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The perfect Christmas gift for you or a loved one
Heat oven to 140C/120C fan/gas 1. Line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment and set up a piping bag with a medium-size star nozzle.
In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until very stiff – the whites should stand in stiff, not floppy, peaks when the beaters are lifted out. Once you have reached this point, pour in roughly half the sugar and the vanilla extract and whisk again until the mixture becomes very thick, firm and shiny. Add the remaining sugar and whisk again until thick, firm and shiny. If you like meringues with soft, mallowy centres, just add 1 tsp cornflour and 1 tsp white wine vinegar to the mix along with the sugar.
Carefully spoon the meringue into the piping bag. Push any air out of the top and tightly twist the end of the piping bag to seal. Gently squeeze until meringue is visible at the end of the nozzle, then begin piping onto your lined baking sheets. Pipe spiralling circles, about 6cm wide and 3 layers high – like you would ice a cupcake to make roughly 18. The meringues will spread slightly as they cook, so leave enough space between each one. Bake in the oven for 1 hr, turning the heat down to 120C/100C fan/gas ½ after 30 mins.
Remove from the oven – they should peel easily away from the parchment – and cool on a wire rack. Can be made up to a week ahead and kept in an airtight container, or frozen for up to 3 months, between layers of parchment, in an airtight container.
To make Cream & chocolate meringues for dessert, put 100g dark chocolate in a glass bowl and melt over a pan of gently simmering water. Carefully dip the base of each meringue in to coat, then place on their sides on a plate or tray to set. While the chocolate sets, whip 300ml double cream. Assemble the meringues in pairs and sandwich their chocolate bases together with a good spoonful of cream. Delicious served with ice cream, raspberry coulis or fresh berries.