Chocolate filled meringue kisses must be most people's favourite dessert. I know they are mine.
I remember the meringue sandwiches from my childhood. Two quite enormous, bulbous meringue cookies, preternaturally smooth and shiny, glued together with whitish or brownish filling.
The colour was presumably different to signify either vanilla or chocolate cream filling but it wasn’t that important as either tasted pretty much the same: of margarine, mainly.
The meringues themselves were hard. I would bite into them cautiously, press my teeth in and nothing happened. I'd press harder and the meringue would explode in tough shards of solid sugar, injuring innocent bystanders. And my teeth hurt for a good half an hour afterwards.
I was a greedy child so I was tempted time and time again with the smoothness and the shine, having forgotten that it wasn’t actually a very nice cookie. Perhaps hoping they’d made them better this time round.
They do make them better now and certainly more colourful. It’s all the rage of unicorn-coloured (though how does anyone know what colour unicorns are?), rainbow-lines arranged and duly Instagrammed dainty little things.
And the mini drops with pointy peaks, individual or sandwiched in couples are prettily called ‘kisses’. I’d say it's all a big improvement on the meringues of yesteryear.
The secret to perfect meringue
It's not much of a secret: you just have to beat the living daylights out of the egg whites and sugar, and then some. Seriously though, three things, all of them a bit of a chore.
First, warm up your sugar. It will dissolve easier while beaten into the whites.
Second, add it in by a spoonful. It's boring and tedious, I know.
Third: beat, whip, whisk patiently long after all the sugar has been added, until you can't feel any sugar granules when rubbing a drop of meringue between your fingers.
So making a perfect meringue it's not an easy or quick task. As much as I usually use a hand whisk to whip cream, I wouldn't dream to make meringue by hand.
Piping meringue kisses
'Rustic meringues' are not really a thing unless you count the enormous clouds of sugar peeking through the French patisseries windows. When making meringue nests it is perfectly fine to use a spoon, pile a mound on the baking sheet and sculpt a dip in the middle with said spoon. But neat and pretty kisses must be piped.
It’s not awfully easy though – meringue has the tendency of going its own ways and clinging to everything but the inside of the piping bag. When making this lot I ended up having to deep clean the kitchen and wash my hair.
But they turned out so good that from the first batch only about two thirds ended up filled. The rest disappeared during testing. There must have been some hungry unicorns around.