Sunday, June 12, 2011

Meringue Nests with Mixed Berries and Another Little Treat

Life has been so busy!  Between renos on the house and my daughters' university convocations this month, I haven't had much time to bake any new treats, much less update my blog.  Fortunately, last weekend I did get to make these lovelies which I brought as a dessert to a party.  Even more fortunate is that this is the prime time to enjoy fresh berries of every kind - in my case it's been raspberries, strawberries and blueberries.

For the party, I made meringue nests with mixed berries and whipped cream:

This is one of the easiest desserts I've ever made, but it's one of the most impressive.  Here's how it's made:

For 8 Meringue Nests:

3 room temperature egg whites (you want them room temp. for better volume)
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
pinch of Cream of Tartar

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Using a 3 inch cup or glass, with a pencil trace the circles onto the paper.  Depending on the size of your cookie sheet, you will be able to draw 6 to 8 per sheet.  Flip the paper over, so that the pencil is on the UNDER side of the parchment.  This will give you the perfect size guide for piping the meringues.

Using a stand or hand held mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.  Add the Cream of Tartar until blended, followed by the sugar which is added in 2 tbsps at a time, to ensure it's fully incorporated.  Keep whipping the egg whites until they are glossy and form peaks when the mixer whisk is lifted.

Using a star tip on a piping bag, pipe the outer edge of the nest first, filling in the centres afterward.  Once done, pipe another edge around the circle, which creates the "nest" for your berry filling.  Bake the meringes for 2 hours - it's more like drying out than baking, so do not remove them early.  Allow to cool before moving to cooling racks.

For berry mixture:

I used a 2 lb container of strawberries, 1 pint of blueberries and 1/2 pint of raspberries.  I washed and cut the strawberries into smaller pieces, made sure there were no stems on the blueberries and mixed these two together with about 3 tbsp of sugar.  They sat in the fridge until right before we left, when I topped them with the raspberries, which I didn't want smashed into the mix.

The whipped cream:

Normally, I'm not a fan of whipped cream, but for this dessert it's essential and I'm happy to make an exception.  It's very simple - one cup of heavy whipping cream (yes, the 35% stuff!), 1 tsp good vanilla and 1 tbsp of granulated sugar.  Again, beat all ingredients until peaks form - soft ones for whipped cream, unless you want to make your own very sweet butter.  Try to make the whipped cream as the last thing you prepare before assembling this dessert, so that it doesn't have a chance to separate.  If you're taking it with you as I did, keep it as cold as possible before dessert is served.

For this party, I doubled all the quantities and had enough for 18 desserts.  Everyone seemed to enjoy them very much!

I also found another way to use raspberries recently on mini Lemon Tarts:

This was the easiest thing in the world - frozen mini tart shells, prepared lemon curd and fresh berries.  I followed the directions to bake the shells, let them cool and spooned in the lemon curd.  One raspberry each and they disappeared very quickly!

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