lacking in many ski resorts this year

Then, a tablespoon at a time, add the sugar and whisk in thoroughly before you add the next spoonful. The egg white will stiffen further, as you add the sugar. At this stage, you are beating to incorporate the sugar, not to add any further air, so it won’t increase in volume.

Egg Whites plus half the required sugar

About half way through - stiffer and peakier, but not more voluminous

Keep adding the sugar, and whipping, a tablespoon at a time. Eventually, the mixture will become really stiff, to the point of being really hard to work,  and will look shiny. This is when you stop adding sugar. Because I use cane sugar, I find I need less than the stated 45 g per egg white. If you are using caster or icing sugar, you may find that you need to use all of it. This is also fine.

Finished Meringue mix

The final product - glossy, thick and much harder to beat

Don’t add more sugar than needed to get to this stiff consistency (or than the 45 g, whichever happens to come first), otherwise your meringues will leach sugar. This does not really affect the taste, but it does give them a rather unattractive look. A bit like a tree that is leaching sap.

Now your meringue is ready to be shaped. You need to line a baking sheet with some greaseproof paper. You can stick it down with oil or by dabbing a bit of the meringue in each corner and the centre of the paper and using this as glue to stick it to the baking sheet. Once the baking sheet is ready, you need to choose what shape and size you are going to have your meringue. You may wish to have it as a pavlova, in which case you need to shape one large disc, with slightly elevated sides, to hold the fruit in. I normally go for individual ones, because these are better for parties or for sharing. Most commonly, I will get two spoons and shape individual quenelles, which can then be stuck together with cream and fruit in a sandwich. However, I wanted to fill these with Chestnut Jam, so I decided that mini versions of the pavlova-style would be better suited to the task.

Some people would use a piping bag for that, but I lack the finesse, and the piping bags, so I made do with shaping them with two spoons. You can try either, I think both are just as good. I made them vaguely circular, like a nest.

Meringue nests

Not sure what I did here, but you get the meringue nest picture

Then it is ready to go in the oven. Bake the meringues for up to 1 ½ hours (but check after 1). If you have made one large pavlova style meringue, you will need longer – check after 1 ½, and leave in the oven up to 2 hours.

A Meringue nest

Meringue nest - a better view

The idea is not really that the meringue cooks, more that it dries out. You need to check that it is no longer soggy to the touch, and that it generates a hollow sound when tapped very gently on the base.It will have darkened a little, even if you use icing sugar. Mine are generally more golden than off-white, because the unrefined sugar I use is a light brown.

When you get the hollow sound, it is done. If it is at all possible, turn off the oven, but leave the meringue in there to continue to dry overnight. This will give the best result, but it will be OK if you leave it to cool outside the confines of the oven.

Once it is done, fill it with fruit, cream, fruit and cream, jam, or serve it with ice cream, mash it up with fruit and cream to make Eton Mess – whatever you like, really.

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