Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Cherry Meringue Hearts

Meringue cookies are delicate, light-as-a-feather confections that simply melt in your mouth.  Among the easiest cookies to make, meringues are nothing but egg whites and sugar whipped to a billowy puff that are then baked at a very low temperature, for longer than normal.  My recipe for these Cherry Meringue Hearts departs just a bit from the most common ones by using tart cherry juice instead of an extract to flavor the cookies.  Using a Swiss meringue base allows the egg whites to whip up quickly in a stand mixer, but a handheld one is equally suitable for the task.  The baked and cooled cookies are then flooded with strained cherry jam, making them perfect for Valentine's Day.  Let me show you how easily these delightful treats come together, because I think you're going to want to make them for your loved one(s).


Cherry Meringue Hearts



The Ingredients
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons tart cherry juice (pomegranate juice can be substituted)
  • 6 tablespoons cherry jam

Yield: approximately 16 cookies.


Preheat your oven to 225° F
Place two oven racks in the lower & upper center.

In a very clean, grease-free bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugar and egg whites, and set over a pot of simmering water.  The bottom of the bowl should not be touching the water, so find a pot that suspends it above the water line.


Quickly whisk the ingredients together until they begin to lighten in color.  You want the sugar dissolved completely.  Test the mixture by rubbing it between your fingers and feel for lack of graininess. 



Attach the bowl to your stand mixer and fit it with the whip attachment.  Whip the mixture on high speed until it begins to billow and double in size.  I like cooling the meringue by wiping the bottom of the bowl with a damp kitchen towel.  

Slowly add the cherry juice down the side of the bowl, while beating on high speed, making sure you don't pour it onto the whisk (doing so will cause it to splatter everywhere).


You want the mixture to be thick, glossy and able to hold a very stiff peak.  Stop your mixer and test the meringue.


Does it look like this?  If so, it's ready.  Whipping the meringue to stiff peaks shouldn't take more than 5 minutes. 
 

Get a 14" piping bag fitted with an Ateco #22 open star tip (if you only have a 12" bag, you will need to fill it in 2 batches).  Fill the bag with the meringue and begin piping 2-3" sized hearts on parchment-lined or silpat-lined baking sheets (you will need two sheets).  Use a steady hand and even pressure to pipe out the shapes. 

Note: the amount of cookies this recipe yields will depend on how you pipe.  If you pipe thick hearts larger than 3", you will get less cookies.  Either way, they will still be delicious. 


When you've piped out 16 shapes, go back and fill in each cookie with meringue.  You then want to pipe the outline again to form a dam (above).  When baked, the dam will hold the cherry jam in place.

Note: if you have a bit of meringue left, practice your piping by making whimsical shapes (these should get baked along with the hearts!) 



Promptly place both cookie sheets in the oven and bake for 1 hour, rotating and switching sheets between racks, halfway through baking.  After an hour, tap the cookies with you finger.  They should be dry and not tacky whatsoever.  Turn the oven off and leave them in there for an additional hour to dry out completely.

Remove them from the oven and set the cookies aside.  The meringues will take on just a hint of color, but this is okay.  In fact, I was inspired to make meringues with a bit of a beige color, after reading one of Jacques Pepin's cookbooks.  Apparently this is how he's used to having them in France. 



In a small saucepan, place the 6 tablespoons of cherry jam and warm it over medium heat until liquefied, stirring occasionally.  Don't let it come to a boil!  Strain the jam through a fine mesh sieve, pressing through to release as much of the ruby red liquid as possible.  Let the mixture cool to room temperature. 

Carefully, spoon some cherry jam into each cookie cavity.



Gently pick up each cookie and twirl it to evenly distribute the jam.  This is much easier and neater than using the spoon to push the jam into every corner.  Any leftover jam can be returned to the jar, once it's cooled completely.


Simply Delicious!

I love the utter simplicity and delicious sweetness that these cookies bring to the end of a meal.  Virtually fat-free and absolutely gluten-free, one doesn't have to feel guilty about having more than one.  If you wish to make a different shaped cookie, try squares, rounds or even barquettes and then proceed with the recipe.  Unfilled, the cookies last several days stored in single layers if kept in a cool, dry place (I like to leave them on my cookie sheets, loosely covered with plastic wrap if I don't plan to use them that day).  Once filled, however, the cookies are best eaten within several hours.  Remember the golden rule about meringue cookies: Never make them on a humid day or they will fail to dry out properly.  I hope you make my Cherry Meringue Hearts this Valentine's Day for your special one.  Enjoy!

4 comments:

  1. Another beautiful post! I just love your photography. One of these days I'll actually cook one of these delicious confections...

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  2. Thank you Ashley! I guarantee success if you follow this easy recipe. Happy Eats!

    ~David

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  3. These are so coming to work with me on Tuesday! So pretty David! I loved the post by Andrew by the way. Have a great week.

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  4. Have fun making them Pru! Yes, that was a good post that Andrew wrote and I'm going to blog about it soon.

    Stay Warm!
    David

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