A Sweet Symbol of London

It was several years ago that I first spent time in London, visiting my sister-in-law.  Long weekends there meant staying at the house, enjoying quality family time, cooking and baking together and playing with our nephews and niece.  I did however once find myself with a few hours to roam different neighborhoods and discover London on my own.  What struck me were the colors – however ironic considering the gray, rainy weather I had.  Those fabulous black taxis aside, what I recall are the brightly colored doors and facades of brownstones, streets resembling color swatches in a paint store.  Not to mention the fun red double-decker buses, of course.  The sweetest memory of them all – pastry shop windows with meringues the size of rugby balls in bold colors like hot pink (recipe below).  I tasted a raspberry meringue in Notting Hill, devoured another near the Borough Market, and covered my clothes in crumbs after a chocolate-marbled meringue in Islington.  I loved London!

London & OttolenghiLondon & OttolenghiLondon & OttolenghiLondon & Ottolenghi

What I now know many years later, is that I had stumbled upon Ottolenghi, the very popular café, restaurant and catering company with locations throughout London.  Perhaps they are not most well-known for their meringues, but those beauties are certainly a staple in their attractive displays of prepared foods and sweets. And they also figure in their cookbook, which just made its way into my collection (thanks Georgina!).  Despite the many sticky tabs I placed on pages of recipes to make (apple and olive oil cake with maple icing; sour cherry amaretti; granola bars; Khalid’s chocolate and chestnut bars; lemon meringue tartlets…), I knew what I was baking first. (By the way, there are savory recipes in there too!)

London & OttolenghiLondon & Ottolenghi

I love meringues and have been making them for years and years – variations on size, flavors, fillings, shapes and types of sugar.  I dreamed of recreating the enormous meringues I would see in boulangeries and patisseries in Paris, my favorite spot now but a memory on rue du Cherche-Midi.  Solid and crisp on the outside, dry and crunchy when broken into, and miraculously moist and chewy on the inside.  Perfection.  Ottolenghi has got this juxtaposition of textures down pat too.  Thankfully they shared their recipe and you can make them at home too.  Simply close your eyes and choose where you’d like those meringues to take you… Paris, London or here in my kitchen in Zürich!

Anyone a fan of Ottolenghi in London and/or have their cookbook at home?  What’s your favorite recipe?

London & OttolenghiLondon & Ottolenghi

* Keeping with my usual habit of playing around in the kitchen, I used the Ottolenghi recipe for the technique, which was new to me – Swiss meringue using dark brown muscovado sugar (which is available at Jelmoli and Schwarzenbach here in Zürich). Instead of cinnamon and hazelnut, I used espresso powder and shaved dark chocolate.  I also halved the recipe to make 4 large meringues.

Ottolenghi-Style Espresso Chocolate Meringues

3 egg whites (about 100 grams)
2/3 cup (130 grams) white sugar
1/2 cup unpacked (70 grams) dark brown muscovado sugar
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 cup shaved dark chocolate (I used Villars 63%)

Preheat the oven to 110 degrees Celsius (225 degrees Fahrenheit).

Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a light simmer. Place the egg whites and both sugars in a heatproof bowl large enough to sit on top of the pan. Put it over the simmering water, making sure it doesn’t actually touch the water, and leave it there for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally , until the mixture is quite hot (40 degrees Celsuis/100 degrees Fahrenheit) and the sugars have dissolved into the whites.

With a mega-powerful hand mixer, or (preferably) a stand mixer with whisk attachment, whip the mixture on high speed. 8 minutes with stand mixer, perhaps 10-15 minutes with hand mixer, until the mix has cooled down completely. When ready, it should be firm and glossy and keep its shape when you lift a bit with a spoon.

Sprinkle over espresso powder and shaved chocolate. Gently fold into meringue with a large spatula. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat if you have. Scoop very generous amounts of meringue on to the sheet, with plenty of space between them as they will expand during baking. Round them out or make spiky designs if you’d like.  Sprinkle with extra shaved chocolate.

