I’ve never made a meringue in my life. But hard-pressed for a dessert for a dinner party, I remembered the nine egg whites languishing in the fridge. Perfect opportunity to try Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe for the giant meringues he sells at his restaurant Ottolenghi in London.
The recipe comes from his first book, “Ottolenghi: The Cookbook,” and all the ingredients are in grams. After opening the innards of my scale and figuring out how to switch from ounces to grams, I weighed out 300 grams of eggs and 600 grams of sugar, i.e., a proportion of 1 to 2. The other ingredients are 60 grams finely chopped pistachios and 2 teaspoons of rosewater.
Well, it turned out the bottle I thought was rosewater was orange flower water. No matter. I think the flavors work just as well.
The trick to these meringues is in the technique. First, preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius (which I translated to 375 degrees Fahrenheit). Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spread the sugar out on top. Bake in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes until the sugar is hot. Meanwhile, about a minute before the sugar is done, in a stand mixer such as a Kitchen Aid outfitted with egg white whisk, whip the egg whites to a froth for about a minute. (I’m writing this recipe from memory, it’s so stuck in my mind.)
Turn oven down to 100 degrees Celsius (about 200 degrees Fahrenheit).
Then, with mixer on high, slowly pour in the hot sugar and continue beating on high until the meringue is thick and satiny and cool to the touch. (This could take 10 minutes).
Now comes the tricky part, using two big spoons, transfer an apple-sized glob of meringue to a plate on which you’ve spread the chopped pistachios. Roll one side in the nuts and then transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Space the meringues far enough apart that they can expand. Ottolenghi says they double in size, but I could swear mine didn’t change size or shape at all.
Bake for two hours. (Mine came out of the oven at 8 p.m., just in time to cool down for dessert at 9.)
They’re certainly not beauties and some people could say they look more like meteorites than meringues. I need more practice forming them. But the taste and texture is there. And piled on a cake stand, they look incredibly festive.
Get the book, which is filled with the Israeli-born London chef’s signature dishes. Still to try: cinnamon and hazelnut meringues, pistachio shortbreads, Jerusalem artichoke and Swiss chard tart, sardines stuffed with bulgar, currants and pistachios. . .
“Ottolenghi: The Cookbook,” $34.95. Available from Amazom.com, Barnes & Noble and other bookstores.
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-- S. Irene Virbila
Photo: Orange water and pistachio meringues. Credit: S. Irene Virbila / Los Angeles Times