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The perfect Christmas gift for you or a loved one
Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Put the sugar in a small roasting tray lined with baking parchment. Shake to level out the sugar and heat in the oven for about 5 mins until hot but not melting. This helps stabilise the egg whites and give a smooth and glossy meringue.
Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar using an electric mixer. Whisk slowly at first, gradually increasing the speed until the egg whites are at the stiff peak stage, about 5 mins. It’s important not to over-whisk the egg whites. Remove the sugar from the oven as soon as the eggs whites are stiff.
Reduce the oven to 110C/90C fan/gas ¼, leaving the door ajar to help it cool down quickly – the meringues need to be baked at a lower temperature.
Turn the mixer up to full speed and start adding the sugar, one tablespoon at a time. You want the egg whites to maintain their volume as you keep adding sugar – if you see it starting to collapse, stop adding sugar and allow the mixture to stiffen and rise before adding the rest, a spoonful at a time.
Once all the sugar has been added, keep whisking until you have a stiff and glossy mixture. It’s ready to use when it holds its shape, usually about 2-5 mins after you add the last of the sugar. You should also be able to see peaks in the mixture when you remove and upturn the whisk.
Add the pumpkin spice flavouring to your meringue if using, and gently fold it through the mixture. Do this by hand rather than in the mixer.
Spoon your flavoured meringue into piping bags – one batch should fill two bags – shaking the mixture down to the bottom of the bag. Try to get rid of any big air bubbles you can see at this stage, but don't be too rough with the mixture.
Cut parchment to the size of your baking trays. Cut off the bottom inch of the piping bag (about a 50p sized hole) and squeeze small dollops on to the corner of your baking trays to stick the parchment down.
Hold the piping bag with both hands, placing one hand at the top of the bag and your other hand halfway down the bag. Hold the bag steady, about 2cm above the tray, and squeeze the bag from the top to start forming the body of your ghost. Keep the bag completely still while squeezing, using your lower hand to keep the bag steady.
Stop squeezing once the meringue hits the tray. Lift the piping bag a tiny amount, without creating a break between the meringue on the tray and the meringue left in the piping bag. Drop the bag back down again and squeeze gently to form the top part of the ghost's body. Lift the piping bag straight up to leave a peak on the top of your ghosts' heads. This will take a bit of practice so don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time, just keep going and get a feel for it! Repeat until you have piped all of your mixture – be sure to work quickly as your mixture will loosen over time. Find our tips for piping perfection below.
Bake for about 40-50 mins until crisp on the outside and soft in the middle. Leave to cool completely on the baking trays. Once cooled, draw two big, droopy eyes and an open mouth. If you don’t have an edible pen, you can gently melt 50g dark chocolate in a microwave and use a small paint brush to paint on the faces. Will keep for up to two weeks in a loosely covered container.