The first time I made Italian meringues I was sure there was a misprint in the recipe.
Imagine pouring hot sugar syrup into almost beaten, notoriously fragile egg whites and expecting them to remain stable.
Wonder of wonders, it worked beautifully, and further beating only made the egg whites thicker and fluffier.
Every time I make Italian meringue I’m just as amazed.
The virtue of Italian meringues is that they don’t weep, crack or turn brown, and they keep for several days when stored in a tightly covered container.
Meringues are wonderful low-calorie desserts.
True, they’re made with sugar, but they’re fat-free, and if you fill them with fat-free frozen yogurt and sliced strawberries, you have a dessert that is lower in calories than strawberry shortcake but just as delicious.
Before you begin, make sure the bowl and beaters are spanking clean and bone dry. You’ll get more volume if the eggs are cold when they’re separated but left at room temperature until they’re beaten.
If a speck of yolk gets mixed in with the whites, they won’t beat properly. The best way to separate eggs is to use an egg separator (it costs about $2).
When the egg is broken into the separator, the yolk stays in the center indentation and the white slips down into a small bowl or cup.
Fill the shells with one of the five fillings suggested below, or use your own favorite.
Italian Meringue Shells
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cup minus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup hot water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
In the large bowl of an electric mixer beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and salt and continue beating until stiff peaks form.
In a small heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and water and stir well. Place mixture over mediumhigh heat and bring to a boil without stirring. Boil for 1 to 2 minutes or until bubbles thicken and a few drops dropped into ice water form a soft ball (238 degrees on a candy thermometer).
With the mixer on medium speed, add the vanilla to the whites and pour the hot syrup into the beaten egg whites in a slow, steady stream. Beat until the mixture is completely cool, smooth and shiny, anywhere from 6 to 8 minutes.
Heat the oven to 200 degrees and place the meringue mixture into a piping bag with a -inch star or plain tip.
Place a piece of aluminum foil or wax paper on a baking sheet. Using a cup or small saucer, trace 8 (3-inch) rounds on the paper with a toothpick or skewer. Spray lightly with baking spray.
Beginning in the center of each round, pipe out the meringue in concentric circles. To form the sides, pipe 2 or 3 additional rings on top of the outside edge. The meringue also can be spooned on the 3-inch circle outlines and smoothed into a shell shape using a rubber spatula.
Bake the meringues for 2 hours, or until dry and crisp but not brown. Cool on a baking sheet, then peel off the paper.
Yield: 8 meringues.
Combine 3 cups berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries) with 2 cups sweetened whipped cream. Pile onto shells and garnish with a mint leaf.
Strawberry Tart Filling:
Stem 1 quart ripe strawberries and slice thickly. Combine in a bowl with 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon almond flavoring. Fill meringue shells with strawberry frozen yogurt and top with the strawberries.
Chocolate Pudding Filling:Prepare 2 packages chocolate pudding following package directions. Fill shells with pudding and top with whipped cream and toasted sliced almonds.
Banana and Kiwi Filling: In a bowl combine 2 sliced bananas, 4 peeled and sliced kiwis and cup orange juice. Fill meringue shells and sprinkle with coconut.
Peach Melba Filling: Combine a 10-ounce package thawed frozen raspberries with 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons lemon juice and puree in a food processor or blender. Fill meringue with peach frozen yogurt and cover with sauce.