Here’s something you might not know – I only got into baking about a year or so ago. My grandma was an avid baker and she lived with us when I was a young child. I vividly remember the days I would head up to her ‘granny flat’ and we would bake together for hours. One of the things I’ll always remember is a ‘neapolitan’ style cupcake that she used to make – she somehow separated each one into quarters – two were plain cake mixture, one was pink and strawberry flavoured, and one was brown and chocolate flavoured. I’d love to give them a go one day. When I was about 7, she sadly went into a nursing home, and that’s where the baking ended. My mum, while being a superb cook, doesn’t really like baking. And when we moved to Cyprus, there was even less baking going on – it was so hot, that the last thing you wanted to be doing was slaving away in the kitchen – most food was cooked and eaten outdoors.
However, a couple of years ago, browsing through a magazine, I came across brightly coloured meringue ‘kisses’ (as they became known). They were so striking and looked delicious, and I’ve always had a soft spot for meringue. So I looked into who made them and found out they were the creation of Meringue Girls – I’m sure you’ll have heard of them by now, they’ve become incredibly successful! I bought their book, my very first ‘baking’ book rather than a savoury recipe book, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Some bakers I’ve spoken to since say that they find making meringue really challenging, so it seems I threw myself into the deep end!
One of my favourite recipes is for ‘Cookie Dough Meringue Slices’ and as yesterday was World Baking Day, I thought I’d make some:
For the cookie dough base
250g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
170g unsalted butter, melted
100g light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
150g chocolate chips – I used a mixture of both milk and dark chocolate
For the meringue topping
4 medium egg whites
240g caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 180c and line a baking tin with baking paper.
Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a bowl.
In a pan, melt the butter, add the vanilla extract and sugar, and mix until combined.
Pour this into the bowl of the sifted ingredients and mix together to form the base of the slices.
Place it onto the baking tin and press it out until it spreads across the whole tin. Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top and press them gently into the dough.
Bake the base for about 15 minutes. Keep an eye on it and make sure it doesn’t overcook – it can still be a bit soft at this stage.
Now make the meringue! Meringue Girls have a method where they heat up caster sugar in the oven, which no doubt makes them taste a bit nicer, but in the interest of time, I used it straight from the packet.
Separate the eggs and keep the 4 egg whites. Whisk them until fluffy and you can create small peaks.
Slowly add in the sugar, continuing to whisk, until you can form strong peaks. The traditional test is to hold the bowl over your head – if it doesn’t drop out, it’s ready 😉 It’s really important not to rush this step – the meringue mixture needs to be thick. I’ve made that mistake in the past when I was being rather impatient and ended up with stodgy, flat meringues.
Spoon the meringue mixture over the cookie dough base, covering the whole thing – try and create a bit of height on the top with your spoon to give it some texture.
Carefully cover with some baking paper and put into the oven (still at the same temperature) for 10 minutes.
Remove the baking paper to give the top of the meringue some colour, and bake for another 5 minutes. Keep an eye on it – you want it to be nicely browned, not burnt!
I baked some of these for a charity sale at my last company and they went down a storm – you get the best of both worlds – a buttery, chocolatey base with soft, sweet meringue on top.