- 3 large egg whites
- Pinch salt
- 175g (6oz) caster sugar
- Heat the oven to 140°C (gas mark 1), and line two baking trays with baking paper.
- Place the egg whites and a pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Using the whisk attachment, beat on a low speed for 1 minute, then increase the speed to medium and whisk for 2-3 minutes, or until the egg whites form fairly stiff but still moist-looking peaks. If you lift the beater out of the bowl, the mixture should look fluffy and cling to the beaters.
- Continue to whisk, gradually adding the sugar a tablespoon at a time until all the sugar has been added and the mixture is stiff and glossy - this may take 5-10 minutes.
- If you like, you can add some flavouring at this stage (see below). Gently fold in your chosen flavour with a metal spoon, using large gentle strokes and turning the bowl as you go. Continue until evenly distributed.
- Using large metal spoons, spoon free-form shapes onto the prepared trays. Bake for 30-40 minutes (swapping the position of the tray after 20 minutes), or until pale and dry. Turn off the heat and allow the meringue to cool in the oven with the door slightly ajar.
- FOR CHOCOLATE MERINGUES: Prepare the meringue mixture as far as the end of step 3, when the egg whites are stiff and glossy and all the sugar has been added. Fold 2tbsp sifted cocoa powder and 40g (1¼ oz) finely chopped or grated dark chocolate into the mixture. Spoon out and bake as above.
- MARBLE MERINGUES: Prepare the meringue mixture has far as step 3, when the egg whites are stiff and glossy and all the sugar has been added. Spoon two heaped tbsp for each meringue onto lined baking sheets. Place a drop or two of pink or red food colouring on each and, using a skewer, swirl the meringue to create a marbled effect. Bake as above.
- CHOCOLATE FINGERS: Prepare the meringue mixture as far as step 3, when the egg whites are stiff and glossy and all the sugar has been added. Fold in two tbsp sifted cocoa powder. Spoon into a piping bag with a rosette or star nozzle and pipe 8cm (3in) fingers onto lined baking trays. Bake for 15-20 minutes. When cooled, drizzle with melted chocolate.
Make sure the egg whites are at room temperature and free of any specks of yolks.
The bowl and beaters you are using need to be spotlessly clean, dry and free of grease - rubbing the inside of the bowl with a piece of lemon is a good idea.
If you make meringue on a rainy or humid day, you will probably have to bake them for longer than on a dry day - up to 20 minutes more.
To prevent the meringue from cracking during cooking, do not open the oven door for the first half of the baking time.
Store the meringues for up to seven days in an airtight container.