Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Two recipes that go hand in hand

Not because you eat them together, necessarily, but because you make them together.

As you are no doubt aware, we have a lot of eggs. We intend to start selling them soon, but in the meantime we have to be resourceful. We give them to friends. We make noodles. We make fried rice and egg-drop soup. We scramble them and boil them and devil them. We make clafoutis and quiches and spongecakes. And (helpfully) the two batches of fruitcakes I'll be making this week will consume 8 to 10 eggs per batch.

Yet we still have a lot of gorgeous, sunny free-range eggs. What to do? Let's start with what the s.o. said are "the best meringues I have ever had."


You'll need two batches of ingredients:

4 egg whites
1/2 to 2/3 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

4 egg whites
1/2 to 2/3 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. almond extract
1 to 2 Tbs. cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. No, that's not a misprint.

Beat the first 4 egg whites in your mixer bowl until they start to form peaks. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until the mixture forms stiff peaks and can stand on its own. Dollop the mixture onto parchment-lined cookie sheets. (The size of the dollops is up to you, but be aware that larger meringues may stay a little marshmallowy in the middle no matter how long you cook and dry them. This is not necessarily a bad thing, just a matter of preference.)

Now, without bothering to wash the mixer bowl (because really, why should you?), beat the second 4 egg whites until they start to form peaks. Add the sugar and almond extract and beat for a few more seconds. Now stop the mixer a moment and gently fold in the cocoa powder. (Failure to stop the mixer will result in your entire kitchen being coated in a fine film of cocoa.) Beat until the mixture forms stiff peaks and can stand on its own. Because of the cocoa, it will never be quite as lofty as the first mixture, but it should still have some life to it.

Now dollop the second mixture onto parchment-lined cookie sheets.

Bake the meringues 50 minutes, rotating the pans to ensure even cooking. Then do one of the following: Either...

(a) DON'T OPEN THE OVEN, but turn the heat off, turn the light on, and leave the meringues overnight, or...

(b) Open the oven, "test" a meringue, and then for a couple of hours, cycle between turning the oven on and off until the meringues are as done as you like them. Your goal is to bake them incredibly slowly without browning them very much. You are almost using the oven as a dehydrator rather than a cooker.

The consistency I like best depends on the type of meringue. I like the vanilla ones dry almost all the way through. But the chocolate-almond ones are optimal with a glob of moussey goodness in the middle. Regardless of which you choose, make sure to put the cooled meringues in airtight containers to keep them from re-absorbing moisture. No one likes a flaccid meringue.

Now you are left with 8 egg yolks in your refrigerator. Luckily, the following recipe will use up 6 of them.


6 egg yolks
3/4 c. granulated sugar
2 c. milk
1 Tbs. vanilla

Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until they become pale yellow and form soft ribbons.
Put the milk in a saucepan and heat it slowly to a simmer, being careful not to boil. Now pour the milk in a thin stream into the egg mixture, beating constantly. Beat in the vanilla.
Transfer the mixture back into the saucepan, turn the heat to medium, and beat constantly for two minutes, making sure not to let it boil. Cool, then chill overnight.
Freeze according to your ice cream maker's directions.

When I transferred this gelato into a freezer container, I swirled in a handful of graham cracker crumbs and coconut flakes that were left over from last weekend's baking. You can, of course, come up with your own creative additions. Also, don't be afraid to replace the vanilla with some other kind of liqueur according to your preferences.