Our cookbook of the week is Basics to Brilliance by Australian food stylist extraordinaire Donna Hay. Over the next four days, we’ll feature recipes from the book and an interview with its author.
“I always think the recipes with the least ingredients are actually the trickiest,” Donna Hay says. “Something like a meringue is just pure science. And with science, you have to measure properly and get things right.”
With that in mind, she emphasizes the importance of measuring the eggwhites in her ‘no-fail meringue mixture’ in millilitres. The recipe depends on ensuring the correct balance of eggwhites to sugar.
“People have that ta-da moment when they go, ‘Oh! Okay, I’ve never done that before,’” Hay says. “So that’s a really big one. And then it’s just the method of beating the sugar in slowly – one tablespoon at a time.”
ROSEWATER AND PISTACHIO MERINGUES
1⁄4 tsp (1 mL) rosewater
1 x quantity no-fail meringue mixture (recipe follows)
1⁄2 cup (65 g) slivered or chopped pistachios
Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C). Add the rosewater to the meringue mixture and whisk to combine. Spoon 6 x 10 cm rounds onto a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper and top with the pistachio. Reduce the oven temperature to 250°F (120°C) and bake for 40 minutes. Allow to cool completely in the closed oven.
NO-FAIL MERINGUE MIXTURE
Makes: 1 quantity
225 mL (about 6 eggs) eggwhite (see note)
1 1/2 cups (330 g) superfine sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) white vinegar
Place the eggwhite in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk on high speed until soft peaks form.
Add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking until each addition is dissolved before adding more (see note).
Once all the sugar has been added, scrape down the sides of the bowl and whisk for a further 10–15 minutes or until the mixture is thick and glossy (see note).
Place the cornstarch and vinegar in a small bowl and mix until smooth.
Add the cornstarch mixture to the eggwhite mixture and whisk for 30 seconds or until well combined (see note).
Making meringue is a science. Be sure to measure your ingredients carefully, including the eggwhites as egg sizes do vary. Fresh, room temperature eggs work best – when whisked they’ll become fluffy and voluminous, plus they’re more stable during baking.
Be patient when gradually adding the sugar to the eggwhite. Each tablespoon of sugar should be dissolved before the next is added.
Take care not to overwhisk the meringue mixture – it’s ready when it’s thick, glossy, smooth and there are no more sugar granules. You can check this by rubbing a little mixture between your thumb and forefinger.
See the recipe above for how to bake this meringue mixture.
Tip: It’s best to avoid making meringue on humid days. Excess humidity can cause meringue to sink during or after baking.
Recipes from Basics to Brilliance by Donna Hay, available now for $49.99.