Meringue Nests

These were a bit tricky, mostly because of contradictory information in my recipe sources. My friend Paige made meringue cookies for my wedding (along with many other food items, including my wedding cake — a delicious 3-tiered coconut cake with apricot filling — which proved to be challenging in several ways, to the point where she dreamt that the cake wielded a chef’s knife and chased her through the reception site, with malicious intent). Since meringues freeze well, I tried early-on to make a batch for my wedding, too, but could never get them to dry in the oven.

I’ve not tried any form of meringue since then, but it’s strawberry-pickin’ time again, and we were invited to dinner Saturday night (they served us incredible grilled ribeye steaks), and one thing led to another, and I found myself making strawberry frozen yogurt to take for desert. And, since David said that the yogurt is ideally served in a meringue nest, topped with whipped cream, well, I just HAD to try it. My hands were tied!!

I should say that, as I was finishing the egg-whipping process, it started to rain. I had a vague memory of a rule stating you shouldn’t make meringues on a rainy day; but after thumbing quickly through the three cookbooks I had dealing with the crunchy delights, I found no evidence for this fear, so I plunged on. The main recipe I was using was from The Perfect Scoop, since that’s where I got the idea to make them. The eggs whites whipped perfectly, and the folding in of the confectioner’s sugar went remarkably well. Shaping was a little difficult; I think it’s preferable to pipe them onto your baking sheet, but since I don’t have an arsenal of pastry bags and tips, I was left to winging it. They baked, they dried in the oven. And then it was time to see if they were ready… but a quick test showed them to be sticky and quite pliable still. So, I turned the oven back on, let them bake a little more, then dry a little more, then tested again. Same thing. I was running out of time, and in one final act of desperation, cranked the oven up from the specified 200º temp, to 300º. And I let them bake there for another 20 minutes or so. This time, when I checked them, they were no longer the pristine white mountains of fluff that I started with, but now had a golden-brown hue. The sugars were browning. I pushed those little suckers too far.

I quickly removed them from the oven, because obviously baking them longer was not an option. I messily transported them to a cooling rack (they were still quite sticky), and let them sit while I whipped cream and fed my children. Lo and behold, after cooling for about 20 minutes, they were dry, crispy, crunchy, and positively scrumptious. I ate one right there, giving one tiny bite to my husband so I could claim we shared it, boxed up four to take with us, stuck a couple in the freezer, and left one out for our generous babysitter.

An interesting thing: the ones that were in tupperware or the freezer stayed absolutely crisp. The one left for our babysitter went back to a state of sticky, gooey mess, within an hour or two of being left out. Who out there can tell me why? Was it the rainy day, the inherent humidity of the deep south, or do all meringues exist with a remarkably short open-shelf life?

Learning experience aside: THAT DESSERT. I think I could cry tears of joy right now, just thinking about it. Such textures! And flavors! I don’t think anyone else liked it quite as much as I did (no one else in the room appeared to be nearly-fainting), and it’s hard for me to understand how that combination could not change someone’s life, but although it’s a challenge sometimes, I do try and remember that not everyone likes what I like. And that’s ok. Because I can handle the thought of an entire batch of meringue nests, just for me.

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