Meringue Gems

I was heading to the beach with Josh and his family last weekend and I knew that we would all like something sweet after we swim in the salty ocean. Instead of doing the usual Sunday market ritual, I woke up early and whipped these little cuties up! They took an hour or so to make and were plenty of fun; I had sweet, sticky specks of meringue on my arms, face and even in my hair! As soon as we got in the car, my meringue gems did the rounds and everybody had their favourite flavour. They're a good alternative to buying a packet of lollies and I think we can all agree that they're much prettier too.

What you'll need:
3 egg whites
1 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Pink and yellow food colouring
1/2 teaspoon strawberry essence
1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest, chopped finely
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
2 disposable plastic piping bags with star nozzle

What to do:
Preheat the oven to 150C and line 3-4 baking trays with non-stick paper.

Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in a bowl and use an electric mixer to beat to stiff peaks. Reduce the mixer speed and add the vanilla essence and then the sugar, one tablespoon at a time. Return speed to high and beat for 2-5 minutes or until sugar has dissolved. (To test, turn off the mixer and rub some meringue between your fingers. It should be thick and sticky yet smooth.)

Divide the meringue into three different bowls. In the first bowl, add one teaspoon of vanilla bean paste and mix to combine. In the second bowl, mix together the meringue with 1/4 of a teaspoon of pink food colouring and the strawberry essence. In the last bowl, add 1/4 of a teaspoon of yellow food colouring and the lemon zest and combine. The colours will fade in the oven so if they don't seem vibrant enough now, pour more colour into the teaspoon and drop it in gradually, mixing between each addition. The pink should be pretty solid and the yellow should be almost fluorescent.

Place the star nozzle into one of the piping bags and spoon in the yellow lemon meringue. Chop the tip off the piping bag and push the nozzle through. Gather the big, open end and twist until the meringue starts to come through the nozzle. Place the nozzle about 1cm above the tray and, by twisting the end tighter again, the meringue will continue to come through the nozzle. Apply pressure to the bag, piping until the gem is around the size of a 10 cent piece. Then, release any pressure you are applying to the bag and pull the nozzle up and away. Keep piping these gems until you've run out of yellow meringue.

Cut the piping bag open and retrieve the star nozzle. Dispose of the yellow meringue's piping bag. Rinse the nozzle, place it into the clean bag and spoon in the vanilla meringue. Pipe these gems until you run out of vanilla meringue. 

Now, spoon the strawberry meringue into the vanilla meringue's piping bag. Squeeze the meringue out into a bowl until there is little to no trace of white meringue. Now, pipe the pink strawberry gems until you run out.

Place meringues into the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until crunchy on the outside. Leave to cool on trays for 5-10 minutes. Enjoy!