The secret of meringue making is essentially capturing air. Protein from egg whites give structure and creates air pockets, sugar adds flavour and stability, whilst cream of tartar adds volume. Heat during baking sets the protein trapping in the suspended air – Elle Townsend
Mr R and I were thrilled to receive an invite from The Crown Inn at Hallow, to their very first ever Meringue Making Masterclass evening. The event was held in the garden tipi where Elle Townsend was going to teach us everything we needed to know about how to perfect the art of meringue making. On arrival we were shown to a table and given a glass of prosecco each to start things off. An intimate gathering of around 25 guests, eager to learn news skills, were seated around the room.
Some very appetising canapés were handed to us, starting with a parmesan arancini with a cherry tomato consommé. To follow was a smoked salmon mousse with a roast lemon purée, and finally a bacon and walnut cookie. If these mouth-watering tasters were anything to go by, the food at The Crown is seriously worth checking out.
Elle introduced herself to the group and explained that there are 3 basic meringue methods; French, Swiss and Italian. The meringue kisses recipe she was going to demonstrate for us was a combination of French and Swiss, as it provides a very stable base. So we could start picking up some useful tips, Elle got straight on with baking her meringues.
The first job was to weigh the caster sugar and bake for 5-7 minutes, until the sugar begins to melt around the edges. Whilst heating, the egg whites and cream of tartar are whisked at high speed. Elle explains that if you have an amount of egg whites (say 150g), you can weigh it in grams, double it and this will give your sugar quantity (300g) and overall meringue recipe. Although fresh eggs are always best for meringue making, Elle revealed that she tends to use Two Chicks liquid egg whites as she bakes commercially.
Next the hot sugar and egg whites needed to be combined, and the meringue whisked until the mixing bowl is cool and the sugar has dissolved. As this can take a little while, it was a great opportunity for people to go up and see for themselves how the mixture should look. A few of the lesser experienced bakers in the room (myself included), hadn’t appreciated how long it takes for meringue to cook. Elle’s advice was to reduce your oven temperature to the lowest possible setting, and if that still seems too warm, then you can prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon. Low and slow gives the best results.
Elle showed us some great tips for transferring the mixture into the piping bag, although admitted that even she ends up with sticky meringue everywhere. It’s a messy business. Creativity is key at this point, and you can select different nozzles for a variety of shapes, sizes and effects. Another top tip was to use gel based colourings rather than liquid or oil as they can cause your meringues to collapse. After demonstrating how the meringue kisses should be piped, Elle then took the tray around the room for us to have a go for ourselves. I have to say that Mr R made a very good first attempt.
Elle had put some of the piped mixture into the oven earlier in the evening to ensure there was time to see the finished result. Meanwhile we were handed 3 different flavours of meringue to taste and to try and guess what they were. I won’t spoil it for you in case you are booked onto the next masterclass, but lets just say there were one or 2 surprises. A bowl filled with beautifully piped and coloured meringues was also left on each table for us to sample throughout the evening, as well as being able to fill our own bags with a variety of kisses that Elle had prepared for the group to take home.
We were given the full recipe to try for ourselves (watch this space), as well as Elle’s top 10 tips for meringue making, to help minimise any disasters whilst attempting to put our new skills to the test. Following a very successful evening The Crown at Hallow plan to host further Meringue Making Masterclasses, with the next one having a Christmas theme. Keep an eye on their website for updates and future dates.