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by Lynda Balslev
Every berry lover should have a recipe for meringues up their sleeve. Snow white, light as air and egg- shell crisp, meringues will dress up your favorite berries in these easy do-ahead desserts.
Crumble and shower meringues as a sweet and dusty garnish, hollow their centers to fill as a sugary edi- ble vessel, or simply fold them into dollops of billowy whipped cream.
Meringues can be stored at room temperature for up to two weeks (or longer if store-bought) and are the perfect secret ingredient to pull out for fresh desserts and easy summer entertaining.
Strawberry Meringue Parfaits with Balsamic Syrup
Active time: 25 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes, plus cooling time and standing time
Yield: Serves 6 to 8
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice 1 1/2 pounds strawberries
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces mascarpone
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces crisp meringues, store-
bought or homemade (recipe below), crumbled
Finely grated lemon zest for garnish Crisp Meringues
Total time: 1 1/2 to 2 hours, plus cooking time
Yield: Makes about 40 (2-inch) meringues
4 large organic egg whites, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar 1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine the vinegar, sugar and lemon in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until reduced by half and syrupy in consistency, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a small heat-proof bowl to cool to room temperature. (Syrup may be prepared up to two days in advance. Cover and refrigerate until use.)
Wash, dry and hull the strawberries. Slice 1/4-inch thick. Reserve 6 to 8 slices for garnish and place the remaining berries in a medium bowl. Pour the balsamic syrup over the berries and gently stir to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes (or cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours).
Combine the cream, mascarpone, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat at high speed until soft peaks form. (Cream may be prepared up to 4 hours in advance. Cover and refrigerate until use.)
To serve, divide half of the strawberries between serving glasses. Spoon the cream over strawberries to cover. Sprinkle with meringues. Repeat the layering process.
Garnish with reserved sliced strawberries and lemon zest. Serve immediately.
To make Meringues:
Heat the oven to 225 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until foamy. With the mixer running, add the sugar, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, mixing about 5 seconds after each addition to fully incorporate the sugar. Mix in the vanilla.
Pipe the meringue through a pastry bag in decorative rounds or drop large spoonfuls on the parchment and flat- ten slightly.
Bake in the oven until the meringues are firm, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Turn off the oven. Do not remove the meringues or open the oven door. Let the meringues dry and cool completely in the oven.
Store in an airtight container with parchment or wax paper between the layers for up to 2 weeks. Meringues can be re-crisped in a 200-degree oven for 15 to 20 min- utes.