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Christmas Meringue with Berries


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Ingredients

  • 200g room temperature egg white
  • 440g caster sugar, powdered in a blender
  • 2 x 70g Wheel&Barrow silver cachous to finish
  • 500g room temperature strawberries, hulled and cut in half
  • 200g fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 50g dark palm sugar, finely grated
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 250g thick pure cream

Method
 Pre-heat oven to 125°C, and cover three baking sheets with baking paper. Fill the mixing bowl with hot water and let it stand for 2-3 minutes, tip out the water and dry the bowl. Whisk the egg whites at high speed until they are very stiff and coming away from the edge of the bowl in clumps, and only then, start adding the sugar a tablespoon at a time until fully incorporated. Continue whipping until the meringue is very stiff and has the appearance of satin fabric. Fill the piping bag and pipe onto the baking tray a 7cm ring, and a 5cm cone, then pipe 8 x 18cm, 6 x 16cm, 5 x 12cm and 5 x 8cm sticks and divide any remaining meringue into more sticks. Gently shake the cachous onto the sticks, rolling the trays from side to side to catch any run-away cachous. Cook for 10 minutes at 125°C, then, without opening the oven door, turn the oven down to 100°C and set a timer for 3 hours. Again without opening the oven door turn the heat off and allow to cool in the oven. The sticks can be made several days in advance and stored in an airtight container in a cool dry place.

To Finish
Put everything except the cream into a bowl and gently mix together. Put a bit of cream onto the plate to secure the first meringue to the cake stand and continue to assemble the tree shape alternating between fruit and meringue sticks that have been spread with a little cream to secure them. Finish the top with the ring and cone. Any left over sticks can be served as petit fours with coffee.

Extra Tips
The two reasons that cooks have trouble with meringue is they take the egg white straight from the fridge and secondly they don’t beat their egg whites long enough before they start adding the sugar. Cooking is chemistry and if you try and dissolve sugar in a glass of ice water it is easy to understand why the egg white needs to be warm and the sugar works better if its powdered. Stale egg white, egg white that has been left at room temperature for three to four days also whips better – scientific fact! Why grams and not a number of eggs? With the eggs available on the market pace egg white size varies as much as 15g from small to jumbo eggs. Also the weight of egg white taken from eggs straight from the fridge is less than from room temperature eggs, so a weight makes very good sense.          
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