Thursday, February 20, 2014

Strawberry balsamic meringues are a welcome taste of summer

Raleigh’s harsh winter, combined with early signs of spring in our garden, has sent my taste buds in search of the reassuring flavors of summer. Since I preserve fruits in jams and jellies at peak season, this allows me a chance to bring some sunshine into my kitchen on even the dreariest of days.

After a blast of snow and ice that all but shut down the Triangle for three days, I found myself craving the satisfying crunch of meringue cookies. Not just any meringues, but ones swirled with the jammy goodness of jewel-toned strawberries. To keep them from being overly sweet, I tempered a few spoonfuls of jam with a splash of balsamic vinegar.

My first attempt with a dud. Although they were dutifully eaten, they were gummy, victims of excess moisture from snow and ice. Lesson learned: Do not attempt meringues on snowy, rainy or otherwise high moisture days.

I also tried a different “cook and forget” method, in which the cookies were supposed to slowly dry – in a few hours or overnight – in an oven that had been preheated and then turned off as soon as the cookie trays were tucked in. This may work in electric ovens, but my gas stove did not hold enough heat for this magical transformation to occur.

A few days later, after rising temps and sunshine cleared our neighborhood, I tried again. I went back to my standard practice of slow cooking meringues for about 90 minutes, but decided to leave them in the closed oven for a couple of hours for good measure. The resulting cookies were crisp on the outside with meltingly tender insides. They were irresistibly delicious, lasting just long enough to snap a few photos.

Strawberry Balsamic Meringues

Makes about two dozen cookies. Do not attempt when the weather is damp.

3 eggs whites at room temperature
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
2/3 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon strawberry extract
2½ tablespoons strawberry jam
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

Place strawberry jam and balsamic vinegar in a small sauce pan over low heat. Warm just enough to combine, mashing on any large chunks of fruit to break them up. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until fluffy but not dry. Add the sugar gradually, about one tablespoon at a time. When half of the sugar has been added, add the strawberry extract. Continue beating and gradually adding sugar until all sugar is dissolved and the meringue is glossy and firm.

Gently drizzle the cooled strawberry jam-balsamic vinegar mixture over the meringue. Using a wide rubber spatula, fold lightly into the meringue. Do not fully combine; the goal is to leave pinks streaks. Be careful to not deflate the meringue.

Using two teaspoons, lightly push a generous spoonful of meringue onto the lined baking sheets, leaving an inch of space between cookies. (Meringues also can be decoratively piped.)

Place baking sheets in the preheated oven and set the timer for 90 minutes. Turn off heat and leave the cookies (undisturbed) in the oven for at least two hours and up to overnight, or until cookies are crisp and dry.

Meringues are best eaten the same day but may be stored in an airtight container for up to three days.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, We have had plenty of snow this year here in Raleigh!

    Arthur in the Garden!