Making meringues can seem really scary. They look so beautiful; surely they can’t be easy?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABelieve it or not, they are.

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It can be messy, but that’s all part of the fun.

I used Rachel Khoo’s recipe for French meringues, which is arguably the method best known to home cooks, where egg whites are whipped until stiff, with a bit of lemon juice added at the start, and sugar added gradually as you whip. An electric hand whisk is essential for this. If you have a good one (I use a Kenwood) then the mix will be ready in moments. To create these delicate shapes, I used a Pampered Chef decorating bottle and star nozzle. You really do need a piping bag or similar for times like this – it makes your life much easier, especially when you’re making large numbers (just two egg whites made 40-60 of these tiny meringues).

I then sprinkled half the meringues with Rachel Khoo’s praline recipe. Hint: buy pre-skinned hazelnuts. I didn’t even make the full amount of praline and was already cursing at the time it took to skin them (they are nowhere NEAR as easy to skin as, say, almonds). You then mix the skinned hazelnuts with caramel, which you make on the stove by melting sugar with a little water and NOT MOVING THE PAN while waiting for it to turn runny and dark (use a sugar thermometer if it helps you). Pour the nut caramel onto a baking sheet, and then once it’s cold, blitz it to granules in a food processor. Even only making a quarter of the amount of praline meant we had loads left over for another day; it would make a great topping for ice-cream, for example. I then sprinkled half the meringues with praline and left the rest plain. (Rachel Khoo sandwiches hers together with a mixture of praline and butter to create Chaumontais Kisses, but this didn’t appeal to me.)

They then had to sit in the oven for two or three hours at a low temperature, including being left to cool in the switched-off oven with the door ajar. This takes time, but not necessarily your time: you can of course go off and do other things while you’re waiting for them to be ready (like washing up your mixer and piping nozzles…!). I couldn’t have been happier with them: they were crisp and dry on the outside and slightly chewy on the inside, just the way I like them. They are compulsively moreish, completely worth the effort, and make a perfect gift for your Valentine at any time of year. Bisous!

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