Ultimate baby meringues & hazelnut praline

Ultimate baby meringues & hazelnut praline

I usually make pavlovas for supper parties as they look impressive and taste divine (is there a better combination than freshly whipped cream and light as a feather meringue?).

However, this weekend I decided to make some baby meringues which I could keep in an airtight tin and serve with ice cream or whipped cream as an instant pudding after weekday suppers. I used this simple recipe from Good Food magazine (June 2003) and we were very pleased with how they turned out.

Additionally I had a crack at making some hazelnut praline – no idea why I’ve never made it before because it was sooooo easy and it is soooooo delish! It made a great addition, when broken up, to the whipped cream in the middle of the meringues.

Ultimate baby meringues & hazelnut praline

Ingredients Makes 12 – 16 meringues
4 large organic free range egg whites at room temperature
115g caster sugar
115g icing sugar
For the hazelnut praline: 50g caster sugar, 50g hazelnuts

How to prepare
Preheat the oven to fan 100C/ conventional 110C/gas 1⁄4. Line 2 baking sheets with Bake-O-Glide non-stick liner or parchment paper (meringue can stick on greaseproof paper and foil).
Tip the 4 large egg whites into a large clean mixing bowl (not plastic). Beat them on medium speed with an electric hand whisk until the mixture resembles a fluffy cloud and stands up in stiff peaks when the blades are lifted.
Now turn the speed up and start to add115g caster sugar, a dessertspoonful at a time. Continue beating for 3-4 seconds between each addition. It’s important to add the sugar slowly at this stage as it helps prevent the meringue from weeping later. However, don’t over-beat. When ready, the mixture should be thick and glossy.
Sift one third of the 115g icing sugar over the mixture, then gently fold it in with a big metal spoon or rubber spatula. Continue to sift and fold in the remaining icing sugar a third at a time. Again, don’t over-mix. The mixture should now look smooth and billowy, almost like a snow drift.
Scoop up a heaped dessertspoonful of the mixture. Using another dessertspoon, ease it on to the baking sheet to make an oval shape (pic 3). Or just drop them in rough rounds, if you prefer. Bake for 1 1⁄2-1 3⁄4 hours in a fan oven, 1 1⁄4 hours in a conventional or gas oven, until the meringues sound crisp when tapped underneath and are a pale coffee colour. Leave to cool on the trays or a cooling rack. (The meringues will now keep in an airtight tin for up to 2 weeks, or frozen for a month.) Serve two meringues sandwiched together with a generous dollop of softly whipped double cream.

Ultimate baby meringues & hazelnut pralineTo make the hazelnut praline, warm a small heavy-based pan over a medium heat and cook the caster sugar until it melts and turns a rich caramel colour – don’t panic if it seems to take a while, but do watch the pan as it suddenly liquidises. Carefully swirl the hazelnuts around the pan (be careful, the sugar is very hot) and allow them to caramelise and brown – about 2 mins. Pour the mixture out onto a tray lined with baking paper. Leave to cool. Finely chop and add to the cream mixture before sandwiching two of the meringues together.

You can use the left over egg yolks by adding another couple of whole eggs and scrambling with butter, salt & pepper (ie no milk) until they are just starting to solidify, then pour onto toast. Absolutely yum on a Sunday morning and probably the reason I am ever so slightly overweight. But happy.