Monday 6 September 2010

Magic Marbled Microwave 'Meringues'

I'm not a maker of cupcakes or sweet fancies, but this recipe intrigued me, because it's quite unlike anything I've seen before. How can a stiff paste of unbeaten egg white and three cups of icing sugar make anything meringue-like? I had my doubts, but was interested enough to hotfoot it to the supermarket to buy several bottles of eye-poppingly bright food colouring.

Magic Marbled Microwave 'Meringues'
The recipe, which appeared in a local newspaper under the byline of Angela Day (a pseudonym used by the writers of a food feature that is run every week in newspapers of the Independent Group, and which first started in The Star in 1964), was accompanied by a photograph of some dainty, rather flattened pale-pink meringues sandwiched with whipped cream.

My enthusiasm turned to frustration within minutes. There wasn't enough egg white to bind the specified amount of icing sugar into a pliable paste. The marble-sized balls of meringue puffed up dramatically, and then flattened out to burnt-sugar discs.  Some of them caught fire. Others unfurled and then exploded. I tried shortening the cooking time, but the 'meringues' turned into sticky globs. Those bits that did escape incineration tasted like over-sugared air.

But, by gad, I was not going to be defeated. Three batches later, after much experimentation and swearing,  I'd used almost a kilogram of icing sugar, covered the kitchen in a sticky layer of goo, and stained my fingers in all the colours of the rainbow. But I had what looked, and almost tasted like, a meringue. The flattening problem was fixed by using paper cups (instead of placing blobs on a piece of baking paper); the explosion issue was resolved by cooking at least six meringues at a time.

Six important points about this recipe.

First, the drawbacks:

- These are not true meringues: their texture is too dusty, they are overly sweet, and they have none of the delicate, billowing loveliness of a proper oven-dried meringue.

- You will need to experiment with the cooking times. Every microwave oven is different, and it may take a few tries before you figure out the optimum number of seconds - and yes, seconds count here - it takes to cook the meringues to a perfect crispness.  For this reason, I recommend that you make a double batch of the paste (cover whatever you're not using with clingfilm) to allow for mistakes.

Second , the reasons I like this recipe:

- These are a perfect, last-minute sweetie-treat for birthday parties and cake sales. They are quick to make, and look very pretty, especially when sprinkled, just before cooking, with edible cake glitter.

- This is a wonderful recipe to make with kids: there is something magical about the way the meringues puff up, quadrupling in size, as they cook.

- These are a great standbye if you're making Eton Mess, or any recipe that calls for crumbled meringues (but do omit the food colouring).

- They remain super-crispy for at least 12 hours, and get crisper the longer they stand.

Magic Marbled Microwave Meringues

3 cups (750 ml) icing sugar
2 egg whites
1 tsp (5ml) vanilla extract or essence
food colouring
edible cake glitter (optional)

Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl.  Put the egg whites and vanilla into a separate, small bowl, and whisk very lightly for 30 seconds, or until the mixture is lightly frothed and smooth, with no gloopy bits.

Make a well in the centre of the icing sugar, and add a tablespoon of the egg white/vanilla mix. Using a spoon, or your fingers, mix well, adding a little more egg white as you go - less than a teaspoon at a time - so that you end up with a rather stiff, but pliable, paste. If you add too much egg white, and the mixture seems too runny, sift some more icing sugar into the bowl.

Magic Marbled Microwave Meringues
Add a few drops of food colouring to each hole.
Tip the paste onto a board covered with a sheet of baking paper and knead lightly with your fingertips for a minute.

Poke two holes, using a fingertip, into the paste. Add a few drops of different food colouring to each hole.

Lightly knead the paste again, twisting and turning as you go, to achieve a marbled effect. If you don't want to stain your fingers, wrap the paste in a big piece of clingfilm or put it in a polythene bag.

Make the meringues six at a time. Pinch off  pieces of the paste (the size of a large marble) and place each one in a paper case.

Sprinkle with a little edible cake glitter, if you have it.

Cover the remaining paste to prevent if from drying out. Arrange the six paper cases in a circle on the turntable of your microwave oven.

Magic Marbled Microwave Meringues
Set the time for two minutes, on high, and press the start button.  Watch the meringues closely as they cook: after 45 seconds or so, depending on the power of your microwave, they will billow upwards with great flamboyance.

Once they've stopped billowing, cook them for another 30-40 seconds (again, you will need to experiment here).   Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Makes about 40 'meringues'

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Greymuppett (Rae) said...

They look ever so pretty. I am going to make them this afternoon.
Cheers Rae

Aaron John said...

Omg. I never thought meringues could be cooked in a microwave! What a great idea! Looks great!
Would you mind checking out my blog? :D

Chantel said...

mmm num num num!

Paula said...

looks so great!

Marisa said...

Never would've thought you could make something akin to meringues in the microwave! This looks great for a quick treat.

Maryon said...

What fun....I must have a go!

Anonymous said...

I have been trying to make meringues with a sugar substitute - and what you describe is how they come out!

Oxana said...

WOW!!!! Che belli sono!!! Complimenti! Bellissimo:)))
Un bacione

Betty Bake said...

thanks for visiting my blog :)
wow interesting meringues - how did you discover this?


Zabwan said...

These are amazing - I'll give them a try next time I need to make soemthing sweet in a hurry! I enjoyed your very honest blog, had a good chuckle!

Ally_R said...

These are so beautiful! Love, love LOVE the pink! :)

redkathy said...

Oh my gosh simply fabulous! A beautiful display as well :)

Jeanne @ CookSister! said...

"Meringues" in a microwave? Surely now I have seen it all ;-) WHo knew. These look even prettier before they are cooked!

Sticky Penguin said...

Oh, my dad absolutely adores microwaved meringues... but now that I finally have a stand mixer, it's time to try the proper version at last (this was fun to read, as the "proper version" mystify me as much as these ones initially did you!)

Rae said...

Thank you Juno. Yes we are very biased about our Grandies. Mind you with them living in Germany we don't get to see them that often. Talk a lot on the phone and skype of course. I haven't tried the meringues yet... Will let you know when I do. It's not only the meringues I want to try. How about all your recipes....
Cheers Rae

Homemade Heaven said...

This recipe takes me back to primary school when my folks bought our first microwave oven - complete with recipe book which included these meringues. I remember the same trials and tribulations - unlike you we gave up after the third fire!
They go look very pretty though.

vanie said...

I must admit, I was blown away, when I made this. Its on the menu for tonight, and half of it was eaten by the staff, I managed to save 16 for the buffet. Hope my guest enjoy them. I used different food coloring as well.

Anonymous said...

Hmm... I made these just now and they're really good. They remind me of cotton candy. :)

Macflyette said...

Thanks for the recipe ! It's very good and VERY fast.

Tiago said...

Microwaves are a fast and cleen solution for those who don´t have the time to wait a oven coccion or just want to get things done easier. Last year I have lived in an Argentina Apartments and my roommate taught me to use the microwave for cook and now I love it!!!

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