Snacks & Treats
Spring Recipe: Easy Meringue Nests
By Julie Van Rosendaal, Dinner with Julie
Mar 20, 2015
One of my all time favourite desserts is perfect for spring, and particularly Easter, when something nest-shaped is in order. Crisp on the outside, marshmallowy inside, these meringues are stunning (and delicious) filled with lemon curd and fresh fruit or berries, then topped with a mound of whipped cream. (It’s a classic dessert also known as pavlova, named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova.) And although they’re perfectly elegant for Easter brunch or dinner, you could always fill them with jellybeans or chocolate eggs for the kids, too. In fact, they could be tinted green with a few drops of food colouring, or different springy pastel shades of pink, blue and yellow.
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Meringues are simple to make and can be done ahead of time, then assembled when it’s time to bring them to the table. The trick to a meringue is to make sure when you separate the eggs, no yolk breaks and contaminates the whites—even a tiny bit of fat will keep them from whipping, which is why most recipes advise you to use glass or stainless steel bowls, which tend to not retain any oily residue. Separating eggs is a bit easier when they’re cold: the yolks congeal, and are less likely to break. Beat them until they’re foamy enough to leave soft trails through, then start gradually adding the sugar-cornstarch mixture, beating constantly, until it’s all incorporated and the egg whites look like shaving foam. (Good news! Once sugar is added, you can’t overbeat egg whites like you can on their own.) The vinegar will keep the insides marshmallowy, and the vanilla will add flavour—feel free to swap it for another extract, like coconut or peppermint.
Once whipped, meringue is perfectly maneuverable, so you can shape it into shapes, peaks or nests. You can make small nests so that everyone can eat them out of hand, or try one large nest to fill and serve in wedges. Shape the meringue using the back of a spoon on a foil- or parchment-lined sheet, so that you can peel them off once they’re set and dry.
Tangy lemon curd is not only a perfect pairing flavour-wise; to make it, you’ll need 3 egg yolks, which you’ll conveniently have left over after you use the whites to make the meringue. Spoon a little curd into each nest, then top with whatever fruit is in season—fresh raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and/or sliced strawberries, peaches, plums, apricots, kiwi or a fruit salsa made with finely chopped strawberries, kiwi and mango looks and tastes great, especially with a tiny sprig of mint.
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3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. cornstarch
3 large egg whites
1 tsp. white vinegar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
lemon curd, for serving
fresh berries, for serving
whipped cream, for serving
Preheat oven to 250° F and line two large baking sheets with foil or parchment. Stir the cornstarch into the sugar. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, beating until the mixture holds stiff, glossy peaks, like shaving cream. Beat in the vinegar and vanilla.
To make individual meringue nests, spoon small mounds (about a tablespoon of meringue) about half an inch apart on the baking sheet, then make little indents in the middle using the tip of a teaspoon. Bake for an hour, until crisp but still soft inside.
Let the meringues cool on the sheets, then peel them off the foil. To serve, top with a dollop of whipped cream or curd, and berries or fruit salsa.
Makes about 2 dozen small nests.
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
zest of one lemon
1/4 cup butter, cut into pieces
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice and zest. Set over medium heat and cook, stirring often (if not constantly) with a whisk, until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Set aside to cool. Makes about 1 cup.
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