Miss Hope's Teatime Treats
Makes 10 pairs of chewy meringues
Take 2½ hours to make; plus cooling and drying (and 10 minutes to wash your mop out).
Praline is the joyous coupling of nuts and sugar, heated until it becomes toffee and then ground down quite finely. It lends a delicate crunch and a nutty depth to these amazing – though I say so myself – meringues. After much experimentation at Sugar HQ, a eureka moment produced a meringue with a chewy honeycomb centre. I have Joyce to thank for suggesting the novel addition of maple syrup to the cream. As a result Joyce has a 41% share in Hope and Greenwood for an investment of a tittle-over with a duster and a warm mop run over the kitchen.
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First, make the praline. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment and brush with a little oil. Put the sugar and hazelnuts in a heavy-based pan and heat very gently until the sugar has dissolved, stirring with a wooden spoon. Cook for around 3 minutes, until the sugar turns dark golden, then pour the mixture as quick as sticks onto the oiled parchment and leave it to set. When it is cool, break it up into smallish chunks and whiz in a food processor (or coffee grinder if you are that sort) to a fine crumb.
Preheat the oven to 120°C/250°F/Gas ½. Whisk the egg whites in a spotlessly clean, grease-free bowl until stiff peaks form and you can safely turn the bowl upside down over your head (take care not to overbeat it). Add the sugar a spoonful at a time, whisking well between each addition, until it has dissolved into the egg white. Give it a good whisk after the last spoonful has been added.
Line two baking sheets with baking parchment (not greaseproof paper, please, or they will stick, like Ginger to Rogers), then dot a little meringue mixture underneath each corner to stick the paper down onto the tray.
Fold three-quarters of the praline into the meringue mix, and use a spoon to blob 20 spoonfuls of the meringue onto the parchment. Sprinkle each meringue with a little of the remaining praline. Bake for 2 hours, until they come away from the parchment. Turn off the oven, and leave them in the oven overnight to dry out.
Store in an airtight container once cool (otherwise they’ll go soft).
Whip the double cream to soft peak stage and fold in the maple syrup. Sandwich the meringues with a spoonful of the cream, and serve immediately, alongside a bowl of strawberries.