Seasonal Baking by Fiona Cairns (£15; W&N)
- For the meringues:
- 4 egg whites, room temperature
- tsp cream of tartar
- 115g white caster sugar, sifted
- selection of food colour pastes
- For the secrets:
- handful jelly tots
- handful smarties
- handful chocolate drops
- handful dried fruit and nut mix
Preheat the oven to 140C, 275F, gas 1 and line two baking trays with baking parchment.
Place the egg whites in a very clean grease-free bowl and use a food mixer with a whisk attachment, or a large bowl and a handheld electric whisk. Start by whisking on a low speed, adding the cream of tartar when it becomes foamy. Next, increase the speed until the egg whites form peaks. Begin to add the caster sugar a large spoonful at a time, whisking constantly; the mixture will become stiffy, glossy and firm. Using a large metal spoon, fold in the icing sugar in a couple of stages.
Arrange your selection of secrets – sweeties, chocolates or dried fruit and nuts – on the trays. Place about 10 groups on each trat, spaced fairly well apart.
Open the piping bag so it it turned inside out and, using paintbrushes, paint three of four lengths of neat undiluted food colour paste, running from the nozzle and stopping within a few inches of the top. You can paint with one or two contrasting colours if you like.
Now carefull spoon the meringue into the bag and pipe on top of each secret. Bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes until crisp on the outside but still soft in the middle. Cool on the trays.
These will keep for a few days in an airtight container.