The time has come for young Rose (who already seems to have lived enough for a dozen debutants) to make her formal debut and be launched into Society. Curtseying before the King and Queen was no small thing: you had to be approved by the Lord Chamberlain, first of all, and then there was all sorts of protocol surrounding how you dressed and behaved. The key thing for young unmarried ladies was to project an air of innocence: you were a frothy little cloud happily drifting along until some eligible young man came along to anchor you down. And boy, is Rose frothy this episode. And pink. Very pink. She barely gets out of the colour the whole time. So what could be more appropriate for this last Downton Dish than a rose-flavoured meringue? Fluffy, girlish, sweet, insubstantial—sounds like the ideal notion of a debutante to me!
4 egg whites
225g caster sugar
¼ tsp rose water
¼ tsp red or pink food colouring (optional)
Heat oven to 140C/120C fan/gas 1. Line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment and set up a piping bag with a medium-size star nozzle.
In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until very stiff – the whites should stand in stiff, not floppy, peaks when the beaters are lifted out. Once you have reached this point, pour in roughly half the sugar and whisk again until the mixture becomes very thick, firm and shiny. Add the remaining sugar and whisk again until thick, firm and shiny. If you like meringues with soft, mallowy centres, just add 1 tsp cornflour and 1 tsp white wine vinegar to the mix along with the sugar. Gently fold in the rose water and food colouring.
Carefully spoon the meringue into the piping bag. Push any air out of the top and tightly twist the end of the piping bag to seal. Gently squeeze until meringue is visible at the end of the nozzle, then begin piping onto your lined baking sheets. Pipe spiralling circles, about 6cm wide and 3 layers high – like you would ice a cupcake to make roughly 18. The meringues will spread slightly as they cook, so leave enough space between each one. Bake in the oven for 1 hr, turning the heat down to 120C/100C fan/gas ½ after 30 mins.
Remove from the oven – they should peel easily away from the parchment – and cool on a wire rack. Can be made up to a week ahead and kept in an airtight container, or frozen for up to 3 months, between layers of parchment, in an airtight container.
Optional addition: for added crunch, fold in some chopped pistachios, or sprinkle them over the top before baking.