A couple of firsts:
I am entering a baking competition.*
I have just made Italian meringue.
Italian meringue (for those of you who haven't watched every episode of MasterChef (all formats) for the past couple of years is the foamy soft type of meringue which you get on top of lemon meringue pie (rather than the hard type of meringue that you use to make pavlova). You make it by whisking your egg whites until they form stiff peaks and then continuing to whisk them as you pour a thin stream of boiling sugar syrup into the mixture and the meringue turns stiff and glossy. You can then pipe it onto your cake or pie and finish it with a blowtorch until it turns a lovely golden brown.
That's the plan at any rate. In my case it all went swimmingly - cake came together, meringue whisked up, meringue actually sticking to the sides of the cake (I wasn't at all sure that it would) - until it came to the blowtorching. I bought a new blowtorch specially for the job but when it was time to fire it up it just wouldn't produce any flame. I suspect that I may have misunderstood the packaging and that I needed to buy the gas separately (although I have to say that that's not implied by the words 60-70 hours burning time) but however it happened I was left with a cake covered in Italian meringue that needed to be browned at 11 oclock at night with the cake competition the next day.
My lovely husband was very supportive in helping me investigate various solutions (luckily we had a great deal of meringue left over to experiment with). Holding a lighted match near the meringue did brown it but also left a sooty residue and the attempt at flambeeing just resulted in a wet, sticky, mess. Eventually we just stuck it under the grill, closed the door, and monitored its progress with a torch, and .... hurrah!
It's a little anaemic on the sides but this is only an aesthetic issue as pouring the boiling syrup into the meringue actually cookes the egg whites.
Fingers crossed my colleagues like this (it's an inter-office baking competition) - I really want to get through to the next round.
* actually this isn't really a first I guess as I vaguely remember entering a couple of cake decorating competitions at Bank Top church when was a wee nipper, but still