LATE SUMMER SWEETS
Next week we will get back to the accounts of travel, eating, and other misadventures from around the world, but right now there is the final summer glories of Farmer’s markets and country produce stands to enjoy, and still almost time enough to cook. Before back to school, and the onslaught of PB&J.
When I was eight, meringues were an obsession.
The large, purely white, puffy, crisp and fragile ones, two halves sticking on either side of at least ¼ cup of English Clotted Cream. It took a week in a wintry and food-deprived boarding school to reach a frenzy of anticipation, and worth every day I had not spent my pocket money on the school’ shop sticky buns to save up for that meringue. I would walk up the High Street in Guilford, Surrey, near where we lived, heading for my favorite pastry shop. There in the window were the last of that day’s meringues, bursting with England’s finest cream.
At a dinner for 200 at Oxford University, I filled them with cooked rhubarb and mascarpone, set them in a Crème Carême custard (the most ethereal of them all, with Luxardo Maraschino), and covered the top with shredded pink rose petals.
When making meringue no yolk can be in the white and the beater bowl must be oil free and perfectly clean. It's also best to use room temperature egg whites. The recipe calls for 6 egg whites. Save the yolks, and use them to make crème anglaise! Serves 6-8, depending on how big or small you portion out the meringue to bake.
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ¾ cups superfine sugar
Heat the oven to 225°F. Line a standard rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In the bowl of mixer, add room temperature egg whites and salt. Beat on medium until frothy.
With the motor running on medium speed, add the sugar two tablespoons at a time until incorporated, making sure no sugar sticks to the side of the bowl.
Once all the sugar is added, beat on high speed for 3 to 5 minutes until the whites hold stiff-peaks and are glossy.
Using a large spoon, place meringue on baking sheet in 6 equal mounds. Or, pipe the meringue through a ziplock bag with the corner cut off, or with a pastry piping bag into 4-inch diameter cups.
To make little cups, start by tracing a 4-inch wide circle on the parchment using a small mixing bowl or round cookie cutter.
Using your piping bag, start at the center and work your way out to the outline by moving in a circle.
Once the base of the meringue cup is piped, begin piping a wall around the outer edge, going around to build up the "wall" with a few rows of meringue. Repeat with the remaining traced circles.
Bake for 2 hours. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container, or wrap the whole cooled baking sheet in plastic wrap, until ready to serve.
CRÈME GLACÉE À LA FRANÇAISE: Final Dessert on the Titanic
I inherited my grandfather’s diaries. He wrote about his brother, my great uncle Billy, telling the story of his escape from the Titanic and a very glacée death and rescue by a nearby ship: “My valet aboard the rescue ship RMS Carpathia discovered this menu folded in the breast pocket of my evening clothes, the same I was wearing in the lifeboat. I thought many times of the irony that for many, before hitting the ice and then drowning in it, the iced cream was their last memory, other than the two-and-a-half hours the ship took to sink. Watching it happen has erased all memory of what those dishes were like.” I remember from the story of Billy taking two bottles of “Napoleon” Cognac into the lifeboat. “To help the blankets prevent us from freezing to death.”
The ice cream was “à la française.” Meaning it was a custard or crème anglaise ice cream, not just frozen cream which was the original American ice cream. Think Haagen-Dazs.
You could churn this into proper ice cream, but it's delightful in its custard form with a wide variety of desserts.
Yields ~1 Quart.
½ cup granulated sugar
6 egg yolks
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups whole milk
1-inch piece vanilla bean
Ice, to make an ice bath
Mix the sugar, yolks, and salt in a large, heat safe mixing bowl and whisk until pale yellow (about 5 minutes).
Heat the milk and vanilla bean together until almost boiling, and pour slowly into the yolk mixture while whisking.
Cook over simmering water in a double boiler, stirring constantly, until the custard begins to thicken and coats the spoon.
Remove from heat and place over an ice bath to cool, stirring constantly with a spoon—this prevents the custard from overcooking (curdling) and forming a skin when it cools.
Strain and make into ice cream in whichever machine you have.
