These beautiful little meringue nests are both crunchy and soft, and once bitten into, they will melt in your mouth. Make them large or mini, and fill them with anything you want.
4 large egg whites
½ teaspoon cream of tartar, or 1 teaspoon lemon juice or white wine vinegar
1 cup (220 g/7.7 oz) caster sugar*
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 200F/90C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and prepare a pastry bag fitted with a round or star tip (mine had a 1cm opening). Set aside.
Before you start, make sure that your mixer bowl is extra clean and not greasy, as that would prevent the egg whites from reaching their full volume. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites on medium-low speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar and continue whisking until soft peaks start to form.
Then, while mixer is running, add sugar, one tablespoon at a time, and increase mixing speed to medium-high. Go slowly. Adding the sugar and continuing to beat may take 5-10 minutes. The meringue is ready once stiff peaks form, it’s glossy and completely smooth but not dry, and the sugar is fully dissolved. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure that no sugar is sticking. Beat in vanilla extract.
Transfer meringue to the piping bag. To prevent the parchment paper from sliding, pipe a little of the meringue on the underside of each corner of the paper and ‘stick’ it to the pan. Pipe a 5 cm (or any other size you want, depending on how big or small you want them) round spiral base on the prepared baking sheet, and without lifting the tip, pipe 2-3 circles on top of the outer edge to create a nest.
The amount of nests really depends on how wide or tall you make them. This recipe can make anywhere from 10 large to 30 minis. I usually make mine quite tall with a 5 cm base, and it yields me around 16-20 nests.
If you want to make pavlovas without using a piping bag, drop small mounds of meringue onto the baking sheet and, using a spoon, create a border so that the edges are slightly higher than the center.
Place in the lower part of the oven and bake for 2-3 hours, or until the meringues are dry, their centers aren’t sticky, and they are easily lifted from the parchment paper with their bases intact. Turn off the oven and, without removing, let meringues cool completely for at least one hour, or overnight.
Meringues will keep for several days in an airtight container at room temperature.
When ready to serve, fill the nests with a filling of your choice, such as whipped cream or lemon curd, and top with fresh fruit if desired.
*Caster sugar, or superfine sugar, is finer than granulated sugar and dissolves better in the egg whites without leaving a gritty 88texture. You can make your own by processing granulated sugar in the food processor for about a minute until finely ground.