I’ve never been a big fan of chocolate - I’m the mom who, when rifling through the kids’ Halloween treat bags (come on, you know you do it too…) takes the candy corn and Twizzlers. I have an unbridled sweet tooth, which is how I came to discover (and love) meringues.
A meringue is basically any dessert made with whipped egg whites and sugar. It is then spooned or piped into various shapes and baked. Or, more specifically, it is “dried out” in a low oven over a long time. This results in that crisp, powdery crunch that is the signature of a perfect meringue.
Once you get the hang of making meringues they will surely be a “go-to” dessert for you, as they can be baked well in advance and are very adaptable. You can pipe them into large stars to serve as part of a dessert buffet. Fold in mini chocolate chips, pipe into rosettes and serve as cookies. Using a cake pan as a guide, pipe large spiral discs, layer with your favorite buttercream and you’ve made ”dacquoise”. Or pipe out little mounds, bake, and sandwich with lightly sweetened whipped cream. As meringues contain no flour they are an ideal dessert for anyone on a gluten-free diet.
With spring (finally!) here and warmer weather to come, I like to serve meringues in the form of vacherins. Vacherins are meringue “cups” made by stacking rings on top of one another prior to baking. The cups are then filled with whatever you like – ice cream, whipped cream and berries or my favorite, sorbet. For this recipe I used a blood orange sorbet, whose tartness nicely offsets the sweetness of the meringue.
Beating egg whites is not as difficult as it seems – for a refresher, click here – and from there the rest of this dessert is quite simple. They’re really impressive too – who doesn’t love an edible serving dish?
Note: do not make these on a damp or humid day – the egg whites will not beat up well and the meringues will be soft and chewy.
meringue technique adapted from Rose’s Christmas Cookies
for baking tips and tricks - go here
1/2 c. + 1 T. sugar (4 oz.)
1 c. powdered sugar (4 oz.)
4 egg whites, room temperature
1/2 t. cream of tartar
sorbet, ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream with assorted berries
fresh mint leaves, for garnish (optional)
Begin at least a day before serving.
Pre-heat oven to 200 – place racks on upper and lower thirds. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and, using a cookie cutter or drinking glass, trace (4) 3 1/4-3 1/2″ circles on each sheet of paper. Turn parchment over so that the marked sides are face down (the circles will show through the paper).
In a food processor, grind the granulated sugar for several minutes, till very fine – set aside. In a mixing bowl beat egg whites on low speed till frothy and completely covered in tiny bubbles. Add cream of tartar and increase speed to medium, gradually adding 2 tablespoons of the processed sugar. When soft peaks form when the beater is raised, add another tablespoon of the sugar and increase speed to high. When stiff peaks form add the remaining sugar and beat until stiff and glossy.
Fold in the powdered sugar.
Scoop meringue into a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (I used an Ateco #4 tip) and, starting in the center of 1 circle, pipe a spiral to fill it in completely. Pipe a circle around the base to form a rim. Repeat, piping 2 more circles on top of the first, to form a cup. Repeat this with the remaining circles.
Let the cups sit for 30 minutes, till set – they should stay intact when lightly touched. Bake for 3 hours (do not open oven door). Turn off oven and let meringues sit in the closed oven overnight. Remove from oven and store, airtight in a single layer, for up to 1 week.
Fill just before serving.