I had to fill in (on rather short notice) for one of the members of my Sweet Treats group at work, and so this is what I came up with. I LOVE (love, love, love) meringues. Always have. In fact I think they’re the first thing I ever baked. And so every time I make something with egg yolks I take advantage of the extra whites and whip up a batch. The Pie isn’t a huge fan of the crispy, chewy, sugary goodness, but that hasn’t stopped me yet. I’ve even branched out and made different varieties of chocolate meringue, one of which I posted about here. But I keep seeing fruity versions, so I thought I’d give that a go. Most of the recipes call for food colouring and raspberry or strawberry extract, neither of which are particularly yummy to me. I mean, I understand why you would use them in this case — the fluffy egg whites are pretty delicate and would collapse if you put too much heavy stuff into the mix.
But I think we can give this a bit of a go, with some real fruit. We just have to be very careful.
What you need is some egg whites, at room temperature. I have some pasteurized egg whites that came in a carton which has been sitting in my freezer since Cait and Jul were here, so I might as well use that. Then you need some cream of tartar, which is your stiffening agent. And some sugar. For sweetness. Obviously. You can use any sweetener you like, but I prefer the ease of good old regular sugar.
And you need some fruit. I’m going to use about a cup and a half of frozen raspberries here, which I thawed, and I’m going to gently stew them for a little bit with 1 teaspoon corn starch. To prevent lumps of corn starch forming, mix the spoonful of starch with a small amount of the raspberry juice first, to form a slurry (this technique works really well when adding thickener to gravies, too). I added in a tablespoon or so of sugar, just to get rid of the bite of the raspberry acid.
Then I’m going to strain them (and by that I mean shove the mess through a sieve with a spoon), and come out with a nice little coulis. Let that cool for a bit.
Now you can start your meringues. Preheat your oven to 250°F and line some baking sheets with parchment paper.
The regular proportions I use come from The Joy of Cooking, and involve 4 egg whites, 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar, 1 teaspoon vanilla (which I made from rum!) and 1 cup sugar. You can multiply or divide this recipe however you wish. In my carton o’ egg whites the label says there is the equivalent of 8 egg whites, so I’m going with that proportion, which is a double batch.
Of course, I didn’t learn until after I’d put it all together that pasteurized egg whites (such as those that come in a carton) do not lend themselves well to making meringue. So I had to start all over again.
So you have your room temperature egg whites, and you chuck them in the bowl of a mixer with your cream of tartar and your rum/vanilla, and you beat the crap out of it with your whisk-y thing. When you’ve got nice foamy peaks, you can start adding your sugar in, a little bit at a time. Keep beating until you have nice firm peaks.
These peaks not only hold their own weight, but they can support the weight of the heavy metal whisk as well!
Once the egg whites form stiff peaks, you can gently fold in your coulis.
I spooned the meringue stuff onto the baking sheets in decent cookie-sized heaps, and ended up with 42 of them. Bake them for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (maybe a bit longer if they’re still squishy on the bottom, and make sure to rotate your sheets if you’ve got them on two levels), and let them cool inside the oven after you’ve turned it off. If you cool them too quickly they’ll collapse. Store them in an airtight container and make sure to eat them all within a few days of baking.
These are strongly reminiscent of those fruit-flavoured hard candies that they hand out in restaurants, that you suck on for a while and then you chew and the inside is all squishy and sticks together. That’s what biting on these is like. Taste is very similar, too.