I made my first couple batches of meringues last month. I was quite proud of myself because this had been on my bucket list for some time.
The first batch was a bomb, not in a good way, but in a burnt way. I over cooked them and then tried to convince myself they were not burnt. I was a bit devastated and then I realized it was my oven.
I had been having problems with it not keeping the temperature and then getting too hot. I thought I could "work with it". These are just too delicate to take chances with a broken oven.
I ordered a new oven and tried them again. They turned out perfect. Lightly cream in color with a slight caramel flavor to each one. My family had never had such a treat and found themselves returning throughout the day.
I think this is the tricky part about this dessert: humidity. I live in Maryland and we have a lot of moisture in the air. You want to keep these as dry as possible so they maintain their crisp and airy texture. For me, the best way to keep them dry, was to put them into an air tight container or storage baggie. Try not to stack them on top of each other either.
I also dipped mine in chocolate and then white candy beads. This kept them from sticking to the plate if I left them out for company or my family a bit longer than they should have been.
I got creative on my second batch, I made little cups, a pavlova of sorts. I piped these with a Wilton tip and pastry bag. I wanted them to look like little nest. I did the same thing to these little cups that I did with the meringues, I dipped them into chocolate and white candy beads. You can just as easily spoon tiny dollops of meringue and bake to create a round shape that can also be filled with the filling and topped with fruit and nuts. The little cups pictured below are very small-bite size. For this reason I did not add any fruit to the top. I instead prepared a filling of raspberries and mascarpone cheese.
A magical thing happens to the little cups when you add the filling, they become soft--like soft marshmallow. I was surprised when I bit into my first one and it melted into my mouth. The dipped chocolate and candy bead bottom made them easy to pick up. This did not happen right away only to those that were left sitting out for too long.
I added these cute little pavlova cups to a mini bundt cake that I made and the softness acted like frosting while the white candy beads gave the mini cake some texture. I thought they were wonderful.
The mini bundt cake recipe will be published soon. It's for a gluten free chocolate espresso cake that is rich in flavor and goes well with the pavlova topped cup of raspberry and mascarpone filling.
The recipe that I used for the Pavlova (meringues) can be found over at Tartine and Apron Strings. There pictures are so wonderful and the presentation of the dessert is breathtaking.
I had to alter the cooking method a bit from what they suggested so my interpretation and process of baking the meringues will be slightly different only because this is what worked for me.
Recipe: Meringue for Pavlova's
Adapted from Tartine and Apron Strings
For the Meringues:
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup of confectioner's sugar, divided into 3/4 cup and 1/4 cup
1 1/2 teaspoons of cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
For the filling:
1/3 cup of mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon sugar
grated dark chocolate
fruit: raspberries, kiwi, strawberries, blueberries
nuts: almonds, pistachios
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. If your heat element is at the top of your stove, place your rack at the very bottom. If the heat element is exposed on the bottom place the rack in the middle or towards the top. You don't want the heat source and the meringues too close.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. This should take about 4 minutes. I did not use a stand mixer (mine is in the shop) so I used a hand held mixer instead.
Gradually add 3/4 cup of a cup of confectioner's sugar to the soft peak egg whites. The meringue should start to get a bit thicker. This should take about3 minutes.
In a separate bowl, combine the 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar with the cornstarch. Gradually beat this mixture into the egg/sugar mixture until very stiff, around 2 more minutes. Beat in vinegar for 1 minute.
Your meringue will be very thick. To make the nest, use a piping bag and any size tip that will achieve the size nest or cup you want leaving an inch space between each one. To make the pavlova's, drop spoonfuls of meringue spaced two inches apart on parchment lined cookie tray.
This is where I did things a bit differently than the original recipe and mine turned out great.
I let them bake for 40 minutes. Do not open the door. Turn the oven off and crack the door. Let cool in oven for 30 minutes. Remove cookie sheet and remove meringues/Pavlova's to cool completely and then add them to a storage container.
For the filling I used 8-9 fresh raspberries, 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Mash the raspberries, add the cheese and sugar. Combine well. Pipe filling into each cup, nest or bowl of meringue. Fill them right before serving to maintain the freshest dessert..if left out, the filling will turn the meringue in to a "melt in your mouth"-still delicious- dessert.
I grated some dark chocolate over each cup for an added garnish, this is optional.
Written by Sherron Watson