With Christmas just around the corner it's time to get into the spirit of the days and make the most out of the festive season with minimum stress and maximum enjoyment. Here to give you a helping hand is this easy recipe for home made meringues (or pavlovas, to me they're just the same if the centre is soft!) which you can decorate to your taste and which will look great for those extra special Instagram photos! I am trying this one over the weekend!STAGE ONE: UP TO 3 DAYS AHEAD (40 minutes)
4 medium egg whites
½ tsp lemon juice
225 g (8oz) caster sugar
1. Put the egg whites and sugar in a large bowl. Make sure it’s spotlessly clean as even a trace of grease can prevent the egg whites from whisking up properly. Sit the bowl over a pan of very gently simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Use a wooden spoon to stir the mixture until the sugar has dissolved and the egg white is warm to the touch – about 10min.
Mason Cash Baker Street Batter Bowl, £19.99 House of Fraser
2. Remove the bowl from the heat and sit it on a tea-towel on the work surface to prevent it slipping about. Use an electric whisk to beat the egg whites until the mixture is cold, glossy and stands in stiff, shiny peaks when the whisk is lifted from the bowl. This will take a good 15min – any less and the meringue won’t hold its shape in the oven.
Rice Tea Towls, £18.99, House of Fraser
Dualit 89303 Hand Mixer, Canvas White, £59.95, John Lewis
3. Preheat the oven to 170ºC. Cover one large baking sheet with nonstick baking parchment or a silicone mat. To shape the meringues, hold one large dessertspoon in each hand and take a scoop of mixture. With the other spoon, scrape it against the first spoon to lift the mixture off. Repeat twice more to make a rough oval shape, then push onto the lined baking sheet. Repeat to use up all the mixture – you should end up with 12 meringues. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave the meringues in the oven to dry out overnight.
Eddingtons Retro Kitchen Timer, Red, £15 John Lewis
Linea cooling rack, 38 x 25.5cm, £6.50, House of Fraser
STAGE TWO: UP TO 2HR BEFORE SERVING
75 g (3oz) white chocolate, broken into small pieces
500 ml (17fl oz) double cream
25 g (1oz) icing sugar, sifted, plus extra to dust
½ vanilla bean pod (or 1tsp vanilla bean paste)
150 g (5oz) raspberries, crushed
Fresh berries, to garnish - you can use redcurrants, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries and blueberries
1. Melt the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Set aside to cool for 5min. Brush a thin layer of melted chocolate over the top of each meringue, leaving a 1cm (½in) border around the edges. Leave to set for 10min. The chocolate layer acts as a barrier, stopping the cream from making the meringue too soggy.
2. Put the cream, icing sugar and seeds scraped from the vanilla pod (or vanilla bean paste) into a large bowl. Whisk until the cream is just thickened. Gently fold in the crushed raspberries. If the cream doesnt just hold its shape, gently continue to whisk until it does. If it looks too thick and buttery, fold in a little milk until you have the desired consistency.
3. Top each meringue with a spoonful of raspberry cream. Decorate with berries, then dust lightly with icing sugar or crushed pistachios for extra colour. Arrange on a cake stand and serve when ready.
PiP Studio Fantasy Plate, Blue from £7.25, John Lewis
Ted Baker Rosie Lee Side Plate, White, £18, John Lewis
PiP Studio Royal Cake Plate, Dia.17cm, £9, John Lewis
Recipe reproduced from Good Housekeeping, Christmas 2011 edition