Planning ahead - The meringues and crème anglaise (custard) can be made up to a day in advance should you wish.
For the vanilla milk - Pour the milk into a large shallow saucepan, add the vanilla syrup (or vanilla extract) and heat gently to a bare simmer to infuse.
To make the meringues - Meanwhile, using your Kenwood Chef mixer on medium speed with the whisk attached, whisk the egg whites with the lemon juice1 to soft peaks, then slowly add the sugar, whisking constantly. Continue to whisk until the meringue holds firm peaks.
To poach the meringues - Using a large spoon dipped in hot water, scoop large dollops of meringue and place in the vanilla milk. (Alternatively you can shape smooth quenelles of meringue between two spoons dipped in hot water). Poach the meringues in the shimmering milk2 for 4 to 5 minutes on each side3. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a tray lined with non-stick baking paper to drain. Strain and reserve the poaching milk to make the crème anglaise.
To make the crème anglaise - In a medium pan, bring the vanilla milk to a gentle simmer over a medium heat with 2 tsp of the sugar added4. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and remaining sugar together until well mixed. Pour the hot milk onto the eggs, whisking constantly, and then pour back into the same saucepan5. Place over a medium-low heat and stir continuously with a wooden spoon until the custard begins to thicken and coats the back of your spoon6. Immediately strain into a large bowl set over ice to stop the cooking. Leave the custard to cool, stirring occasionally. For an extra luxurious touch, finish the crème anglaise with a splash of Kirsch.
To assemble - Pour the crème anglaise into individual wide serving bowls and arrange the poached meringues on top. Leave in the fridge while you make the caramel.
To make the caramel - Place the water into a small saucepan, add the sugar and leave for a few minutes to allow the water to be absorbed, then dissolve over a low heat7. Increase the heat to medium and cook the sugar syrup to a rich caramel8. Immediately remove from the heat and dip the base of the pan in cold water for 8–10 seconds to arrest the cooking.
To serve - Trickle the caramel decoratively over the meringues and serve at once.
Variations - Flavour the crème anglaise with grated lemon zest, or grated orange zest and a splash of Grand Marnier, or melted chocolate.
1 Whisking egg whites using your Kenwood Chef will increase the volume by trapping tiny air bubbles inside the protein network. The whisk is designed specifically for this task and is more efficient than whisking by hand. However, be careful not to over-whisk the egg whites as they will become thick and grainy, lose volume and separate into a dry froth and a runny liquid.
2 When poaching meringues ensure your vanilla milk is at a shimmer, i.e. just under a simmer. If the liquid is too hot, the meringues will soufflé dramatically and then deflate just as fast. Poach them gently and they will hold their shape and keep their fluffy texture.
3 If you are unsure whether the meringue is cooked, check the centre of the meringue with a temperature probe - it should read 83°C.
4 I always add a little sugar, 10g or so per litre, to the milk before heating; this prevents the milk proteins from sticking and burning on the bottom of the pan.
5 When you are making a custard, always pour the hot milk/cream mixture onto the cold beaten eggs before returning to the pan to cook through. If you reverse this process you are in danger of scrambling the eggs before the sauce has had a chance to thicken.
6 If your custard starts to scramble a little at the bottom of the pan as you cook it, immediately pour into a Kenwood Chef food processor attachment (be careful not to over-fill) and process until smooth again. Pour into a bowl over crushed ice to cool quickly.
7 To prevent sugar crystallising when you make caramel, first place a little water in the bottom of the pan, add the sugar on top and let this absorb the water.
8 Because the caramel is made in a dark pan, it can look darker than it actually is. Take a spoonful or pour a little onto a white plate. If you undercook your caramel it will be pale, too sweet and lacking in character. You need to cook it almost to a smoking point, then it will be dark brown, with a wonderful, characteristic bitter-sweet caramel flavour.
Recipe © Raymond Blanc 2018