Today was a bit of a make-do-and-mend kind of day – that is, I wanted to make some kind of treat for my tea, but didn’t want to have to go shopping for ingredients or spend a lot of time baking. Simple, right?!
The one thing I could think of that might fit this brief was some kind of meringue cookie – it only takes a few basic ingredients I knew I had on hand. It also mixes up quickly and then the bake is low and slow so I could walk away and do my Saturday chores around the house.
Not only that, but if I made “nests” with my meringues instead of more of the kiss-cookie shape, I had some Meyer lemon curd I’d made a couple of weeks ago I could use up, had blueberries and dragon fruit on hand that I could use, and it’s fancy enough I could bring it to family dinner and “wow” the family.
So voila! I ended up with a posh dessert was really quite easy to make, versatile and looks like I spent a lot more time on it than I did.
A new recipe for meringues had just come in my Country Woman magazine this week, so I did a little research (which for me means comparing it against a couple of other recipes just to see what people do differently). And I ended up doing a cross between this Taste of Home recipe and a classic meringue cookie recipe from America’s Test Kitchen.
My first conundrum was that the eggs I had were not similarly sized, having fresh eggs from my stepdaughter’s hens (nothing better than home-raised eggs!). So I ended up using 3 small-ish eggs and 2 that were more like a typical “large” egg.
Once the egg whites get all glossy and stiff, you’re ready to put the mixture into a piping bag to make the nests.
Pipe quickly once you’ve got the mixture where you want it; I found mine got a little loose by the time I was getting to the end. I kept mine pretty small – 1-2 bite nests about 1 1/2 inch in diameter.
I was pleased that my meringues looked almost as white and glossy after baking as they did before – I’ve tried meringues before and overbaked them so they turned brown. These were much better! Even the little tails at the end of my piping that I had on some didn’t burn. And the finished meringues were lovely and crisp on the outside, nice and chewy especially on the bottom.
I topped off my meringue nests with a homemade lemon curd (recipe here), blueberries and dragon fruit. I ate dragon fruit every chance I had when I was in India; here in the States I only see it occasionally, so I might buy one once a year when it’s in season, just to enjoy it and to fondly remember my travels.
If you’re not familiar with dragon fruit, it’s the shape of a small football, covered in pink rind, and has white flesh with tiny black seeds. It’s light and refreshing, not very sweet typically, a bit like a melon. But I thought it paired well with the blueberries and lemon curd. I cut it into small square shapes, not really thinking about the fact that it would look a bit like dice when the meringues were assembled!
At any rate, I thought the end result tasted delicious and the flavors worked well together, but of course the combinations of curd and fruit and garnish that you could use are endless. Not to mention other garnishes – dot of whipped cream, chocolate shavings, mint, etc.
- 4 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1 tsp. vanilla bean paste or extract
- 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
- Pinch of salt
- 3/4 c. sugar
- 1 c. lemon curd (or other favorite curd)
- 1 c. blueberries, 1/2 c. dragon fruit, or other favorite berries or fruit
DirectionsPreheat the oven to 225° Fahrenheit. Beat the egg whites, vanilla and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the sugar, pouring it in slowly as you beat on high, until stiff peaks begin to form.
Use a piping bag to form the nests; you don’t need to use a tip. Just cut a whole at the bottom of the piping bag and fill the bag – smaller for small-ish nests, a slightly larger hole if you want larger nests. My nests were 1 1/2 inches in diameter, which was 1-2 bites per meringue. Pipe on parchment paper on a cookie sheet. When you pipe, first pipe the bottom of the nest, then make circles around the outside about 3 times around high, enough room so you can put a little curd and fruit in the middle. You can pipe them fairly close together on the parchment, they don’t expand in the oven.
Bake the meringues until set and dry, for 1 hour at 225°, then turn off the oven (do not open the door) and leave them in the oven for another hour (to up to 2 hours).
One dry, fill each nest with a little lemon curd and blueberries/dragon fruit, or any other preferred fruit or curd choices. They are now ready to serve.
These make a great addition to one’s tea table with a nice black or milky breakfast tea; I really enjoyed my first taste of Whittard’s Chelsea Breakfast with these. Enjoy!