One of my favorite desserts is based on meringue. It's fun, delicious, and, as my mother would say, good enough for company. The very best thing about it is that you can have it ready at a minute's notice. When relatives visited once, I was busy showing and driving them around, which left little time for cooking. Meringue nests saved the day. I pulled them out of the freezer and had a fabulous dessert in minutes. Of course, you do have to bake the meringues in advance!
Anyone who has read The Diva Runs Out of Thyme knows that baking meringues isn't a rainy day activity. Meringues need to dry out, and humid weather can make them sticky. Crisp fall days are a great time to bake them and pop them in the freezer for those busy days when you need a dessert fast!
3 large egg whites at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup sugar
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Grease and flour a baking sheet, or (my preference) cover a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper. If you are very precise, you can draw circles on the paper as guides, but I'm the world's worst artist and I do it freehand.
Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in a mixing bowl and beat. When the eggs begin to take shape, slowly add the sugar and beat until they hold stiff peaks.
Spoon the egg white mixture into a pastry bag with a tip that has a fairly large hole. Don't have a pastry bag? Snip the corner of a plastic food storage bag and use it instead. Pipe the mixture onto the paper. I find it easiest to begin in the middle and pipe in circles until it's approximately three inches in diameter. Then, to make the nest, I pipe one more circle around the top of the outer circle. So simple! Three eggs make approximately one dozen 3 inch-ish nests. Have just a tiny bit left? Pipe a few dots to snack on!
Bake the nests for one hour or until dry and crisp, but not blond. My preference is to turn the oven off after one hour and leave them in the closed oven overnight.
One of the best features of meringue is that it freezes so beautifully. Peel them off the parchment paper and slide the nests into freezer bags. If you want to stack them within the bag, use a bit of the parchment paper (reuse the one you used to bake them) in between layers. But don't crowd them, they're fragile. Freeze until ready to use.
whipped cream (optional)
frozen raspberries, thawed
Remove the requisite number of meringue nests from the freezer bag. Top each with a scoop of ice cream. (Go with your personal preference here. It's great with vanilla, coffee, and chocolate, but I can imagine it with all kinds of ice creams.) Top with a dollop of whipped cream (optional). Spoon thawed frozen raspberries and a little juice over top (you may need to add some sugar to the thawed raspberries, they have a tendency to be a little bit tart). If you're feeling very ambitious, you can make a blueberry or cherry reduction, but our family favorite has always been raspberries.
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