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keep 'em separated – part one

June 17, 2008
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I don’t really like eggs, as a rule. I don’t like them scrambled at all. I really don’t care for omelets. I tolerate them fried or hard boiled. But a whole world of possiblities opens up when you separate eggs into their parts – whites and yolks.

Have you ever needed an egg yolk for something and separated it over the sink, letting all the white go down the drain? For a brief moment you think,  “hmmm, there’s probably something I could do with that…”, but nothing comes immediately to mind, so you know that it would just sit in the fridge until its time to throw it away. That was me until a few months ago when I discovered the world of meringues. No, I’m not talking about the gooey white stuff that sits atop a lemon pie. It is basically the same idea – you whip the egg whites until they are stiff, sweeten them, and you have this white fluff. But what you can do with the white fluff goes so far beyond pie. The possiblities with meringue are limited only by your imagination.

For starters, here is a basic meringue recipe. The great thing about this recipe is that you can use any number of egg whites, so it doesn’t matter how many whites you have leftover. Just remember 1 white : 1/4 cup of sugar.

  • 4 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 cup superfine sugar (note: this is not the same as powdered sugar. If you can’t find it, you can make your own by whizzing regular granulated sugar through a food processor for 10 minutes. I have tried meringue with regular granulated sugar, and it works okay. The meringue is gritty while you’re piping it, but the “grit” goes away when it is cooked)
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Beat egg whites in stand mixer until stiff. Continue beating and add sugar, 1 teaspoon at a time. When you’ve added all the sugar, add the vanilla. The mixture should be smooth and shiny and should hold a peak firmly.

The most basic thing to do with it is the favorite of my children. You put your prepared meringue into a piping bag and squeeze out little shapes and designs onto parchment paper, then bake in a 250 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours. The result is these crisp little shaped cookies, that are very similar in flavor to a roasted marshmallow, minus the goo. Those little cookies are also fabulous crumbled over ice cream.

If you’re looking for something a little more than that, take the same meringue-filled piping bag, but this time pipe the meringue in a circular motion, similar to making a snail out of play-doh, until you have a solid 4-inch circle. Then make one more circle with the bag, but this time on top of the outer ring of meringue, creating something like an edible bowl.  Make a dozen or so of these and bake in the same fashion as the cookies. When they are cooled, you can use them for an endless variety of fancy desserts, simply by filling them with any number of tasty things – whipped cream, mousse, fruit, or even ice cream. My very favorite creation was a meringue bowl filled with softened chocolate chip ice cream, and topped with mixed berries. YUM! Now any of these filled creations can be eaten immediately, but I prefer to chill them for 30 minutes to an hour. This allows the meringue to soften just a bit. You can make dozens of meringue shells and freeze them in a ziploc bag to use anytime you need a last minute dessert. They are exactly the same out of the freezer as they are fresh, no defrosting necessary.  

You can also make similar circles, but without the raised edge, creating a “plate”. Make them small for individual desserts, or 8-12 inches in diameter to create one dessert for a crowd. Use one “plate” for a bottom layer, then spread with a filling, add another meringue, spread with more filling, and finish with a meringue on top.

For another one of my favorite meringue creations, I spread the meringue onto a parchment lined jelly-roll pan and baked it at a higher temperature, 350, for less time – maybe 20-30 minutes. When the meringue cools, turn it upside-down, spread the side that was the bottom with sweetened whipped cream and scatter fresh sliced strawberries over the whole thing. then roll it up, starting with a long side. Chill for 30 minutes, and slice. Super easy, but also super elegant.

Coming next week – leftover yolks…

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Debby Morton permalink
    June 17, 2008 8:10 am

    You are almost making an Australian Pavalova here Kendra.

  2. scrabblenut permalink*
    June 17, 2008 8:29 am

    Hmmm, you’ll have to tell me more about that one 🙂

  3. Debby Morton permalink
    June 20, 2008 8:37 pm

    Maybe I will make one for our next book club meeting. 🙂

  4. scrabblenut permalink*
    June 22, 2008 4:50 pm

    I’m looking forward to it!

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