Friday, March 29, 2013

Bacon Meringues

I was getting tired of seeing and hearing about bacon in every recipe all day every day. The only answer was to try it myself.  These meringues really are good. You might want to cook the whole pound of bacon although the recipe calls for only 10 strips, because (who knows) you might need a snack...

One of my most esteemed tasters says "just pecans and bacon please, hold the chocolate". I see her point, the pecans and bacon are superb with nothing else, but I also like the milk chocolate in there.  Have it your way. Let me know.

Something sweet and salty with nuts?  And chocolate?  How can this be wrong?

Makes 36-40 meringues

Scant 2/3 cup (85 g) crumbled crispy cooked bacon*, cooled
Scant 2/3 cup (60 g) toasted pecans, chopped medium fine
3 ounces milk chocolate, cut in 1/3 inch squares (or ½ cup milk chocolate chips) (optional)
2/3 cup (133 grams) sugar
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

*Thin cut bacon works best, you will need about 10 ounces or 10 strips, before cooking. It should be well cooked, using your favorite method. Once cool check to see if it is mostly crispy; if not, chop to the size of crumbles and re cook briefly in a dry frying pan to render a little more fat. Let cool.

Cookie sheets lined with parchment paper

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven

Set aside 1/3 of the bacon for the topping.

Mix the remaining bacon with the pecans, chocolate, and two tablespoons of the sugar. Set aside.

Combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in a clean dry bowl. Beat at medium-high speed with a heavy-duty stand mixer (or high speed with a hand mixer) until the egg whites are creamy white (instead of translucent) and hold a soft shape when the beaters are lifted.  Continue to beat on medium to high speed, adding the remaining sugar a little at a time, taking 1 1/2 to 2 minutes in all, until the egg whites are very stiff and have a dull sheen. Use a large rubber spatula to fold in the bacon mixture, just until blended.

Drop generous tablespoons of meringue 1 1/2 inches apart on the lined cookie sheets.  Make sure all of the batter fits on the two sheets so all can be baked at once; if necessary make each cookie a little bigger. Sprinkle each meringue with a little pinch of reserved bacon. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, rotating the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking.  Remove a test meringue and let it cool completely before taking a bite (meringues are never crisp when hot). If the test meringue is completely dry and crisp, turn off the oven and let the remaining meringues cool completely in the oven.  If the test meringue is soft or chewy or sticks to your teeth, bake for another 15 to 30 minutes before cooling in the oven.

To prevent cookies from becoming moist and sticky, put them in an airtight container as soon as they are cool.  Cookies keep for a few days at least.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

More Meringue Madness

I tasted my first Meringue Glacé decades ago in Castelnaudary, that French town on the Canal du Midi, renowned for its Cassoulet.  I was so full of Cassoulet I should not have even glanced at the dessert menu, but I couldn’t resist the Meringue Glacé.  When it came, what was it anyway?  Plain-as-can-be meringues with plain vanilla ice cream and plain whipped cream (or maybe it was crème fraîche). But it was so good I remember it now, 40 years later.  I’m sure the Cassoulet was nice too, but I don’t recall a a thing about that part of the meal.

The simplest meringue with ice cream and whipped cream still entices me. But I can’t always stop there: a garnish of juicy berries and warm bittersweet chocolate sauce produces even more drama and contrast: hot with cold, creamy with crunchy, sweet with bittersweet. If you turn the meringue into Pavlova, you can also get chewy with gooey!  

I love that meringues—simple cookies or elements of a more complex dessert— are easy make and easy to play with. Over the years, I have tried all kinds of inclusions, treatments, embellishments, and flavors, from bananas to bacon (including bananas and bacon).  Some of my results are amazing (if I do say), others not so much.  

A few of the things I have added to meringues over the decades are:

Espresso powder:  very nice
Nuts, raw or toasted, chopped and/or ground: obviously great
Roasted salted nuts with or w/o chopped milk chocolate: terrific
Thai curry peanuts: not as good as I had hoped
Salt and pepper cashews: not as good as I had hoped
Cocoa power: nice enough
Cocoa nibs: good when lots are added otherwise they  taste bitter and feel gritty
Chopped chocolate: what’s not to love?
Candied citrus peels: dries out and become too hard to chew
Grated citrus peel: dries out and becomes too hard
Pulverized freeze dried fruit: banana (with or without pecans or coconut) was especially good, as was pineapple (with or without coconut) are especially good
Dried jamiaca blossoms (aka jamaica tea): still a work in progress
Amchur powder: interesting
Tahini: yummy
Peanut butter: fantastic, also almond butter, cashew butter etc.
Peanut butter and jam: good, but a little too sweet
Coconut: always great
Bacon with toasted pecans and milk chocolate:  Delish! Recipe to come. 
Organic powdered milk: extremely promising
Saffron: promising, not yet perfected
Chestnut flour: amazing
Carrot chips and/or wasabi peas: ok, I ate them up before I made the meringues-will try again

Many of these things ended up as recipes in books, others are yet to come. I have a long list of other things to try...including pulverized dried mushrooms.