Rose Petal-Infused Crème Anglaise
One of my favorite variations of crème anglaise is this one: custard infused with fresh rose petals.
Recipe for crème anglaise, see above.
Once the custard starts to thicken, add the rose petals and continue stirring for 5 minutes to impart the flavor.
Strain and serve, or store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Fresh Raspberry Sauce
Berry purées can be a base for simple dessert sauces, marinades (for squab), added to butter (for grilled meats), folded into mousses and sabayon sauces, or used to make ethereal egg white soufflés. Whatever the use, the berries should be puréed by hand.
Once berries are subjected to the violence of a food processor or, worse, a blender, color, flavor, and texture deteriorate. Put through a sieve, berries will produce a purée with body, which is very important when you add other liquids and do not want a thin sauce. The best method is through a fine-mesh nylon or stainless- steel sieve or a food mill fitted with the finest mesh disk.
1 pint fresh raspberries
1 pinch kosher salt
¼ cup heavy sugar syrup
Push the raspberries through a sieve or food mill into a bowl. Discard the seeds.
Mix the salt into the purée. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
For the sauce, for each cup of fresh raspberry sauce add 1/4 cup of heavy sugar syrup. Mix well before serving.
Meringue with Berries, Crème Anglaise & Berry Sauces
Serving one large meringue as a dessert is show stopping. My preferred way is to fill it with fresh mixed berries: raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries. I top and surround the large meringue with crème anglaise, and add a few drizzles of fresh berry sauces. Cut rose petals are optional, so-called, but make for a truly unforgettable finishing touch.
If all the components are prepared ahead, this dessert can be assembled and served in under 10 minutes.
Serves 4 as a dessert.
1 large baked meringue cup
1 pint fresh blackberries
1 pint fresh raspberries
1 pint fresh blueberries
1 cup crème anglaise
¼ cup fresh blueberry sauce
¼ cup fresh raspberry sauce
¼ cup fresh strawberry sauce
1 handful rose petals, cut into strips with scissors
Place the meringue cup on a rimmed serving platter or rimmed dinner plate.
Place all the berries in a medium mixing bowl. Add a tablespoon each of the fresh berry sauces and gently stir to coat the berries, taking care not to break the berries apart.
Place the berries in the large meringue cup. If they don't all fit, reserve the rest and serve it alongside the dessert.
Top the filled meringue with the crème anglaise, making sure to spoon some of it on the plate around the meringue.
Spoon a tablespoon or two of each fresh berry sauce over and around the meringue. If you have berry sauce leftover, serve it alongside the meringue (with any extra berries you may have).
Top the meringue with the rose petals cut into strips. Serve immediately.
Perfect Chocolate Sauce
This is an incredibly simple recipe, yielding a divine chocolate sauce. It can be stored in the fridge for a few days.
The key is to use high quality chocolate and to not over-whisk the chocolate once the butter is fully incorporated.
To re-warm, put the amount of chocolate sauce you want to use in a small sauce pot and heat over low heat, stirring. If it breaks, whisk in a splash of cream until smooth.
12 ounces Valrhona or good quality bittersweet chocolate, broken in pieces
12 ounces whipping cream
2 tablespoons salted butter
Put the chocolate and cream in a stainless-steel bowl and set over simmering water.
When the chocolate is melted, whisk until smooth (just a few minutes) and then whisk in the butter. Be careful not to over-whisk the chocolate sauce.
Use immediately, or store covered in the refrigerator and warm when needed.
Meringue Ice Cream Sundae with Crème Anglaise & Chocolate Sauce
The ice cream Sunday with chocolate sauce was one of the most popular dessert at Stars. This is an updated version using a meringue as the base of this unique ice cream sundae. I fill the merengue cup with vanilla ice cream, top with crème anglaise, and a generous splash of chocolate sauce.
If all the components are prepared ahead, this dessert can be assembled and served in mere minutes!
4 baked meringue cups
4 scoops vanilla ice cream
1 cup crème anglaise
½ cup chocolate sauce at least, gently heated.
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