Double Chocolate Meringues

Image

Double Chocolate Meringues

I have been making meringues for years. They are sweet and satisfying, but also so light and delicate that one almost never has to fear feeling overindulgent when consuming a handful.

Take your time when whipping the egg whites and sugar. Using superfine sugar isn’t absolutely necessary, but I do think it dissolves more quickly and makes the finished meringue smoother. After the sugar is completely incorporated, continue whipping the meringue until it is very thick and glossy. It is tempting to rush the process, but the final minutes really do make a difference and increase the stiffness of the batter. The more dense and stable the meringue, the easier it will be to pipe onto baking sheets, and the higher and lighter it will be once baked.

When possible, prepare these crisp morsels when the weather is dry and cool. I have prepared them when the humidity is high, but it is risky. Any moisture in the air will likely result in tacky meringues, and they will stale rather quickly. The good thing is, however, that no matter when you whip up a batch, they are sure to be consumed in no time.

Makes about 48

4 large egg whites

1 cup superfine sugar

Pinch of salt

3 tablespoons natural cocoa powder

1/4 cup finely chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

Preheat the oven to 200°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Put the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and begin beating on high speed. When the whites are frothy, sprinkle in about 1/4 cup of the sugar. Continue adding the sugar gradually, every minute or so, until it is all incorporated. Whip the meringue until it is thick and glossy and holds medium-stiff to stiff peaks, about 10 minutes. Remove the bowl from the mixer, sift the cocoa into the meringue, add the chopped chocolate, and fold until combined.

Transfer the meringue to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch-diameter round tip and pipe rounds, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and about 2 inches apart, onto the prepared baking sheets. (Alternatively, you can spoon similar-size mounds onto the baking sheets.)

Bake until the meringues are puffed, fragrant, and possibly cracked, about 1 hour. Turn off the oven, open the door a little, and allow the meringues to cool on the baking sheets. Remove the meringues from the baking sheets and store in airtight containers or re-sealable bags.

Pavlovas with Strawberries and Whipped Cream

Pavlovas with Strawberries and Whipped Cream

There’s nothing better on a warm day than crunchy and soft pavlovas married with homemade strawberry jam, fresh strawberries, and velvety whipped cream.

These individual pavlovas are very elegant, but indeed deceptively simple assemblages of basic items: soft, chewy meringues, homemade strawberry jam, fresh strawberries, and whipped cream. They do require several steps, but you need not accomplish them all at once. You can prepare the jam days ahead of time and cut the strawberries and bake the meringues hours before you use them. The latter will keep for several days, but the characteristic soft, chewy centers will become firm the longer they sit. As for the whipped cream, prepare it last as it will lose volume and smoothness the longer it waits in the refrigerator. If you are traveling with this dessert, carry the parts separately and assemble them on site.

Serves 8

Meringues

4 large egg whites

1 teaspoon vinegar

Pinch of salt

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Jam

16 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped

3/4 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whipped Cream

1 1/4 cups heavy (whipping) cream

Sugar (optional)

Assembly

16 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced

To make the meringues, preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Put the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and begin whipping on medium-high speed. When the whites are very frothy, add the vinegar and salt. Begin incorporating the sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time, whipping for about 30 seconds to 1 minute after each addition. When all of the sugar has been added, continue whipping the meringue to stiff but supple peaks and until thick and glossy, about 5 minutes more. Spoon the meringue into 8 mounds onto the prepared baking sheet. Shape them into about 3 inch rounds, pressing the centers a bit to make shallow nests. Bake until firm (the meringues might color slightly and crack a bit), 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside on a wire rack to cool completely on the pan. (At this point, the meringues can be carefully removed from the baking sheet and stored between sheets of parchment paper in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Be advised that the moist, chewy centers will become firm the longer they sit.)

To make the jam, combine the strawberries, sugar, and salt in a large saucepan and, using your hands or a potato masher, crush the ingredients together until syrupy and mushy. It’s okay if you still see some pieces of berries. Cook the mixture over low heat, gently simmering and stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced, about 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Transfer to a bowl to cool, or pour into jars and seal with airtight lids. The unsealed jam will keep in the refrigerator for several days and the sealed jam will store well in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.

To make the whipped cream, whip the cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment to soft peaks. Whip in sugar, if desired.

To assemble the pavlovas, toss together the sliced strawberries with about 1/3 cup of the jam. Arrange the meringues on serving plates or a large platter. Fill each one with a dollop of whipped cream and spoon the strawberries and jam mixture evenly on top. Serve immediately.