A hint of rose extract and fresh strawberries give these simple French meringues a delicate yet distinctive flavour, perfect for a stylish afternoon tea.
Preheat the oven to 120°C/100°C fan/250°F/Gas ½ and line two baking sheets with baking paper.
To make the meringue, put the egg whites, salt and cream of tartar into a large, spotlessly clean bowl. Gently whisk using a hand-held electric whisk to break up the egg whites. Increase the speed and whisk until the mixture stands in soft peaks when the whisk is lifted from the bowl. Add a rounded tablespoon of the sugar and whisk for a further 15 seconds. Add another spoonful of the sugar and whisk again. Continue to whisk in the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and whisking well between each addition until the meringue is thick and glossy.
Using a dessert spoon, place a mound of the meringue on the baking paper. Add 5 more mounds of meringue to one baking sheet and 6 to the other, spacing them well apart. Press down with the back of the spoon to flatten slightly. Neaten the meringue into drum shapes by running a small palette knife vertically around the sides. The tops needn’t be smoothed down as they’ll be covered with cream. Bake for 50–60 minutes until the meringues feel crisp and dry. Leave to cool on the paper.
To make the topping, put the cream, icing sugar and rose extract in a medium bowl and whip with a hand-held electric whisk on a low speed until the cream only just forms soft peaks when the whisk is lifted from the bowl.
Lift the cooled meringues off the paper (they should come away very easily) and onto a serving plate or stand. Put the cream in a large piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle. Pipe the cream around the edges of the meringues, working in a spiral to the centre. Hull the strawberries, reserving some of the green parts for decoration if they are pretty. Thinly slice each strawberry and arrange in a fan shape over the cream, allowing one strawberry per meringue. Position the green parts, if using, or mint, in the centres to decorate.
Photography: David Munns + Rita Platts © Hodder & Stoughton