Bake for anything from an hour and a quarter to two hours, depending on the oven and the size of your meringues. They should be nice and dry underneath and still a little soft in the center. When done, they should lift from parchment or Silpat easily.  If they resist, let bake longer as they have not completely dried out yet.

London & OttolenghiPS – If you’d like to know what happens if you don’t whip the meringue enough,… I can tell you from experience. You get flat meringue disks that resemble over-size macarons.  The play on textures was still successful, a very crisp shell and a soft, moist, chewy center.  Imagine someone flattening the meringues like pancakes while baking.  I don’t really recommend this as a final result.  But when my hand mixer gave up on me, I couldn’t bring myself to throw away an entire bowl of deliciously sugary meringue batter.  Hence the strong recommendation for a stand mixer for this job. Otherwise,… you’ve been warned.

30 Responses to “A Sweet Symbol of London”

  1. Fida says:

    Mouthwatering. And they look so perfect. I tried my hand once at Luxemburgerli but I gave up. I guess I would have to bake a gazillion to get perfect at it. If I can’t get them in March at Sprüngli maybe I look you up and invite myself to your kitchen table ;-)

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  3. Deb says:

    This looks fantastic! Thank you for sharing the recipe.

  4. Lani says:

    My memories of London are just wonderful. I never at the time saw the bakeries or noticed the colored buildings but I still enjoyed wandering the streets. My favorite memory was having tea after getting caught in a major rain storm at Hampstead Heath. Thank you for sharing with me and your readers the extraordinary meringues. I just love them. The first time I ate one was in Paris. The memories of the sugar just melting in my mouth are unforgettable. Please make me some…and send them quick.

  5. The Cooking Ninja says:

    I ate my first meringues in France made by my MIL. :) These little thing are addictive.

  6. George@CulinaryTravels says:

    I’m so glad you like the book Kerrin. Those meringues look absolutely perfect, I want to reach into my screen and grab one.

  7. Julia @ Mélanger says:

    My first visit to London was at 15. I returned a handful of times over the next few years, to finally live there for a couple more, not long after that. During all my time in London, I must say (like Lani mentions above!) I never noticed the colour. Well, except for red in the form of buses, and post boxes, of course.

    I love your spin on the Ottolenghi meringue. Coffee and chocolate is one of my favourite combinations. Great idea!

    If you’re a fan of meringues, then, well, I must just say you’ll have to take a trip to Australia. Little neighbourhood bakeries here boast larger than life merginue swirls, just urging you to gobble them up in one sitting!

    I have never been to Ottolenghi – I believe they opened after the last time I was in London. So sounds like there’s another visit to my ‘motherland’ in my future for me, too?????

  8. Hilda says:

    They are gorgeous Kerrin! Just like the ones in the shop although I bet yours actually taste better because the ones from the shop, particularly the hazelnut cinnamon meringues, have nary a hazelnut in them so are mostly cinnamon meringues. Actually you know that their meringues are a sort of trademark for them in terms of their shops. They have to have a big stand of them in the window (I think Yottam talks about it in the beginning of the book). And did you know their second book is coming out in May? Oh and Rue du Cherche-Midi, sigh… I miss home.

  9. Kerrin says:

    Fida, Luxembürgerli are one thing I have never tried to make. With Sprüngli at your doorstep here, it’s quite a challenge to get them as good ! But nothing wrong with baking them over and over to get it right – you can still eat the “failures” as I did above, no ?! :)

    George, don’t hurt your hand ;) I love the book and I haven’t even had it for 2 days ! Can’t wait to try other recipes. You’ll have to let me know what else you’ve tried… and loved.

    Julia, thanks for sharing. The most common stereotype for London is gray, and rain. It is in fact funny that I remember those bursts of color – but perhaps because the rest was so uncolorful ! And I’m so with you – chocolate and coffee is my absolute fave for all confections. Meanwhile, if I didn’t already have Australia on my travel list, it’s certainly on there now. You know me, I would definitely gobble up those meringue swirls in a second ! Just make sure you don’t go to London while I’m on my way to Australia, ha ha !

