I don't really buy into the idea of Valentines day, I'm not keen on the idea of forced romance...I prefer a little more spontaneity when it comes to that kind of thing. I do however enjoy playing with food colouring and given that at this time of year it is practically mandatory to dye everything pink or red I might as well make the most of it!
Hence these brightly coloured raspberry meringue kisses, the beautiful striped effect is achieved by painting stripes of gel food colouring down the inside of a piping bag before you fill it with the meringue mixture.
I used this pink colouring but you can go for any colour you like (they were supposed to be pale pink stripes but I was a little heavy handed (as I am often wont to be...Damian's occasional nicknames for me are smasher, brute and hulk...flattering...) when I was painting the food colouring on the piping bag, so they came out almost red).
The raspberry flavour comes from the addition of seedless raspberry jam, which is folded into the meringue mixture once it has been whipped to stiff peaks.
I was slightly dubious that it would work, I thought that the jam may prevent the meringue from becoming crisp, but they turned out perfectly - crisp with a delicate raspberry flavour.
I actually made several batches - some with the jam and some with powdered freeze dried raspberries instead, which are more commonly used to flavour meringue, and both Damian and myself preferred the ones flavoured with jam so that is the recipe I have provided (I have ended up with at least a hundred meringues...).
If you want to use freeze dried raspberries instead, grind about 2 ½ tablespoons of raspberry pieces in a pestle and mortar to a fine powder, pass it through a sieve to remove the seeds and gently fold it into the meringue.
It is difficult to give an exact bake time for meringues as it very much depends on your oven (meringues this size used to bake in 45 minutes in my last oven but take 2 hours in the one I have now...), just bake them at a very low temperature (essentially pretty much as low as your oven will go), and keep an eye on them - check them after 35 minutes and then keep checking every 15-20 minutes until they are done.
I found that due to the jam they didn't feel completely dry and crisp until after I took them out of the oven, whereupon they crisped up after a minute or two; so to check if they are done, take them out of the oven and let them sit for a minute then try peeling them off the paper, if they feel crisp and come away from the paper with the base intact then they are done, if not, pop them back in the oven for 15 minutes or so.
These delicious little bites are fantastic on their own but are also great scattered over a bowl of ice cream and make great decorations for cakes.
Raspberry Meringue Kisses
- 3 large egg whites
- 150 g (1 + ½ cups) caster (superfine) sugar
- 3 level tbsp seedless raspberry jam use a proper measuring spoon
- pink gel food colouring
- Heat the oven to 100C/215F/gas mark ¼
- Line 2 baking sheets with greaseproof paper.
- Beat the egg whites using an electric whisk or stand mixer in a large, spotlessly clean bowl until soft peaks form.
- Add the sugar gradually, a tablespoon at a time, whisking well after each addition, until all the sugar has been added.
- Continue to whisk the meringue for a few minutes more until it is very thick and glossy and forms stiff peaks when you lift the whisk out of the bowl.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the jam until it is smooth then add to the bowl of meringue and very gently whisk through until smooth.
- Fit a piping bag with a large plain or star nozzle (or simply snip the corner off a disposable piping bag). Turn the bag inside-out, either over a jug or vase, or I like to do it over my arm - holding the nozzle in my hand. Use a (clean!) artists paintbrush to paint stripes of the gel colouring down the inside of the bag.
- Fill the bag with the meringue and twist the top closed. Use a little meringue mix to stick the greaseproof paper to the baking trays (this makes it easier to pipe) and pipe small 'kisses', slightly spaced apart on the trays, I like to do a couple of different sizes.
- Bake for about 45 minutes, but be aware that they could take up to two hours depending on your oven (mine took 1 hour for teeny ones and two for larger ones). They are ready when they can be lifted off the paper in one piece - if the bottom comes away they aren't ready yet.
- I found that due to the jam they still felt a little soft when they were actually done, but firmed up after being taken out of the oven. Take them out of the oven and let them sit for a couple of minutes before trying to lift them off the paper, they should have become firm and peel off the paper in one piece, if they aren't ready yet put them back in the oven for another 15 minutes then check again.
- Cool and store in an airtight container.