Meringue Nests are so simple and easy to make, and such a delight to eat.
The fruit possibilities are endless, and this dessert is so simple to make and refrigerate before guests arrive.
90g Egg White, room temperature
1/2 tsp Cream of Tartar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- Boil a pot of water and keep it at just below boiling heat.
- Put a metal bowl on the water in the pot. Put in all the ingredients and beat the mixture using an electric beater on low until all the sugar dissolves. This will take about 3 minutes.
- Remove the metal bowl with the mixture from the pot, add the vanilla extract, and then continue to beat the egg whites on high speed for another 10 minutes. You'll need to get to a point where the egg whites are glossy white and stiff.
- Transfer the egg white into a piping bag. On a baking parchment's reverse side, use a tea-cup to draw round circles with a pencil. Carefully pipe a base starting from the centre of the circle outwards.
- Complete all the circles, and then pipe the sides up to make a container or nest.
- Bake in a pre-heated oven at 100 deg C for 75 minutes, and leave it in the oven for another hour.
- Store in an air-tight ziplock bag until needed.
I had initally used my previous meringue cookie recipe, but I was intrigued by the Swiss Meringue method of heating the egg white and sugar to achieve a smoother and lighter meringue, which indeed makes a slight difference to the texture. That said, the French method of just beating the egg whites and sugar without heating it up is simpler, and the crunchier texture will contrasts well with the whipped cream too. I suppose the choice of methods is really up to you. :)
Anyway, to assemble the Meringue Nest is as simple as whipping up some whipped cream with a little sugar to taste and spooning a tablespoon or two into the nests, cutting up some seasonal fruits (or fruits on offer at the supermarket ;) ) and arranging it prettily in the nests, and refrigerating them until dessert time.
The effect of this dessert when presented is almost always a look of surprise and lit-up eyes. It's really worth the look of joy on their faces when it's really a simple dessert to assemble.
A word of warning though - this dessert cannot be kept overnight. The meringue nest will soften. Therefore, make the meringue last - just before your guests arrive - to put into the fridge. That way, the meringue will remain crisp. :)
8 Oct 2011, Edited to add:
Since the time I made this meringue, I've purchased a Kitchenaid (KA). Naturally, I wasn't able to use a hand-held mixer to beat the egg white over the hot water.
Therefore, what I did is to do a modification based on the Swiss Meringue Buttercream.
To my 2 egg whites (about 70g), I used almost double that amount for sugar (about 138g), 1/4 teaspoons of Cream of Tartar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and all these I put into the KA bowl, and heat it up over boiling water, all the while stirring it with a whisk. I did this until the sugar dissolved into the mix, and then put it on the KA to beat on low speed for about a minute, then on high speed for about 6 to 8; when it more than doubled its volume.
I made smaller nests this round, because the initial eggwhite amount is smaller (70g, compared to previously 90g). But again, the meringue nests are really a very simple and easy dessert to make. ;)
14 Feb 2012, Edited to add:
I've tinted the meringue with a little red gel food colouring to get pink nests for a Valentine's Day dessert.
Also, because of time, I've made a larger pie-like nest instead of individual nests for the adults at the dinner to share. The kids got mini ones all to themselves. I piped the words with Nutella. ;)