    Hilda, thanks so much ! I wasn’t very tempted by a cinnamon meringue myself. And the hazelnuts in the recipe are only sprinkled on the top. I went ahead and added chocolate to the batter here as well. Makes them really chocolate. Rather than just a light dusting like on a cappuccino ! I haven’t really read the book yet (just got it yesterday !) – I skipped right to the sweet chapters, of course. But I definitely want to go back and read their story. And yes, heard about the new book, luckily I have the 1st now before I need the 2nd ! :)

  10. Yeye says:

    Sorry but funny that at your first attempt, you broke the hand mixer. What type of hand mixer do you recommend to buy so it doesn’t leave me alone when I try your recipe? Thanks for sharing Kerrin, as always.

  11. jkiel says:

    Cool! We’re going there this summer, I’ll look for these shops!

  12. Nomadic Chick says:

    Another mouth watering recipe. I’ve always found meringues light and airy, which suits my taste buds. By the way, I had no idea London was known for this. I feel like my education level just went up 10 points.

  13. Mowie @ Mowielicious.com says:

    How gorgeous Kerrin – I’m totally meringue inspired! Been meaning to make something meringue-y for ages now. Off to Ottolenghi’s for the first time tomorrow, so I’ll try them out (and probably fill my bag with them). Exciting.

  14. Sarah, Maison Cupcake says:

    I was holding a copy of this book in a shop yesterday and the only thing that stopped me buying it was knowing that it was ten pounds cheaper on Amazon. I must kick myself to actually order it.

    Your meringues look super and I love your romantic shots of London!

  15. Kerrin says:

    Yeye, funny ? Hmmm, I suppose you could look at it that way – I had a magazine in place and my arm propped up – when the mixer went kaput. At least I knew the meringue was getting nice and thick ! If you’ll be making thick meringue or nougat or marshmallow, you’ll need a real heavy duty mixer – my new one is 450 W. That did the trick.

    jkiel, enjoy London !

    Nomadic Chick, I don’t think London is as much known for these meringues as Ottolenghi is – it was really a symbol of the city…. for me ! :)

    Mowie, oooh you’ll have to report back and let us know what you thought of Ottolenghi ! You’ll need a big bag – those meringues of theirs are huge ! Enjoy !

    Sarah, thanks so much. Good decision for Amazon, I would have done the same ! But now you’ve got to order it… :)

  16. bethany says:

    Kerrin these look stunning and loving the photography! Congrats on your new hand mixer as well! What a sweetheart of a hubby! And, looking fwd too all the cool stuff you’re going to now whip up a la mode. X

  17. deeba says:

    Utterly gorgeous Kerrin…l WOWW!! From one Otto fan to another, lady you ROCK! I loved your dreamy post, like a fairy tale … full of beautiful pictures & memories. This is just what I like about blogging…~The Connect~! I love the flavours you chose…just the ones I love!

  18. Jamie says:

    Oooh la la just gorgeous! I am so trying these and following your flavor suggestions. Just stunning! And I love meringues just like you describe. Mmmm. I also have my eye on Ottolenghi’s cherry amaretti. Wow! Drool worthy! Perfect!

  19. Meeta says:

    hey yeah! i ahve been eying the meringues in the book for a while too – but decided for the savory route first. i have to give the meringues a go when i get back from vacation. these look sensational!

  20. Petulia says:

    I love Ottolenghi! And in general there are so many food treasures in London. Have you been to the Nordic bakery in Golden Square? And Princi? They are among my fav for treats!
    Also Rococo chocolate..Cream Tea at the National Gallery and breakfast at the Wolsley!
    Food experiences in London are truly endless. Next time you are there, let us know, we’d love to have you on one of our food walks!

  21. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says:

    Absolutely beautiful photos and they make me miss London! They look delicious! I’d love to dip one in some whipped cream! I made something similar for a dinner party and that’s what we did with the leftovers.

