Interview - The Meringue Girls

Interview //

Alex Hoffler of the Meringue Girls

The Meringue Girls – an amazing cool baking brand run by 5 wonderful women - reveal why their world of meringues and sweet bakes is such a fabulous one. They also share their top tips, to help you create your own meringue perfections, and one of their delicious on-trend festive meringue recipes.

Alex Hoffler, one of their founders, discusses why this brand is just so inspirational.

How long have you been making meringues and sweet bakes for?

I have done many jobs in my time, from a TV runner to working at a marketing agency. But, a big relationship break up made me see my cooking passion and I re-trained as a chef at Leiths. The ideas for Meringue Girls happened way back in 2012, I was working in a restaurant kitchen, where I met my business partner, and our souls were crying out to start up our own business.

Why do you think your meringues and colorful sweet bakes are so popular?

Meringues have always been popular, from your granny's pavlova to the Christmas roulade - it's a dessert that everyone seems to have their own fond memories of.

We saw a gap in the market where we wanted to elevate the classic meringue and bring it right up the date for the colorful Instagram age - and our rainbow meringue kisses were born. No one had really ever experimented with the parameters of where you can take meringue - from intense flavoring, coloring and new shapes.

We even make an egg-less vegan meringue using aqua faba (which is the water from cans of chickpeas) - it really is a miracle of science!  Back in 2012, cupcakes were having their heyday - and were getting generic, overly buttercream-y and a bit unappetising. We wanted to create a cooler baking brand, that embodied all the things we love - girl power, supporting other women in business and delicious cakes and treats using natural colors and flavors.

What is the sweet treat you are most proud of making?

We make all types of celebration cakes and treats now, but I'm obviously most proud of our meringues, as they got us to where we are today - a really solid business that has been growing over the last 7 years.  I'm proud that we managed to target the idea we had all those moons ago, and successfully move it forward to a business which employs a group of lovely people, pays the bakery rent, creates really good food for really cool events, and has allowed me to have 2 kids and work flexibly over the last few years.

Who are the clients and celebrities you are most proud of baking for?

We've worked with so many big brands over the years- we cater a lot of fashion events and press days. We love making bespoke press mailers for launches, we have some smash cakes booked in the diary at the minute - where press will receive a chocolate cake to smash to reveal the beauty products! We catered a huge wedding last Christmas in India where Beyonce was playing... that was pretty amazing!

Which Meri Meri products are you loving?

We are all about the metallic this year, which you'll see a lot in our Christmas range - so naturally we're loving Meri Meri's metallic tinsel range. The gold and silver chandeliers and tassel garlands are just to die for! NYE party heaven baby!

Silver Iridescent Tinsel Fringe GarlandGold Tinsel Fringe Garland,
Red & Pink Tinsel Fringe Garland
1. Silver Tinsel Chandelier, 2. Festive Tree Cake Toppers, 3. Metallic Tassel Garland4. Metallic Fringe Party Cups, 5. Festive Tree Cupcake Kit, 6. Metallic Pink Side Plates

What are your favorite sweet treats?

It goes without saying I've got a big sweet tooth!  I love a really syrupy lemon drizzle - usually with almonds in the mix, which gives that lovely crumb that you can soak in all the lemon syrup - topped with drizzly icing of course. I also love a mince pie, we've made our own this year at MG HQ - where clients can personalize the lids with initials - can't wait to see them as table place settings over the festive season.

 

Can you please reveal the key factors to making fabulous meringues?

Meringues are a temperamental beast - which is why so many people are scared of trying to make them.  A deflated mixture is one of the saddest things in life! However, we have a really fail proof method, which means you will have stiff peaks every time.

We use a 2:1 sugar to eggs ratio, and we heat the caster sugar in the oven to get it hot to the touch before adding to the stiff egg whites.  This creates a really stiff and glossy mixture.

What is the most common thing people do wrong when making meringues?

The most common mistakes are when people don't whisk the eggs to stiff peaks before adding the sugar.  Also, adding the sugar too fast - that's a really easy one to do.

