If anyone fancies making a stunning centre piece for their Jubilee street party then this is a guide to what not to do!
Tips for success:
1. No husband in the house
2. No children in the house
3. Use non-stick baking paper
4. Most importantly – Correct oven temperature
The first problem I encountered was when I’d made up the meringue mixture then I had to take my youngest child to a birthday party up the road. When I returned, the piping bag full of meringue was no where to be found. I’d left it on the kitchen worktop, hadn’t I? I checked the fridge. Maybe I did something daft like put it in the cupboard or left it by the telephone. I checked the bin. I searched the entire house, to no avail.
My husband, meanwhile, had made a trip to the local tip. Our recycling wheelie bin was full to the brim and our recycling bin in the kitchen was overflowing. We have fortnightly bin collections and the next one was not for a few days so hubby decided to take some of it to the tip.
He swore to me that there is no way he would have taken the piping bag, complete with star nozzle and full of meringue and thrown it away. I interrogated the kids. Still no result.
I had no choice but to start again. First, I had to go to the shop for more eggs.
Problem number two: Time was pressing on so I went against my better judgement and turned the oven up higher to speed up the baking time. Instead of 90°C I turned it up to 115°C fan.
The one on the right is a practice one I did earlier. You can see that the one on the left is more golden in colour. Just fine for the crown, I thought. Actually, instead of being dry and brittle, it was chewy and sticky and became a major problem. Namely it flopped in the oven and then the crowning glory at the end completely collapsed.
The third problem was the baking paper. It stuck to the meringue and I cracked it, as I tried to peel it from the paper. It would be better to use a silicon sheet.
I managed to seal the cracked base together with fresh meringue mixture. I even managed to reconstruct the flopped walls.
But then hubby moved it to a different work surface and the arches fell off and cracked.
Finally, I had bought lots of fruit jelly sweets to use as decorative jewels but after further interrogation, my ten year old finally confessed to eating them all.
If after reading all of the above, you still feel like you could make a glorious meringue crown, then here’s the recipe:
5 egg whites
200g Icing sugar
300ml double cream
Punnet of strawberries
Punnet of blueberries
Any other fruit you fancy
A splash of kirsch
Place the egg whites with the icing sugar in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Whisk until the mixture stands up in stiff peaks. Best to use an electric mix as it takes ages by hand.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool before peeling the meringues from the baking paper.
Next, pipe another ring of fresh meringue around the base. Place one of the cooked rings on top. Pipe another fresh ring then add the final cooked one. I went a bit overboard and added a final fresh layer of meringue on the top but I think it became too top heavy and caused the collapse.
Return to the oven for a further 1 ½ to 2 hours.
Meanwhile prepare the fruit then whip the cream until it forms stiff peaks. Fold in the kirsch.
Remove meringue nest from the oven. When cooled spoon in the cream and fruit.
Cut the ring with the cross into three pieces as shown in the photo.
Finally, add the arches, sticking them together with some cream (mine were so sticky they just welded together).
The fun bit – decorate using silver balls, sprinkles, sweets or whatever you choose.
I’m off to a Jubilee street party now, taking my disastrous crown with me. Actually, I’ve removed the arches. I’m now taking a Summer Fruit Meringue Basket.