  22. Kerrin says:

    bethany, thank you ! Yeah, Olivier’s a good guy – I think i’ll keep him ! :) Can’t wait to use my hand mixer again… and again… and again !

    deeba, thanks for the fabulous comment. I totally agree – blogging is all about the connect ! From Zürich to London and all around the world. So glad you love those flavors too !

    Jamie, looks like we have similar sweet tastes. Let me know when you try these meringues – and the amaretti too.

    Meeta, have a wonderful vacation and make sure these meringues are high on your baking list when you’re back. And yes you are so right, I forget there are savory recipes in that cookbook too, ha ha ! I always start at the back… :)

    Petulia, wow all those sweet spots – I don’t know any of them. I’m not very familiar with London, but am certainly curious now to spend more time there. Thanks so much for sharing your treasures !

    Lorraine, thanks ! Mmmm, these meringues dipped in whipped cream – fantastic idea ! I am baking a batch right now in fact, to serve with ice cream. But why not whipped cream too ! :)

  23. Stéphanie says:

    I’ll be there in three weeks… with 55 pupils!

  24. Steve says:

    Kerrin, your mouth wateing descriptions and fabulous photography have made me see the evil in my ways. Never was a fan of meringues, but i have a feeling that will change… when i try one of your recommendations. And btw, leave it to Kugel Kerrin to find the colors in a city known for it’s many variations of gray :)

  25. Uncle Beefy says:

    Thought this the best spot to send you sweet wishes for a very Happy Valentine’s Day, Miss Kerrin! :) DYING to go to Ottolenghi someday! If you know anyone who might like to go with me I’m certainly open to any suggestions! ;)

  26. Leigh says:

    Hi Kerrin! We are living in London now, so if you come back to visit, please let me know! We ended up choosing London over Zurich and just got here a few weeks ago. Been great so far, weather aside. There’s a place called Bea’s around the corner from where we’re staying that has HUGE, beautiful meringues, and they have great coffee too. This is their web site: http://www.beasofbloomsbury.com/ Hope you’ve been doing well. xo Leigh

  27. Kerrin says:

    Steve, “Kugel Kerrin” – I like that ! :) Thanks so much.

    Uncle Beefy, many belated thanks for the sweet Valentine’s Day wishes B. Hope you and I can have that rdv at Ottolenghi one day….

    Leigh, congrats on the big move to London ! Tough competition Zürich had there, ha ha ! Good luck getting settled in. Looks like having Bea’s around the corner is helping ! ;) Thanks for sharing the site and for checking in, great to hear from you. Have a meringue for me, ok ?! :)

  28. valentina says:

    Kerrin, what a coincidence. That is a part of London I love so much I lived in Notting Hill before moving to Guidlford but I still go back quite often to wander around, catch up with friends, or simply pretend that I still live there. I had never seen ‘rugby size’ meringues until Ottolenhi opened its doors about 7 years ago. They look truly amazing and you just want to touch them and gulp them down. crumbs will be the only witness that they did exist. Loved reading this post and looking at the photos. BTW, the peach and raspberry cake in my portuguese language blog is in the Ottolenghi book you have. Give it a go. It is truly addictive.

  29. Sarah says:

    I missed Ottolenghi on my last trip to London a few weeks ago (I was tramping around southall). It looks wonderful and I totally have to go back and visit. I would take your macaroon meringues anyday.

  30. Kerrin says:

    valentina, so glad you loved this post. Notting Hill is such a charming, wonderful neighborhood – how fabulous that you used to live there. And you’ve been going to Ottolenghi for 7 years now ? That’s a lot of meringues – and a whole lot of crumbs, haha ! No way to eat one of those meringues without crumbs. I’m on page 206 right now – don’t know how I missed this in their cookbook, thanks so much for letting me know. Yours looked fantastic !

    Sarah, ah yes the macaron meringues ! I’ll have to make them again soon. Hope you had a nice time in London. Next time you go … meringues all the way ! And chocolate too of course (http://mykugelhopf.ch/2010/06/london-chocolate/) :)

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