Friday, 11 February 2011

Valentine's Cupcakes and Meringue Kisses

Many people think that Valentine's day is a product of commercialism, an excuse for restaurants to charge more and for shops to fill the gap between Christmas and Easter. But I love Valentine's day and while we should show our loved one's how special they are everyday, it's nice to make an occasion out of it. Plus there are so many pretty heart inspired products in the shops around this time of year. Food is an important aspect for Valentine's day, as the old saying goes 'The way to a man's heart is through his stomach'! With my boyfriend this year we are cooking in rather than going out to a restaurant. In addition, I've baked these cupcakes and some meringue 'kisses', 2 small piped meringues sandwiched together with chocolate.

Cupcakes -
For me, any special occasion wouldn't be complete without cupcakes! I've made these using the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook (see this link to my previous post) using chocolate sponge and vanilla frosting. I added a handful of chocolate chips to the sponge mixture so that they'll be extra chocolatey. I used cases with little hearts on and decorated them with a range of toppings. I used heart shaped jelly beans from M&S, some pink love heart sweets and a mixture of sprinkles.

Meringues -
Meringues are always popular with me as we always have so many eggs to use up (from our lovely chickens) so when I saw a recipe by Lorraine Pascale in the Sainsbury's magazine for chocolate meringue kisses, I thought it would be a great idea for Valentine's day. These meringues are the best I've made yet, the lemon juice and cream of tartar added when whisking really stabilises the mix, making them easier to pipe and their texture at the end is perfect. She uses chocolate buttercream to sandwich hers together but I just dipped them in melted chocolate and she also adds some toasted (175g) pecans to the meringue mix but again, I wanted to keep them simple. The cute meringues would be great for a light pudding at a dinner party or as part of an afternoon tea. To pipe the meringues, I find it easiest to use a sandwich bag and cut the end off and then put the piping nozzle in that. It's then easy to throw away the bag rather than waste hours washing your piping bag.

Ingredients - 
5 large egg whites
a squeeze of lemon juice
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
275g caster sugar
Chocolate or a chocolate butter cream to sandwich them together.

1. Preheat the oven to fan 100c and line 3 baking trays with nonstick baking paper. Using a whisk, whisk the egg whites and lemon juice to stiff peaks.
2. Whisking all the time, add the cream of tartar and sugar, a few tablespoons at a time. Keep on whisking until you have a stiff, shiny meringue. Then spoon the mixture into a piping bag with a star nozzle and pipe 50 x 3-4cm blobs on the baking trays.
3. Bake for an hour and then leave to cool on the trays. I leave them in the oven with the door ajar to reduce cracking.
4. Then once cooled and dry, carefully lift the meringues off of the baking paper and sandwich together then leave in the fridge for a while to set properly. If using buttercream, sandwich a couple of hours before (no earlier). 

Happy Valentine's Day <3 
I'll be posting what we cooked in the next couple of days. 

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