miniature meringues with wild blackberry cream

These meringues came about after John and I had picked some wild blackberries in a beautiful park that is just around the corner from where we live. I had frozen the berries to give me some thinking time to decide what I wanted to make with them. I am all for fruit crumbles and jam making, but we didn't have enough fruit to make jam, and I wanted to make something a bit more exciting than crumble. After doing some unfruitful (excuse the pun) searches online for recipe inspiration, the blackberries stayed sitting pretty in the freezer.
When Friday rolled around and we had an evening with friends to look forward to, my thoughts turned to what I could bake. I don't like to turn up empty handed when visiting friends, but didn't want to make something so extravagent that would imply I was presenting a dessert that had not been requested, rather than simply saying 'thank you for having us - enjoy these sweet treats at your leisure and pleasure.' To my slight horror, my supply of butter and chocolate had run out. These two ingredients are pretty much mandatory in a lot of my baking, and I couldn't quite believe I had exhausted the supplies and failed to replenish them. So I pondered what I could make that didn't require butter, and that's where the meringues came into their own. They only require two simple ingredients - eggs and sugar - and providing you have plenty of time on your hands, you are ready to roll with the fun of meringue making. And the blackberries? My hope was that they would add the splash of colour and flavour to the meringues to make them a perfect pair.

Miniature Meringues with Wild Blackberry Cream
ingredients for the meringues
4 large egg whites
125g caster sugar
125g icing (confectioner's) sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
ingredients for the blackberry cream
2 large handfuls of fresh blackberries. If using from frozen, defrost first
250ml / 1 cup double (heavy) cream
finely grated zest of 1 lemon

1) Pre-heat your oven to 100C / Gas Mark 1/2 / 230F, and line two baking trays with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl (preferably stainless steel), or the bowl of a freestanding mixer, whisk the egg whites until they resemble fluffy clouds, and stand up in stiff peaks when the beaters are lifted.

2) Beat in the vanilla extract if using. You could alternatively add a vanilla pod if you are feeling fancy, and would like gently speckled meringues.

3) Gradually add the caster sugar to the egg whites, 1 tablespoon at a time. It is important to add the sugar gradually to ensure the sugar crystals disperse evenly and have time to be incorporated. Continue to beat until the mixture is thick and glossy.

4) Sieve in the icing sugar and gently fold in with a metal spoon or a spatula until it is fully incorporated.

5) At this stage it's up to you to choose how you present your meringues. You could either make a giant one to create the base of a pavlova, spoon dessertspoon-fuls of meringue onto parchment for individual meringue nests, or pipe the meringue using a star or round tipped nozzle to create miniature meringues, which is what I opted for.

6) Bake the meringues for 1.5 hours until the meringues are a pale coffee colour, and have crisped up on their bases. Turn the oven off, and leave the meringues in the oven to continue gently cooking while they cool.

To make the blackberry cream:

1) Blitz the blackberries in a food processor until smooth.
2) Whip the cream until thickened, being careful not to over whip.
3) Fold the blitzed blackberries into the cream, along with the lemon zest, and enjoy watching the cream transform into a beautiful shade of purple!
4) Spoon or pipe the blackberry cream onto a meringue, and sandwich together with another. Alternatively, let your friends enjoy scooping out the cream and loading up their meringues themselves with as much or as little purple creamy goodness as they like!