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The earliest documented recipe for a baked beaten-egg-white-and-sugar confection is recorded in 1604 by Lady Elinor Fettiplace who lived near Oxford U.K. but for this article I have tips from Sharon Wake, (SW), Rita Pereira (RP) and Sue Lyon (SL) plus Avó Clara.
Rosemary Adams must be a Queen of meringue makers. At a WRVS Quiz night, she made meringues to accompany strawberries and cream. There were 80 plus people dining and she made 210 meringues for the occasion. We all had at least 2 meringues each and some people a lot more! The Quiz night raised more than 1.800€ for the Cheshire home so all Rosemary’s hard work brought results.
Sharon Wake’s (SW) recipe for Meringue Pavlova
Pavlova is a meringue based dessert topped with cream and fruit. (Originally made for Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, nowadays an Australian and New Zealand national dish.)
3 egg whites
1 teaspoon of cornflour
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
½ teaspoon distilled malt vinegar
175grams/6 oz. caster sugar
Draw a 17.5 cm (7”) circle on greaseproof paper and place on baking tray.
Beat the egg whites until very stiff then gradually beat in the sugar.
Beat in the cornflour, vinegar and vanilla.
Beat until very stiff and glossy.
Spread 1/3 of mixture over the circle and use the remaining mixture to form sides either piping or spooning in to place.
Bake at 140°C fan assisted oven for about 1 hour or until firm. Leave to cool and then remove the paper. Fill the Pavlova with whipped cream and arrange chosen fruit on top.
Or you can spoon or pipe the mixture in small amounts on to greaseproof paper to make individual meringues.
SL– 3 large whites will make a Pavlova and egg whites can be frozen.
To make the best meringue ensure the egg white is at room temperature.
Eggs are better if they are 3-4 days old
The sugar should be good quality and Caster if possible.
Guide 50g of good quality sugar to each white of a large egg.
RP – Weigh your eggs and then put equal weight of sugar.
RP- You must start with a clean DRY bowl, as the egg whites will not whip if there is any water in the mixture and make sure your mixing bowl has plenty of space to whip the egg whites really well.
Wipe the bowl round with lemon juice to remove any grease and plastic bowls are not recommended.
You need and electric whisk or a strong arm.
SW – Always leave the meringue to cool in the turned off oven for several hours or overnight, a tip endorsed by SL and RP.
RP- sets the oven to 120°C but turns it to 100°C when she puts the meringue in. She then leaves it for 2 hours and feels to see if the edge is hard, it can be in for 4 hours, but just very low as all you are doing is drying the meringue out.
My husband remembers his Avó Clara, putting meringues on greaseproof paper on the windowsill under cover of a net to dry in the sun and she used lemon juice in the mixture.
RP’s tips. Add the sugar bit by bit while the machine is still running. When it is ready it should be glossy, if you are adding vinegar or corn flour add last and just a quick whizz with the machine. I never use vanilla in my meringue as it can be a really overpowering flavour. Oh yes an important point I use the litre packets of Gresso fresh cream with a 40% fat content that you can buy in Makro, it whips beautifully and holds its shape.
As for the egg yolks I store them in a dish in the fridge covered with just cold water and cling film (stops them drying out) and use them for scrambled eggs, mayonnaise, or mixed with milk and cream as a topping for a flan, and you can make arroz doce.
SL– Does NOT add vinegar as she feels it doesn’t seem to make any difference.
Sue uses the yokes for homemade ice cream! In fact it might work the other way round, the ice cream comes first and she freezes the egg whites until they are needed.
Tips I have found
To improve the chances of achieving a stable foam, adding a little acid such as vinegar, lemon juice after the sugar, makes them crisp on the outside and soft and sticky on the inside. Adding a stabilizing mixture such as corn flour or cream of tartar to the egg whites will stabilize the meringue and prevent the egg proteins from overcooking, which causes shrinkage, beading or creeping in the meringue. But our experts have different opinions on this.
Swiss meringue Tip the egg whites and sugar in the usual proportions into a heatproof bowl and whisk with a hand electric whisk over a pan of simmering water until you get thick, glossy and pure white foam, this takes about 5 minutes. You don’t even need to cook it in the oven, just spread it over the filling and give it a quick blowtorch or a flash under the grill. This meringue will not deflate for a long time and takes flavourings really well; throw in a few chopped pistachios, chunks of chocolate, frosted rose petals or whatever takes your fancy.
If all else fails in Portugal you can buy very good meringues (suspiros).