Meringues are not only delicious, they are extremely versatile. Last week, Annie Schennum, who trained and taught at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in London, showed us that meringues are easier to make than you might think. This week she shares two of her favorite recipes for meringue: strawberry vacherin and meringue cookies with raspberry coulis.
Vacherin is a French dessert made with meringue rings filled with either ice cream or whipped cream and fruit. It is thought that the dessert took its name from the French cheese, vacherin, because it is also round and white.
Traditionally the meringue rings have a well inside them to hold the fillings, but they can also be made with flat discs of meringue, as in Schennum's recipe. This has two benefits — meringue discs are easier to make yourself and the result, with the layers of fruit and cream visible, makes for a more beautiful dessert.
Schennum whips a cup of heavy cream with 2 teaspoons of confectioner's sugar and a few drops of vanilla. She places one of her meringue disks on a serving plate and covers it with the whipped cream. She has chosen strawberries as her fruit, but she highlights that "you could use a combination of fruits." She arranges the sliced strawberries on the cream, places another meringue disc on top and sifts over some confectioner's sugar.
"If you really want to get fancy we can pipe rosettes of cream on the top and decorate with some fresh strawberries" she says and demonstrates how it's done. "And there we have our vacherin au frais, a strawberry vacherin."
For her second dessert, Schennum takes two small meringues and sticks them together, base to base, with a small dollop of whipped cream in between. She dusts them with confectioner's sugar and drizzles over some raspberry coulis.
"A coulis is a thick sauce made with either fruit or vegetables which is pureed and strained" she explains. "The contrast of the sweet meringue and the tart raspberry sauce is absolutely fabulous."
Both of these desserts can be assembled ahead of time, but you will need to keep them refrigerated until serving. With the meringue cookies with raspberry coulis, it also might be a good idea to add the raspberry coulis just before serving so that it doesn't make the meringue soggy. Schennum also suggests serving this dessert with a bowl of summer fruits.
It is as simple as that. In no time at all, she has created two sensational desserts.
"I think these meringues should replace the strawberry shortcake!" exclaims Schennum.
Strawberry Vacherin and Meringues served with Raspberry Coulis
To make the meringue:
4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
To complete the Vacherin:
1 cup heavy cream whipped with 2 teaspoons sugar and a few drops of vanilla extract
1/2 pint of strawberries sliced (reserving a few for decoration)
To complete the individual meringues:
3/4 pint of raspberries
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
Another 1/2 cup whipped cream sweetened and flavored as above
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 225¬ F.
For the meringue:
1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment (or a handheld mixer), whisk the egg whites on a high speed for 2 to 3 minutes until they hold their shape.
Start adding the sugar a tablespoon at a time. whisking well between each addition; this will take a further 7 to 8 minutes. Finally add the vanilla and whisk until incorporated. You are now ready to pipe the meringue.
2. For the vacherin, draw two 6-inch circles on your parchment paper. Fill piping bag, fitted with 1/2-inch plain nozzle, with meringue. Starting in the center of your outlined circle pipe in a spiral, holding the piping bag a couple of inches above the baking sheet, keep going until you fill the circle. Using the remainder of the meringue, pipe individual meringues on the second baking sheet hold your piping bag steady, squeeze a disc about 11/2 inches in diameter, lift the bag slightly and squeeze another disc on top, slightly smaller this time and do the same again, so you end up with small 3 tiered meringues. Alternatively, you can use spoons to make small mounds of meringue.
3. Bake for 1 to11/2 hours or until meringues are firm to touch and you can remove easily from baking sheet. Allow to cool.
4. To serve the vacherin, sandwich the two meringue discs with whipped cream and sliced strawberries. Dust the surface with confectioner's sugar and pipe rosettes of cream around the outside edge, finish with quarters of small strawberries. Refrigerate for a couple of hours until you wish to serve.
5. For cookies, sandwich the individual meringue shells with a spoonful of whipped cream, pile up on a plate and dust with confectioner's' sugar. Refrigerate for a couple of hours until you wish to serve.
Serve the individual meringues with raspberry coulis (see recipe below).
If making the two desserts together, but serving them on different days, store unfilled meringues in an airtight container (will last at least a week), store raspberry coulis in the fridge.
For the Raspberry Coulis:
1. Puree the raspberries in a food processor or blender. Push the fruit through a wire sieve with a wooden spoon to get seedless juice.
2. Whisk in the sugar until smooth.
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Recipe courtesy of Annie Schennum, former Le Cordon Bleu instructor, 2012.