Thursday, June 19, 2014

Merengues! Pavlovas!

If you follow me on Instagram (@pirategirljack), you've seen that today I made meringues!

A few days ago, I made a key lime pie for my dad for Fathers Day, and that recipe calls for four egg yolks, so I had these four whites laying around. I hate egg white omelettes or quiche, and we didn't have a lot of staples around--plus I really need to stop falling off the GF wagon because it's upsetting my everything. I wanted chocolate, but we were out, and we didn't have any nuts to make amaretti or macarons, so made straight up meringues!

 It was so easy!

They weren't perfect, but they tasted great and are ready for perfecting and trying new flavors!

 Here's what I did:

  • Preheat the oven at 275' 
  • Warm up the egg whites to room temp; if you're starting at whole eggs, separate them and let them warm up. Takes four. 
  • Whisk it with a pinch of sea salt; if you're doing it by hand, whisk forever; I used the electric mixer and a whisk attachment and whisked it until it was soft peaks, I guess--firm enough that it held up the first of the sugar when I sprinkled it on top. 
  • Add one cup of sugar a few spoons at a time, whisking until it's dissolved and it's the consistency almost of marshmallow fluff. Even with the electric mixer, it took a while, but it was so smooth and white and shiny when it was ready!
  • The recipes I consulted (this is a combo of about five of them) said to use parchment paper, but we were out of that, too, so I did it on a well-seasoned cookie sheet just the way it was, and the bottoms stuck. One recipe said to spray it with baking spray, but several of the others said that moisture and oil are the enemy of meringues, so I didn't risk it*. Next time? Planning ahead and making sure we have parchment.
  • Scoop by somewhere between a heavy teaspoon and a heavy tablespoon; these were made with a big tablespoon, and got bigger; I think I'll go smaller next time, but if I do, I'll have to remember to cook less.
  • Bake it for somewhere between half an hour and an hour and a half--depending on whether you want soft, chewy middles (I did) or crunchy-dry all the way through, and how hot your oven runs. Ours runs way hot; otherwise, to get it soft-centered, I'd probably go about 40 minutes, and 60 for crunchy.
  • Let them cool on the sheet, then carefully remove them with a sort of twist-and-lift motion. Like I said, the bottoms stuck, but the tops were nice eggshell-thin crunchies, and they came up pretty easily. They also collapsed pretty easily if I wasn't careful.
I ate two of them just the way they were, standing in the middle of the kitchen while my niece looked at me like I was bonkers (she thought they were weird; I disagree). Then, I didn't realize my mom had planned strawberries and whipped cream** for dessert, so I had that with a third meringue on top and made the delicious and beautiful pavlova you see above!

I'm so making these again. Next time I make a custard-based pie, I'm making these a day or two later. From the recipes I looked at, here's some basic variations:
  • 3-5 tablespoons of cocoa powder mixed into the sugar before it's added to the eggs = chocolate meringues; I've eaten chocolate-walnut ones, so I guess you'd mix it all the way up, and then super-carefully fold in the chopped nuts.
  • Switch the white sugar for an equal amount of brown sugar (this sounds amazing)
  • After the whipping is done, drop a few blobs of jam on top and then swirl through it as you scoop it onto the pan to cook = fruity-meringues.
  • Add a weensy bit of mint extract and teenie chocolate chips or shavings = mint-chip.
  • Add the zest of any citrus, but not the juice (the moisture will mess it up) = citrus.
  • I bet they'd be amazing with a little (like, 1/4 tsp or less) rosewater or orange-blossom water or elderflower extract. Probably, really, with any extract, but I feel like flowers would be super-decadent. Or with some lavender or violets folded in...
How do you do your meringues?

*Also? I don't like baking spray. It always smells funny, and I'm not super happy about whatever else is in there other than oil.
**Actually Cool Whip, because that's what mom prefers, but I think it'd be fantastic with a good thick real whip, or probably even with a coconut whip.
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