Brian Crowther loves the sweeter issues in life, and, together with his spouse Leanne, helps to deliver the common-or-garden meringue into the 21st century.
Ten years in the past the couple based their Shropshire-based bakery and enterprise Flower & White, and right this moment their merchandise are bought throughout the globe.
“We realised meringues have been left alone so far as innovation is anxious so we noticed a possibility to provide them a brand new lease of life,” mentioned eager baker Brian.
Father-of-three Brian, had labored within the restaurant business earlier than turning into a stay-at-home time dad, which gave him the prospect to take pleasure in his love of baking.
“I used to be fed up of working for different individuals. I had labored for giant corporations like Disney and UK corporations like Carluccios however I needed to work for myself,” he mentioned.
Brian started by making cupcakes at house which he bought at native farmer’s markets earlier than turning his hand to meringues. His hand-crafted creations – big Swiss meringues whipped up from sugar and egg whites – proved to be an enormous crowd pleaser.
“I began with strawberry and chocolate flavours which we nonetheless do right this moment and I might pile them up excessive on the desk. They bought very well,” mentioned Brian.
Seeing a possibility, the couple determined to focus simply on the meringues and now promote their meringue Giants in 20 completely different flavours together with the preferred – white chocolate and raspberry. They now have a variety of different merchandise together with meringue Bites, which were ‘enrobed’ in chocolate.
“Meringues are a pleasant candy deal with. They’re low calorie and will be made vegan and gluten free. Sure, they include loads of sugar, we don’t apologise for that, however we provide a bar that’s below 100 energy,” mentioned Brian.
At their base on Tweedale Enterprise Park in Telford they now make use of between 30 and 35 employees relying on the time of 12 months, and have the capability to supply a million meringues every day. The workforce of bakers use between 200,000 and 250,000 British free-range eggs per week, and hand swirl the distinctive meringue giants. In addition they end the meringue Bars and Bites, that are machine piped, with sprinklings of gourmand toppings by hand.
To make the Giants, which symbolize half of the corporate’s turnover, step one is to softly warmth the sugar.
“We use the Swiss technique of heating the sugar which makes a extra steady meringue and offers it a marshmallow-like centre,” mentioned Brian.
The eggs are purchased in as separated egg whites, which saves the workforce time.
“We used to separate the egg whites by hand however this took loads of time and may very well be very messy and wasteful,” Brian defined.
The sugar and egg whites are mixed within the big mixers and whisked for round 15 minutes or till the combination has reached the correct consistency.
“The tactic has stayed precisely the identical since we began, we’ve simply needed to put money into greater mixers,” mentioned Brian.
After the flavours are added, the subsequent step is dosing, which is the place the bakers scoop and the swirl the combination into particular person meringues on to trays. These are then gently baked on racks for 2 hours at 100c in big ovens which have capability for 1,200 meringues.
They’re then saved in a humidity-controlled room to maintain them dry earlier than they’re packaged, able to be shipped.
“Meringue is a extremely humorous factor. We discovered that moisture within the air within the manufacturing facility can seep again into the meringue, so resting it in a dry atmosphere helps the product to settle and dry earlier than it’s packed,” mentioned Brian.
To make sure they style their greatest, the shelf-life of the meringues ranges between seven weeks for the Giants and 39 weeks for the Bars and Bites.
After they’re baked they are going to be crispy on the skin and gentle within the center, but when they’re left longer they are going to be gentle, crisp and stuffed with crunch all over. The latest a part of the Flower & White enterprise is chocolate enrobing, which is the place the meringue bites and bars are given a tasty coating of white or milk Belgium chocolate. Brian mentioned he enjoys arising with new concepts for the enterprise from completely different flavours to extra environmentally-friendly packaging.Final summer time the agency, which sells its gourmand treats in retailers from Selfridges to QVC, claimed to have crushed the likes of Mars and Nestlé, to turn into the primary confectionary firm within the confectionery sector to usher in transfer into plastic-free packaging. They’re utilizing an progressive paper-based pouch with a heat-sealable coating for his or her meringues Bites, and paper sleeves for his or her Bars as a part of a wider dedication to enhance sustainability and cut back vitality.
“We’ve simply put collectively a sustainability group – a workforce working throughout the manufacturing facility from the shopfloor to the administrators – to take a look at every thing from cycle to work schemes, and vitality effectivity to local people gardens, and what we are able to do exterior the manufacturing facility to cut back our carbon footprint,” defined Brian.
Brian is optimistic concerning the future and the agency’s means to develop new concepts and proceed increasing its product vary in accordance with buyer tastes and developments.
“I’m extraordinarily pleased with what we’ve achieved previously 10 years. We’ve not received a pure competitor within the meringue atmosphere, however we’ll proceed to develop new concepts, improvements and flavours and make as excellent a product as we are able to,” he added.
“There’s been an enormous improve within the consumption of chocolate previously 12 months. After we had the worldwide recession the cupcake business actually took off as a result of individuals had much less disposable revenue however nonetheless needed a small deal with.
“I believe chocolate is a extremely indulgence. We stay in unsure instances so individuals nonetheless need to deal with themselves however not spend a lot on their treats and chocolate is right for that.”