We want to meet Christoph Frutiger in the meringues production at Hausenstrasse 73 in Meiringen. And so, before leaving for the Haslital, I enter the address into the car's sat nav. «Are we in the right place?» I ask our photographer when we feel we are very close. Only seconds later we see «Welcome to Meiringen - Birthplace of the Meringues» written in large letters on the wall of a house. Destination reached. We enter the production hall. It already smells delicious. No wonder, numerous freshly packed meringues are on display in the entrance area. Christoph Frutiger greets us. The 57-year-old is the owner of the FRUTAL mail-order bakery. Today we are allowed to look over his shoulders as he works in the bakery. To do so, we go to the back of the hall.
We are in the right place: The meringues production of the FRUTAL mail-order bakery.
In the entrance area: there is a scent of meringues in the air.
Christoph Frutiger washes his hands, he has already prepared the ingredients. If you want to make meringues, you don't need a big shopping list. On the counter is a measuring jug filled with three litres of protein. «Lots of protein, meringues are actually quite healthy,» says the trained baker. Then he laughs - and points to a bowl. Sugar. A whole six kilograms. The dream of a healthy dessert is over. Christoph Frutiger puts the two ingredients - that's all it takes - into the large container of the mixer. «We used to do everything by hand,» he recalls. Now he has a ten-minute «break» while the machine stirs the egg whites and sugar until the mixture has the right consistency.
Take: 3 litres of egg white...
... and 6 kilograms of sugar...
... and put them in the mixer for 10 minutes.
Frutal Bäckerei Meiringen
The FRUTAL Versandbäckerei is a classic family business. Christoph Frutiger has been helping in the bakery since he was a small child. «It was always clear to me that I wanted to be a baker one day,» he says. Ten years ago, the former bodybuilder and his wife Erika Frutiger took over the company - the shop including the tea room in the village, the bakery production and the meringue production - from his father. Today he employs 32 people. The business is going well, but the distant future is uncertain. Christoph Frutiger's children used to help in the business, but now his son works as a banker and his daughter as a chemical laboratory assistant.
Business owner is on Christoph Frutiger's business card, even if "girl for everything" would be more appropriate. Working in production, taking orders, packing and delivering goods, drawing up work schedules, giving tours, regularly visiting the three different locations, doing office work, ... - the activities could hardly be more varied. His working days, his long working days, are correspondingly full. Frutiger wakes up at 3.30 a.m. and finishes work at around 8 p.m. «At lunchtime, I treat myself to a drink.» At noon, I allow myself 1.5 hours of sleep after lunch. But there is no sign of complaining. On the contrary. «I never get up in the morning and don't feel like i he says.» He loves his job too much.
No bed of roses: The working days in a bakery are long.
Christoph Frutiger stops the stirrer. «Taste it,» he says. «That's how I like the mixture best, almost like a chocolate marshmallow.» For the meringues, however, he has to let the machine run a little longer. «The egg white doesn't always behave quite the same way,» the expert explains. Two or three minutes later, he is satisfied with the consistency. If necessary, Christoph Frutiger now mixes in the appropriate flavouring. There are almost no limits to his imagination. From coconut to chocolate, raspberry, banana, pineapple, Baileys, vanilla, caramel, blueberry and Christoph Frutiger's personal favourite: pink pepper. «Together with vanilla ice cream and cream, a real treat.» But almost more than eating meringues, Christoph Frutiger - who likes the sweet pastry but describes himself more as a chocolate lover - creates new variations. «On a Sunday evening, when I'm all alone here, I can really switch off, relax.» And so there are now also meringues for vegans and diabetics.
We don't use any flavouring, we make the little meringues nature for the so-called «Gschnöisi-Seckli». And so now the actual meringues machine, which was made in Italy, is used. Christoph Frutiger puts the white sugar-egg-white mixture into the machine, presses a few buttons, puts a tray underneath - and off you go. No more piping bag, no long procedure. After a few seconds, he takes the first full tray from the machine. A few minutes later, there is a trolley in front of us with 15 trays of 66 meringues each.
It covers tray after tray: the meringues machine.
Almost 1000 pieces: a trolley full of meringues.
Meringue production is the flagship of the FRUTAL Versandbäckerei. For the sweet temptation alone, 20 tonnes of sugar and 15 000 litres of protein are processed in Meiringen every year. In the birthplace of meringues - as we read on the wall of the house as we drove up. It is said that the Italian confectioner Gasparini first created the airy protein shells as a dessert in Meiringen around 1600. He named his sweet invention Meringues in reference to the village. Evidence of this was discovered in the Museum of Culinary Art in Frankfurt before the Second World War. Unfortunately, the relevant documents fell victim to the war. The sweet temptation is said to have started its triumphal procession from Meiringen throughout Europe. It was much loved by both the French and British royal courts. Queen Elizabeth I is said to have raved about the meringue as a «kiss». Word of this probably spread to France, which is why the pastry is known there as Baiser, which means «kiss».
Probably invented in Meiringen: Meringues.
But back to our meringues for the Gschnöisi-Seckli and the last step of production - drying the meringue. Christoph Frutiger pushes the trolley into an oven about two metres high. It is set for 480 minutes. At just over 100 degrees, the meringues are now dried for eight hours.
The last step: The meringues have to go into the oven for eight hours.
The world record meringues had to dry a little longer in 1985. They are omnipresent in the production facility and at the other two locations. Almost 40 years ago, two giant meringues were made by hand from 2500 egg whites and 120 kilogrammes of sugar. They were each 2.40 m long, 1.50 m wide and about 1 m high. The production and especially the drying in a sauna (!) took a whole eight months. At a big public festival, the sweets were finally consumed by the Haslital population with 80 litres of cream within three hours. The Bernese dialect rock star Polo Hofer had composed the "Meringues Song" especially for this event. With the largest meringues in the world, the Frutigers are still in the Guinness Book of Records today.
The largest meringues in the world: in the Guinness Book of Records since 1986.
It would be exaggerated to wait eight hours for the final product, but we stop by the shop in the village where, among other sweet treats, «our» ready-packed meringues will be on sale in the next few days. But first we say goodbye to Christoph Frutiger. He doesn't miss the opportunity to give us a «Gschnöisi-Seckli» to take with us on our way. Between us, the contents did not survive the day.
Posing for the camera: The Gschnöisi-Seckli and its maker.
In the middle of the village: The salesroom of the FRUTAL mail-order bakery.
Ready for the customers: This is where «our» meringues will later be sold.
The meringue production in Meiringen can be visited. The approx. one-hour tours are ideal for company events, clubs or group outings. Registration: 033 971 10 62, duration: approx. 1 hour.
In the meringue production of the FRUTAL Versandbäckerei, children, but also adults, can create their own meringues in cooperation with Haslital Tourism. When: Every Wednesday morning from July to October. Duration: approx. 10 to 11.30 a.m.
Photos: Sina Fuchser
Story: Raphael Hadorn
Tel. +41 33 971 18 21