By Jean Redstone
One of the tried and tasty elegances of summer desserts has slipped somehow into the background and it’s time to pull it back to favor. I’m referencing the meringue, as in lemon “meringue” pie.
People appear to have relegated the pie topping to second place in importance, a mere topping, when the meringue itself can be the star player that turns a dessert into a party.
Or perhaps, because meringue can be a little tricky, cooks think it not worth the trouble. But not only is it trouble-free when handled properly, it can make the mundane into a masterpiece. Think of a bowl of fresh seasonal fruit compote. Then make the bowl out of airy, melt-in-your-mouth meringue.
A plain chocolate pie, made with store-bought crust and boxed pudding mix is fit for the company table when smothered with light, airy, baked-to-golden meringue. And that batch of ordinary chocolate chip cookies will transform into magical fairy treats when made with meringue.
It may take a little patience and practice to get egg whites whipped into perfect peaks.
First, be sure not to let any of the yolk mix in with the whites when you separate. Have your eggs at room temperature and add a pinch of salt to the whites before beating.
Start off mixing at medium low speed and halfway through add the sugar and vanilla. Lightly mix in with a spoon. Then increase the speed and beat to stiff peaks. Stop when peaks hold their height and don’t over mix or meringue will destabilize.
Summer is perfect for light and airy desserts and once you get the hang of it, meringue will be your go-to choice to impress at summer gatherings.
PS: Save the egg yolks that you separated out. They freeze well, and can be used to increase the heartiness of omelets, the richness of cakes and more.
They also can be used immediately as a hair conditioner after shampooing. Beat 2-3 yolks together with a fork and gently work through your hair. Let sit about 5 minutes and rinse fully out. Adds shine and gloss.
A time-saving family pleaser
1 10-inch baked pie crust, pastry or graham cracker or cookie
1 (4 3/4 oz.) box chocolate pudding, the kind you cook, not instant
3/4 C sugar
3 egg yolks
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 C milk
3 egg whites
1/4 C sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
For Pie: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place pudding mix, sugar, egg yolks, and 1/2 cup milk in a small bowl and combine. Pour into medium pan with the remaining milk. Add vanilla. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens. Pour into pie shell.
For Meringue: Beat egg whites with egg beater until peaks form. Add 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and beat until peaks are stiff. Cover pie with the beaten egg whites and brown in a 425 degree oven, 10 to 15 minutes. Check frequently.
Tip: For a surprise taste, add almond extract in place of vanilla to meringue.
Showy and simple; adapted from a Kraft recipe
4 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla 2 C sliced or whole berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc.)
1 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
3/4 C thawed frozen whipped topping
Preheat oven to 300°F. Beat egg whites in medium bowl with electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Fold in vanilla and beat again if needed.
Spoon or pipe meringue mix into 3 (4-inch) rounds onto each of two parchment or foil-covered baking sheets. With a large spoon, make a big indentation in the center of each round, building up the sides of the round as much as possible, to resemble a bowl. Bake one pan at a time on center oven rack for 55 min. or until dry and golden brown. Remove from oven. Cool completely on baking sheets. Carefully remove meringues from parchment.
Toss berries together and set aside. Place the chocolate in a small microwaveable bowl. Microwave on high 1-1/2 to 2 min. or until chocolate is completely melted, stirring after each minute. Just before serving, fill meringue bowls with the berries and top with whipped topping. Drizzle with chocolate. Makes six desserts
Crispy outside, soft inside; recipe from The Egg Farmers of Ontario
2/3 C granulated sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
3 egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 tsp white vinegar
1/2 C mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 Tbls unsweetened cocoa powder
Cocoa powder or confectioner’s sugar (optional) for garnish
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl, whisk together sugar and cornstarch and set aside. In a large bowl beat egg whites with an electric mixer, until foamy. Beat in vinegar on medium speed until soft peaks form (about 2 minutes).
On high speed, beat in the sugar mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, until stiff glossy peaks form (about 2 to 3 minutes). Fold in the chocolate chips and cocoa powder, until just blended.
Drop by tablespoonfuls about 1-inch apart, onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 30 minutes or until cookies are dry to the touch, rotating pans halfway through. Remove cookies from sheets and place on cooling racks. Sprinkle with cocoa powder or sugar, if desired. Cool completely. Store in airtight containers. Makes about a dozen and a half cookies.