Tips Before Starting:
DO NOT get any grease or fat in the mixture (that means making sure absolutely no egg yolk gets in when you're separating the eggs). Grease stops the egg whites from being able to have air whipped into it properly.
You're not actually going to bake the meringue at 180°C- we preheat the oven at this temperature to sort of 'shock' the meringue into seizing up when you first put it in the oven, but then immediately turn the oven down to 130°C to let the meringue cook very slowly so it gets crispy on the outside but stays chewy on the inside, whilst staying snowy white- in fact it's more like drying out than baking. If you leave the oven at 180°C, your meringue will overcook and go all brown.
Ingredients for Meringue:
- 6 Egg whites
- 350g Caster sugar
- 1tbsp Cornflour
Ingredients for Filling:
- 284ml Elmlea Double Light whipped with 1tsp vanilla bean paste, or vanilla extract (or if you don't mind about the calories, any double/ heavy cream)
- 1 Small punnet of good strawberries, hulled and halved
- 1 Punnet of good raspberries
First of all, preheat your oven to 180°C (Gas mark 4), and line a flat, wide baking tray with baking parchment (and dust it well with cornflour so that your meringue doesn't stick).
With an electric whisk (or a hand whisk- up to you if you want an insane workout), beat the egg white until they start to become frothy.
At this point, sift in the cornflour, and carry on whisking until the egg whites are so white and stiff you can turn the bowl upside down over your head and stay clean (I swear). This is also called 'stiff peak' stage because the egg whites will stand up in peaks by themselves when you pull the whisk out without flopping over.
Managed to turn the bowl upside-down? Good. Now whip the sugar in until it's glossy and smooth. You now have a meringue mixture!
Spoon or pipe your mixture into a nice, thick disc onto your lined and well-dusted baking tray (you can see I've piped it with a star tip to get the swirls in the picture), and whack it in the oven, IMMEDIATELY turning the heat down to 130°C (Gas mark 1/2) when you put it in.
Bake for about an hour and try to resist from opening the oven door and peaking- you don't want the cold air coming in to crack it.
Hour over? Awesome. Turn the oven off, and crack the oven open very slightly- and leave your meringue in there to cool slowly. Taking it straight out into the cold air will make it crack.
Once it's cool, the hardest bit is usually getting the meringue onto a plate without breaking it. If you've dusted the baking parchment well enough, you shouldn't have a problem with it sticking. If not- good luck. In fact, good luck getting it onto a plate at all.There's usually a lot of cursing in the kitchen when I'm doing it.
If you've got it on the plate in one piece, well done! Pile on your vanilla cream, your fruits, and you have a pavlova. Now eat it.