There’s two different flavours which are both labelled ‘strawberry’. One is the taste of actual strawberries: they're fresh, light and summery. Ever so slightly tart and dry; just enough so to eat an entire bowl in one sitting. The other strawberry flavour is essentially just sugar: sweet and aromatic and pink. It tastes like candyfloss and lollypops and the best part of bubblegum. Y’know, those incredible first ten chews before it loses all flavor and you’re left just gnawing on rubber.
And I fully believe there’s a time and a place for both 'strawberries'. A fruit salad, obviously, demands the real deal. And Eton Mess has far too many pretensions about itself for any artificial flavouring. Good jam should have real strawberries with real ‘bits’, seeds and all. Pavlovas should only be topped with fresh fruit, and I fear the meringue layer would probably crack in rebellion were you to dare use the canned stuff. And in a fresh sponge cake there’s nothing more exciting than a punch of real strawberry – it’s so unusual and takes a normal yellow cake into crazy-good territory. Strawberry upside-down cake? I’ll get behind that.
But there are also so many desserts that just don’t suit fresh strawberries. Like children trying on their parents’ clothes to feel adult, so too can childhood or wartime-era desserts feel a bit silly when they’re accessorized with ingredients they’re just not ready for yet. Rainbow drops? Candy necklaces? Drumstick lollies? Parma Violets? Or, my all-time favourite, fizzy bubblegum bottles? Some things taste so good drenched in childhood nostalgia; it’s a shame when restaurants ‘deconstruct’ them and ask my tastebuds to meet this new dessert by the same name. Nuh-uh. A strawberry by any other name does not smell as sweet!
Sometimes, I want things to taste like pink.
These lil guys were made as another party treat for my birthday. How cute are they? I still can’t get over it.
The recipe was taken almost in its entirety from Kristen at The Pastry Affair, who made hers as a Christmas snack with peppermint flavouring and a chocolate ganache. I changed mine up by keeping them unattached because LOOK AT THEIR BUMS! Marble swirls! I couldn’t cover that up. But I agree they should have some sort of accompaniment, so I had a simple vanilla buttercream ‘dip’ to serve alongside – unpictured, because I am silly.
The vibrant red of the candy stripe was created with gel food colouring, which is, I am declaring, infinitely superior to the bottled liquid. And each drop lends such vivid saturation that it can be used more sparingly and last longer. I used a thin paintbrush to apply streaks up the side of my pastry bag, and then just had to stuff that with my strawberry-flavoured Swiss meringue. Then piping!
Loooooooooook! How much FUN.
Yield: About 100 tiny meringues
Time: 20 minutes preparation & 90 minutes cooking
3 large egg whites (roughly 85g)
¾ cup (170g) sugar (we’ll be melting it so it can be granulated or caster, doesn’t matter!)
1 teaspoon strawberry flavouring
Red gel food colouring
Pastry bag & tip
1. Preheat the oven to 80°C/175°F and line several baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Add the egg whites and sugar to a heatproof mixing bowl. Set this bowl upon a pot of gently simmering water, making sure the water level isn’t touching the base of the bowl. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. The egg whites should be slightly warmed but not hot/white.
3. Remove the bowl from the heat. With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites on medium-high until you have beautiful glossy stiff peaks, and then mix in the extract.
4. With a fine paintbrush, paint stripes of red food colouring on the inside of a pastry bag with a star-shaped tip attached. I applied quite thick lines of colour, and feel that this resulted in consistent neat stripes. Don’t scrimp!
5. Place the pastry bag in a pint glass and turn the top edges of it over the side of the glass. This makes it easier to scoop the meringue mix into the bag, and leaves a clean margin around the top of the bag for you to twist and secure it without getting egg whites and sugar everywhere.
6. Pipe tiny (1/2 inch high!) star shapes onto the parchment covered baking sheets. Bake for about an hour and thirty minutes, or until the meringues are crisp but not browned. Allow to cool completely.
I tried this another time with some peppermint flavoured meringue. I’d bought a lot of gel food colouring on offer and hoped to dye the meringue green so that I could pipe it into a bag with four different streaks up it, which, if swirled to a peak, would look like decorated Christmas trees. Cute, right?
Ummm… no. All I can say is that I don’t recommend Dr Oetker colouring. Supposedly ‘Lime Green’ and ‘Ultra Violet’ didn’t really appear at all, so these minty puffs look unfortunately like blobs of toothpaste.