I've been thinking of attempting a spectacular pavlova for New Years Eve, so I figured these wonderfully oversized meringues were a good starting point in my dessert learning curve! The beauty of these frothy concoctions is that they look fabulous no matter how weird and wonderfully shaped they are, which certainly suits my less than precise cooking style....
The recipe below is adapted from a pistachio and rosewater version in the brilliant Ottolenghi cookbook.
RECIPE FOR GIANT VANILLA MERINGUES
You will need,
600g Caster Sugar
300g free-range egg whites (approx 10)
2 tsp of vanilla extract (I like to use Nielsen-Massey vanilla extract)
1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C/gas mark 6. Spread the caster sugar evenly over a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Place the tray in the oven for approximately 8 minutes, or until the sugar is hot. You should begin to see it dissolving at the edges.
2. While the sugar is in the oven, place the egg whites in the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment. When the sugar is almost ready, start the machine on high speed and let it work for a minute or so, until the whites just begin to froth up.
3. Carefully pour the hot sugar slowly onto the whisking egg whites. Once it has all been added, add the vanilla extract and continue whisking on high speed for 10 minutes or until the meringue is cold. At this point it should keep it's shape when you lift a bit from the bowl and the mixture should look silky. (At this point taste the mixture and fold in some more vanilla extract, depending on the level of vanilla flavour you prefer.)
4. Turn down the oven temperature to 110 degrees C. To shape the meringues, line a baking tray or two (depending on how giant they are!!) with baking parchment, sticking it firmly to the tray with a bit of meringue.
5. Have ready a large kitchen spoon. Use the spoon to scoop up a big dollop of meringue, the size of a medium apple, and then gently place it on the lined baking tray. Repeat with the rest of the mixture. The meringues will almost double in size in the oven, so be sure to allow enough space between them.
6. Place in the preheated 110 degrees C oven and leave them there for about 2 hours. Check if they are done by lifting them from the tray and very gently prodding to make sure the outside is completely firm, whilst the centre is still a little soft. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. The meringues will keep in a dry place, at room temperature, for quite a few days.