Homemade talks to Alex Hoffler and Stacey O’Gorman about baking must-haves, crazy meringues and the key to the perfect pastry
With their innovative, Willy Wonka-esque baking style and colourful pastry masterpieces, it's no wonder the Meringue Girls have taken London's cookery scene by storm.
The duo, made up of food stylists and culinary queens Alex Hoffler and Stacey O'Gorman, have just launched a new cookbook, The Meringue Girls: Everything Sweet (Square Peg / Random House, £18), where they show off their creative takes on puddings from carrot cake to edible flower lollies, with confections in every colour of the rainbow.
Alex and Stacey talk to Homemade about baking fails, must-have kitchen gadgets and what inspires their beautiful-yet-kooky creations ...
What does every wannabe baker need in their kitchen?
"A good standalone mixer – we recommend Smeg and Kitchen Aid. They’re reliable, save you lots of elbow grease and come in a range of super-cute colours."
Best baking advice you've ever heard?
"As much as measuring is a key element in baking, don’t let it hold you back from being as creative as you want to be. And never over mix your cake batter – you’ll have heard that before, but it’s essential!"
Earliest food memory?
Stacey: "My first food-related memory is of making a salt dough (Play-Doh) feast for my siste … I really remember rolling all the colours into different shapes, baking them and arranging them on little plates."
Alex: "My first memory of making something that was actually edible is baking with my Grandma. She taught me how to make proper scones and a killer fruit trifle."
Favourite comfort food?
"Our go-to snack is salty, buttery popcorn but we also love a hot chocolate brownie with hot chocolate sauce and vanilla bean ice-cream."
Why is colour so important to the perfect pastry?
"The right colour means the pastry is cooked to perfection and that you’ll have a lovely, flaky, crumbly, melt-in-the-mouth texture."
Tea or coffee?
"It’s got to be tea … we’ve got a shelf-full of delicious combinations in the bakery and love brewing up a great big pot for all the girls in the bakery."
Ingredients you can't bake without?
"We always have a good supply of nuts on hand to add depth to pretty much any baked treats and we’re really into experimenting with alternatives to traditional baking staples. Recently, we’ve been using lots of agave, coconut oil, maple syrup and honey."
Gadgets you can't bake without?
"A good standalone mixer and an external thermometer, as you can’t always rely on your oven dial to be accurate."
Craziest meringue you've ever made?
"We tried to make a savoury tomato and basil meringue once but it did not go well! Our craziest success story has got to be the edible meringue tepee we made for a photo shoot."
What's the secret to the perfect meringue?
"Patience! The slower you add your hot sugar to the egg whites, the more stable the mixture will be so you can flavour and colour, and pipe the meringues exactly how you want them."
Where do you go for good puddings?
"There are so many fab places in London but we recently went for lunch at Honey & Co and could not get enough of their amazing dessert selection … we just couldn’t choose so had three between us!"
Fave places to eat in London?
"We’re really lucky to have some amazing places nearby. Rasa in Stoke Newington has got to be in there – the tastiest South Indian food around. We also love popping into Franco Manca for a pizza or any of the local Vietnamese restaurants near the bakery. Honey & Co is also a firm favourite."
Any pet hates?
"Dry cake! Overdone poached eggs! Those little things that make such a big difference …"
What's the trick to gorgeous food styling?
"Texture, colour and natural lighting are essential."
Favourite recipes in the new book?
"Ooh, that’s a tricky one! It’s been really hot recently so we’ve stocked up the freezer with raspberry and mango coyo rocket lollies to get us through the day. Our pimped-up Jaffa cakes are to die for and then the crème brûlée tart is a winner for parties."
Where do you get your flavour inspiration?
"All over. We’re always experimenting and always on the lookout for new combinations. Instagram and Pinterest are great ways of sharing with like-minded people and are a really fun way to come up with new ideas.
"Quite often, it’s just a matter of spotting some really delicious fruit or veg that’s in season and then going with your instincts."