Whisk & reward: Bill Granger proves that baking with egg whites doesn't have to be intimidating
Read the classic cookbooks and you’d imagine that working with egg whites should be left to the pros. Nonsense, says Bill Granger: just get stuck in, and create sweet treats that will inspire childlike wonder.
Sunday 21 April 2013
Who is the genius who first thought of whisking up egg whites and sugar? I can't get over the magic of it. But read classic recipe books on how to whip up meringues and it could put you off for life. They make it sound so scary. You'd think that if everything isn't cleaner than a surgeon's knife or the sugar doesn't go in at the right angle, the whole thing will turn out a disaster. Well, I'm not that precise, and generally quite relaxed about this sort of thing, and my egg whites whisk up fine.
I often find myself with leftover whites after making custard or mayo and the chef in me won't let them end up in the bin. In most restaurant fridges you'll find a container with the leftover egg whites of the day, which the pastry chef then whips up into meringues or other clever desserts. I like to use the same no-waste approach at home and often bake friands (a small cake popular back home) or a meringue tart. I have to admit that home-made marshmallows are a much rarer occurrence, but I still stand by the idea that we should all make them at least once. If only for the sheer joy of experiencing that childlike "I can really do that?" moment.
Bill's restaurant, Granger & Co, is at 175 Westbourne Grove, London W11, tel: 020 7229 9111, grangerandco.com
Rhubarb Meringue Pie
I think the subtle sharpness of rhubarb works even better than the traditional lemon filling in a classic meringue pie. It's such a pretty thing to take to the table, too.
900g/1¾lb rhubarb, cut into 4cm pieces
100g/3½oz caster sugar
2cm grated ginger
Grated zest 2 oranges
2 tbsp cornflour
For the pastry
275g/9oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
150g/5oz chilled butter, cut into small cubes
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 egg yolk
For the meringue topping
4 egg whites
125g/4oz caster sugar
1 tsp cornflour
To make the pastry, put the flour, butter and a pinch of salt into a food processor and whizz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the caster sugar and whizz again. Pour in the egg and 2 tbsp k of chilled water and pulse until the pastry comes together into a ball.
Wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface and lay it in a 23cm loose-based tin; place a sheet of baking parchment on top and chill in the fridge while you bake the rhubarb.
Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas2. Place the rhubarb, caster sugar, ginger and orange zest in an ovenproof dish and bake for 20 minutes, until the rhubarb is tender but still holding its shape. Dust with the cornflour, stir and set aside.
Increase the oven to 190C/375F/Gas5. Fill the tart base with baking beans and cook the pastry for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, tip out the baking beans and paper and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and crisp.
Put the egg whites in a large bowl and whisk with an electric whisk until soft peaks form. Add the caster sugar, a tablespoon at a time, continuing to whisk, until the peaks are thick and glossy. Fold in the cornflour and continue to whisk until stiff. Fill the pie case with the rhubarb. Top with the meringue and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden. Cool before serving.
Maybe it's the Australian in me, but I'd always choose a friand over a cupcake. With no need for whisking, this is perfect for anyone who isn't a confident baker. To avoid anyone having to go searching for those elusive friand moulds, I've cooked them in a standard muffin tin.
100g/3½oz shelled pistachios
Sunflower oil, for greasing
70g/3oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
165g/5½oz icing sugar, sifted
6 eggs whites, lightly beaten with a fork
115g/4oz unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing Finely grind the pistachios in a food processor and set aside. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas2. Grease and flour a non-stick 12-hole muffin tin.
Mix the flour, ground pistachios and sugar. Stir in the egg whites until just combined, then add in the butter. Spoon the batter into the tin and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until pale gold. The friands should spring back when touched.
Remove from the oven and leave in the tin for 5 minutes before turning on to a wire rack to cool. Dust with a little icing sugar and serve.
I was reading an article which said that kimchi and marshmallows are the big thing at the moment. Both were on the menu when Granger & Co opened, so we were bang on trend. Unfortunately, a mutiny in the kitchen eventually led us to drop the marshmallows – it's not really practical to prepare them every day in a small, busy restaurant kitchen. Shame; they're so much fun.
Makes about 32
100g/3½oz icing sugar
500g/1lb caster sugar
1 tbsp glucose syrup
90ml/3½fl oz elderflower cordial
30g/1¼oz powdered gelatine
2 egg whites
Sieve the icing sugar and the cornflour into a bowl. Mix and set aside.
Put the caster sugar, glucose syrup and 200ml/7fl oz water in a large saucepan. Stir over a low heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil until the syrup reaches 142C/275F on a sugar thermometer (this is called soft-crack stage); brush down the side of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush if any sugar crystals form.
If you don't have a sugar thermometer, you can test the syrup by dropping a small teaspoonful into a bowl of iced water: it has reached soft-crack stage when you are able to lift out the ball of syrup and stretch it between your fingers into pliable strands.
Meanwhile, put the cordial and 3 tbsp water in a small heatproof bowl, sprinkle with the gelatine then place the bowl over a small pan of boiling water until the gelatine has dissolved. Remove the sugar syrup from the heat and carefully add the dissolved gelatine (the mixture will initially bubble vigorously).
Beat the egg whites with electric beaters until stiff peaks form. With the beaters running, gradually add the hot sugar syrup to the egg whites in a thin stream. Continue beating for 7 to 8 minutes until the mixture becomes thick and holds its shape.
Lightly oil a 20cm x 15cm baking tin and dust with the icing-sugar- and-cornflour mixture. Spread the marshmallow evenly into the tin and smooth the top. Leave overnight, or until set. Turn out of the tin and cut into squares or rectangles with a hot wet knife. Roll the marshmallows into the remaining icing sugar and cornflour mixture and serve.
Food preparation: Marina Filippelli and Rosie Reynolds.
Props merchandising: Rachel Jukes
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