Saturday, 3 April 2010

Seriously sweet Easter Bunnies

Many people think that meringue is difficult to make, but for a cheap and simple easter treat there really is nothing better.

The trick is to know your process; whatever recipe you use, each step must be completed perfectly, in order, to prevent the fiddly little buggers from, well, collapsing.

I'm not a huge fan of meringue, but love to make holiday treats out of the easily shaped gloop, such as Hallowe'en Ghosts and Christmas Snowmen.

These Easter Bunny heads are simple to make, even if it's your first try at meringue, and always go down well at a party.

You'll need:

3 large eggs (or 5 medium)
6oz (170g) of caster sugar
Half a tsp of vanilla extract (or a little extra vanilla flavouring)
Something for decoration (e.g. chocolate buttons, chocolate chips, glace cherries, thin licorice whips, icing...)

  • Pre-heat your oven to 150 degrees Celcius (Gas Mark 3).
  • First, separate the egg whites into a large bowl and discard the yolks. If you don't have an egg divider, you can use a small, clean sieve or the shell of the egg. Make sure the bowl you are using is scrubbed clean, and avoid letting even the tiniest bit of yolk into the whites.
  • Using an electric whisk, beat the whites until they form stiff peaks. If you've got a 2-speed whisk, start off slowly until the whites turn into foam, then up the speed until the peaks stand on their own. You should be able to hold the bowl upside down (and give it a little wiggle) without the mixture moving.
  • Add the caster sugar slowly and fold in with a large metal spoon. Once the mix is stiff and shiny, add your vanilla and fold again.
  • Line two trays with non-stick grease-proof paper. Grease the paper with margarine or easy-spread butter. It seems excessive, but this will help ensure the bunnies don't stick to the paper as the sugars caramelise.
  • Spoon the mixture onto the paper and shape it. You should be able to get about 20 bunny heads out of the ingredients. Turn the oven down to about 110 degrees Celcius (Gas Mark 1/2) and throw in the trays.
Now, timings can be tricky and will depend on how thick your meringues are, but 20 shapes in a batch this size will take around 40-50 minutes at this heat. If you've made 10 large bunnies, be sure to give them extra time (up to 11/2 hours) to dry through. Check that your bunnies have turned crispy (they can be slightly golden), remove from the oven and leave to cool.

If everything's gone to plan, they should come off the paper without a hitch!

While the meringue is cooking, raid your cupboards for decorations. For today's batch, I found a bag of chocolate chips and two tubs of icing (unfortunately, the blue icing exploded, so my bunnies had to go without whiskers) which were perfect for creating their cute little faces.

I used pink icing to define the ears, create the nose and fix on the chocolate chip eyes, but why not try cherry noses or skittles for eyes?

Sweet Tooth Tips:

  • Even the tiniest bit of yolk can kill your mixture. Separate each white into a cup before adding it to the bowl.
  • If in doubt, add less sugar. Too much sugar will caramelise and turn your crispy meringue into sticky goop.
  • There is not enough grease-proofing in the world to prevent you from adding extra. A tiny bit of marg goes a long way.
  • Don't be scared to experiment. Meringue recipes are deceptively simple and there is so much that can go wrong, but the ingredients are so easy to buy that you can keep trying until you get the perfect batch.

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