How long do meringues last for and what is the best way to store them?

It really depends - supermarket dry and chalky meringues have a shelf life of 6 months plus. However, we like to keep our meringues super mallowy and chewy in the middle -and we think fresh is best - so we say 2 weeks, stored at room temperature.

How should you best present meringues at a party?

There are countless ways to present meringues at a party - from little kisses as table favors, to a show stopping pavlova centerpiece.

"For Christmas, we like tying ribbons around big meringues and looping them from the Christmas tree as edible decorations - they look like floating clouds."

Can you reveal the most popular flavorings to add to meringues?

We have 10 flavors which come in our best selling rainbow crate of meringues -chocolate, coconut, vanilla bean, raspberry, gin & tonic, passionfruit, pistachio & rose, watermelon, lemon and hazelnut. For Christmas we bring out all the festive flavors - mince pie, mulled wine, cinnamon and candy cane peppermint. My all time favorite is raspberry, we use freeze dried raspberry powder, which gives meringues a lovely fresh and sour flavor.

What are the most popular meringue colorings to use?

Everything we do is bespoke, and so we color match collections or wedding colors and birthday party themes. For example, white with gold and silver stripes for a dinner party or unicorns for a unicorn party.

Which drinks team best with meringues to serve at a party?

A bit of fizz - a good Prosecco or Champagne. Try balancing a little meringue studded with gold leaf on the side of your glass for an amazing decoration! 

Meringue Girls Metallic Stripe Christmas Trees Recipe

These classic Christmas trees, with a modern metallic twist, are so 2019! Each meringue is hand painted with an edible metallic shimmer. The flavor is Christmas spice and they are sensationally crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle. Yum!  You can buy them in a beautiful gift box of 35, 54 or a wooden crate of 170 from www.meringuegirls.co.uk

Or make them yourself for a party or treat. The Meringue Girls have kindly shared their recipe!

Makes about 30 trees.

Ingredients:

  • 5 and a quarter ounces free-range egg whites
  • 10 and a half ounces caster sugar
  • ½  tsp cinnamon
  • ¼  tsp nutmeg
  • ¼  tsp mixed spice
  • Gold star sprinkles
  • Edible lustre, like Sugarflair
  • Vodka

Method:

  • Preheat your oven to 350F.
  • Line a large roasting tray and a large baking tray with baking paper.
  • Pour the caster sugar into the lined roasting tray and place in the oven for 5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, weigh your egg whites into a mixing bowl fitted with a whisk attachment. Prepare a piping bag fitted with an open star nozzle (like JEM 2ES). Gradually turn up the speed on the mixer, allowing small bubbles to form. Now increase the speed until your mixer is on high and it creates stiff peaks.
  • Take your sugar out the oven and turn the heat down to 210F, leaving the oven door open to help cool it down.
  • With the egg whites stiff, and whisk going at full speed, add 1 large tablespoon of the hot sugar, then repeat, pausing for a few seconds between each spoonful. Be sure to bash out any big lumps of sugar before adding into the mixture as these could get stuck in your nozzle.
  • Once you have added all the sugar, continue to whisk for a minute or two. You will know that the meringue is done when it forms a nice, smooth, shiny, peak on the tip of your upturned finger. Now gently fold through the spices.
  • Place the meringue into your prepared piping bag and get the lined baking tray ready. Hold the piping bag with both hands, placing your dominant hand at the top of the piping bag and your other halfway down the bag. Use the top hand to apply pressure and the lower hand to control where you are piping. Squeeze the bag 3 times to form a tree shape, making sure the base is the widest layer. Pipe the rest of your trees, finishing them off with a star on each tip and bake in the oven at 210F for about an hour or until they come off the baking paper and the bases are solid.
  • To decorate, mix up your lustre with some vodka until you get a smooth paint-like consistency, and using a paintbrush, paint on stripes and leave to dry. 
  • These will last up to two weeks, stored at room temperature.