Meringues are a fun little treats, but when you combine meringue with naturally sweetened raw whipped cream/coconut cream, or lemon curd and fruit, they're to die for! These are simple to make and very well worth the effort.
Naturally Sweet Mini Pavlovas
Makes about 12
1. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Heat oven to 200 degrees.
3. Mix together egg whites, maple syrup and salt in a small-medium pot, or a metal or heat safe glass bowl. It will need to be big enough to for the meringue to expand as it's whipped.
4. Heat a couple inches of water in a pot that the other pot will set over, double boiler style, or in a pot that the bowl can be suspended over without coming in contact with the water.
5. Heat the water until it comes to a gentle boil, reduce heat to medium-low.
6. Place the pot/bowl with the egg white mixture over the water.
7. Heat the mixture while continually stirring, until it comes to 140 degrees farenheit, or 60 degrees celcius: about 3-5 minutes.
8. Remove the egg white mixture from the heat. Add vanilla and beat with a hand beater, on medium, until the egg whites reach the stiff peak stage: about 3-5 minutes.
9. Place the meringue into a piping bag, fitted with a large star tip, if desired, or a gallon size ziplock with one corner cut off. If you don't want to fuss with a pastry bag, you can just dollup the meringue, by the spoonful, onto the baking sheet in free forms; see the last photo.
10. Pipe the meringue into about 3 inch rounds on the baking sheet. You should get about 12. Ideally, the middle of the meringue should be lower than the edges, so it can be filled with a little lemon curd, whipped cream or coconut cream and then topped with fruit. I find this is easiest to do by starting in the center and then coiling outward, doubling up around the edges, if necessary.
11. Place in the oven for 1 1/2- 2 hours. Check the meringues; they should be dry to the touch. If they're still tacky, let them cook a bit longer until they feel dry. The meringues should stay a light color, they shouldn't brown. They're still edible if they do brown, but will have a caramelized flavor. Turn off the oven, crack it open with a wooden spoon, or tin foil snake and let set and cool in the oven for 1 more hour.
12. Store at room temperature in an airtight container, lined with a paper towel to absorb the extra moisture and keep them crisp.
13. Top with desired topping, right before serving, to keep the meringue crisp. These also make for a fun dessert bar when entertaining. Guests can top with the topping and fruit of their choice.
If you get even the smallest amount of egg yolk in with the egg whites, the meringue will fail. So be very careful in separating the egg yolk from egg whites. Similarly, any oil or fat will also prevent the egg whites from whipping up.
You don't have to have a thermometer, but your meringue will be more dependable and consistently work out if you make sure to bring the mixture to the right temperature; otherwise, it's just guesswork.
The stiff peak stage means that firm or stiff peaks remain when the beaters are lifted: the tip of the peak does not bend over, rather it stands straight up.
These are a bit trickier to make in a humid climate, as the humidity can make them tacky. Make sure to completely cool in the oven and transfer to an airtight container lined with a paper towel right away.
For an egg free version, substitute 1/4 cup, unsalted liquid from cooked chickpeas for the eggs. If you cook your own chickpeas, the liquid should be about the texture of egg whites. I generally cut down on my cooking water a bit if I am going to use it in this way. The liquid is called aquafaba and it's used in many vegetarian preparations.