This post is really one half of a whole ‘story’ concerning lemon meringue in various forms. I have been persistent in my attempts to master these particular bake over the last week or so, mainly because I love lemon. I could eat it by the segment (and have done) – for a self-proclaimed baker I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth. Sharp, bitter, salty then sweet probably. Of course it does depend on what mood I’m in…but rambling aside, let me relate to you the first part of this chronicle.
For Christmas, I think it was, my brother got me a gorgeous Hummingbird Bakery cookbook – I love reading cookbooks and spent hours flicking through the recipes. A double-page spread on Lemon Meringue Cupcakes looked so inviting that I decided I would definitely try them asap. Last week I got round to actually making them. The cake mixture is fairly straightforward, though the Hummingbird cupcakes have milk added to their sponge which makes them very moist and surprisingly light. I had also been bought a cupcake corer – yep, like an apple corer but for cupcakes – which is fantastic for pulling out a perfectly cylindrical piece of cake nice and neatly, leaving a hollow centre to be filled with whatever delicious indulgence takes your fancy. In these Lemon Meringue cupcakes, having cored them, I spooned in lemon curd (mmmmmmm) and set about making the topping. Here is where it all came crashing down.
No matter how organised and prepared you are, it still doesn’t always turn out well!
The recipe called for what I think is an Italian-style meringue; hot sugar syrup is whisked into fluffy egg whites and consequently cooks them, doubles the mixture in size and turns it lovely and smooth and glossy. Supposedly. I made the sugar syrup (sounds deceptively simple – sugar + water + hot pan) but then unwittingly transformed it into caramel, presumably by leaving it too long on the heat. Undeterred, I coated an apple in the accidental sticky sauce, and started again. The syrup wasn’t golden brown this time, but when I poured it into my bowl of egg whites at what I thought was the right temperature, the sugar immediately solidified, welding my whisk to the bottom of the mixing bowl and generating an unholy mess and a nightmare mound of washing up. Oops. I left the cupcakes un-iced in the end; my housemate and boyfriend seemed to enjoy them regardless as they disappeared fairly quickly.
Zesty cupcakes about to go into the oven. If you do make these cupcakes, ladling the mixture into the cases is a lot easier (rather than a regular spoon and knife technique) as it’s so runny compared to your basic equal amounts of butter-sugar-eggs-flour cake batter.
The moral of the story is…making meringue is hard! But also try again, and again, and again if you really want to accomplish something. If you think this is hypocritical of me due to my giving up at meringue attempt number two on my cupcakes, please do read on as the second half of the story is hopefully a little more inspiring.
P.S. In case you were wondering, the toffee apple that may have seemed a pretty sweet byproduct of my sugar syrup escapades was actually very disappointing – my caramel was burnt and left a nasty bitter aftertaste when chewed.