Sunday bake off: Making magnificent meringues

As a born-and-bred New Zealander, I naturally feel a sense of ownership and fondness towards the Pavlova. Equally, as someone who has adopted the UK as their home for the last 7 years, I love a good Eton mess. My experiences with baking meringue, both in it's huge pavlova form and mini-mounds of crunchy goodness, have always been somewhat hit-and-miss.  My mother is the queen of Pav baking. My sister creates decadent mounds piled high on a cake stand with whipped cream and fruit that looks like it's leapt straight off one of the pages of an Ottolenghi cookbook. My attempts? Either magnificent or pathetic.  Either, 'Oh look it's perfect!' or (more likely), 'Oh crap, it's a disaster'. This week for a last supper with a friend, who is all visa-approved off to New York after 20 years in London, I decided to give meringue making another crack and try and work out if there is a tried-and-true method. My friend's also originally from NZ, so in a nod to both his childhood and his adult years in London, something somewhere between Eton Mess and Pavlova seemed appropriate. Making magnificent meringues Inspired by Leigh's post on Rosewater and Pistachio meringues, I considered giving my old-favourite Ottolenghi's recipe a go. But I found myself turning towards the very gorgeous Love Bake Nourish by Amber Rose (yet another expat New Zealander). A gift from my sister, it's become my go-to baking cookbook these days. I've tried out several recipes and they've all been a success. I'm a huge fan of using maple syrup, raw sugar, spelt flour and unusual ingredients, and this book is full of nourishing recipes using interesting and natural ingredients. (Her lovely instagram is worth a follow too for daily prettiness and inspiration.) Love Bake Nourish Maple syrup meringues (adapted from Love Bake Nourish by Amber Rose) Serves 6 to 8, depending on size. Or three people who REALLY love meringue. 2 teaspoons cornflour 2 teaspoons cider vinegar 6 large free-range eggs whites (I used medium sized eggs as that was all I could get nearby) Pinch of salt 200g unrefined golden caster sugar (I used raw granulated sugar) 2 tablespoons of maple syrup 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (I'd run out but didn't worry about it) IMG_2800 1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Or thereabouts if you're temperatures have worn off the oven like mine. Line baking sheets with baking paper. I only needed one baking sheet but you might need two depending on how big you'd like your meringues. Eggs yolks 2. Save your yolks for breakfast/dinner tomorrow. Mix the cornflour and vinegar well in a little bowl until well combined and lump free. 3. I used my kitchen aid mixer for this step which is a blessing when it comes to making meringues. I have made them successfully with a hand mixer too.  Whisk the eggs whites with the salt until stiff peaks form. 4. Add the sugar a tablespoon at a time, alternating with really small amounts of the vinegar mix. Whipping up a storm 5. Keep going until it's all combined. The meringue should be really thick and glossy. At this stage it looked just how I remembered my mum's best pavlova mixtures. 6. Add the fold syrup, folding through with a metal spoon. Pile high in mounds on the baking tray. You should get about 6-8. 7. Put in the oven and immediately turn the oven down to 100 degrees C. Bake for about 1.5 to 2 hours, then turn the oven off and let the meringues cool in the oven. Meringues TA-DA! Amber Rose' recipe then goes on to make caramelised pears to serve atop the meringues. I'm not a fan of pears (does anyone else think they are gritty?) so topped mine with fresh strawberries, raspberries, chopped roasted hazelnuts and whipped cream. DELISH. Chewy, a little crunchy and a bit fluffy. Sadly, we'd a had a few too many wines by the time I dished them up so there are no photos. The secret to making the perfect meringue? I think it's down to a little patience, a lot of whipping and very fresh free-range eggs. The right temperature oven (mine is always a guesstimate as the temps have been cleaned off!) plays a big part, and the time to leave them to cool in the oven. It's a good idea to make them the night before and turn off the oven before you go to bed. If you take them out before they've cooled, you run the risk of collapsing and cracking meringues. And I think the maple syrup really gives extra chewiness and flavour. Have you ever tried making meringues or pavlova? What's your secret? x C