Mini Berry Meringue Cups

Mini Berry Meringue CupsBaking Hot Summer
Today is the last day of school—and the official first day of summer if you ask any kid. The trials of distance learning via Zoom can now make way for better things like the Mr. Softee Ice Cream truck and days at the pool. For us, the last day of school also marks the beginning of the calorically perilous time known as Sophie Baking Season.

When there are no classes to attend or homework to be done, my daughter heads to the kitchen to fill her days. For her brothers, this means that there is a better than average chance that they will be eating something for lunch that is not a bowl of cereal. Biscuit sandwiches are one of her go-tos as are any Asian dumplings. But, while there are always exceptions, nine times out of ten, when Sophie is in the kitchen she’s baking something sweet. This makes this time of year a killer on your calorie count. Her weapon of choice? Cookies…

It would be bad enough if she was going with a classic chocolate chip. Because, how can you possibly pass up a chocolate chip cookie? But Soph likes a challenge. Her favorite things to make are French Macarons. And, she’s pretty much mastered them. A friend of the family has even commissioned a few dozen for their graduation party this weekend. (We’ve been in a constant state of taste testing for the past couple of weeks. I know. Oh, the humanity!) If macarons are her first love, meringues would be a very close second.

It makes sense if you think about it. Both desserts require a meringue to make them. The execution is just different. These lighter-than-air treats are so good that you may start with one…but before you know it you have eaten an entire handful. And, with the flavor possibilities being endless—and tested frequently—there’s always seems to be at least a handful available for consumption. (Along with an equal number of dirty dishes and bowls!)

To give the family a break, I have issued her a challenge. Instead of her usual espresso or vanilla flavored favorites, can she use the same meringue to make me some Mini Berry Meringue Cups that I can fill with fresh berries as a lovely and somewhat elegant end to a nice summer dinner? If you have ever eaten a Pavlova, this is essentially that, just made smaller with berries and whipped cream on top. Of course you could always just make the big one to make life a bit easier. And hey, if it breaks you just bust the rest of it up and make a meringue trifle…

Mini Berry Meringue Cups with Lemon Whipped Cream Recipe
Adapted from A Beautiful Plate
Yields 8 servings

For the meringue
6 large egg whites, room temperature
pinch of kosher salt
1 cup superfine* sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the lemon berry filling
1-1/4 cup heavy whipping cream, cold
3 tablespoons Stonewall Kitchen lemon curd (or homemade)
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
roughly 2 cups fresh mixed berries (raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries)
confectioner’s sugar, for garnishing (optional)

*If you don’t have superfine sugar on hand, you can always process regular sugar in a food processor for 1 to 2 minutes.

Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat it to 200º F.

Prepare baking pan
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Using a glass with a 3-inch diameter and a pencil, trace 8 rings on the piece of parchment paper. Then flip the paper over so the pencil is on the bottom. You should still be able to see the circles.

Make the mirangue
Place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer that is fitted with a whisk attachment*. Whisk over medium speed until the egg whites until soft peaks form (about 3 minutes). Increase the speed to high. Slowly sprinkle in the superfine sugar, one tablespoon at a time, and continue beating (about 3 minutes). Scrape the bottom of the bowl with spatula and continue to whisk over high speed until the meringue mixture reaches stiff peaks and is glossy, (about 3 to 5 additional minutes).

Add the vanilla extract, cornstarch, and lemon juice, and whisk at high speed for an additional minute until well combined. Fold with a spatula to ensure that all the ingredients are incorporated well.

Form the meringue cups
Using two soup spoons, carefully drop eight balls of meringue onto the center of each circle of your parchment-lined baking sheet. Gently spread the meringue using the edges of the circle as a rough guide. Press down on center of each ball with one spoon to form a small cup. You can drag the tip of a knife on the outside of each nest to create a pattern.

Bake the meringue cups
Bake the meringue until crisp and pale in color for roughly 1 hour. Reduce the oven temperature to 175º F and continue baking until the outside is dry and crisp (about 1 additional hour). Turn off the oven and use a wooden spoon to prop open the oven door. Allow the meringue to cool completely in the oven, about 1 to 1.5 hours. It should be crisp, dry to touch, and have a slightly cracked appearance once cooled.

Make the lemon berry filling
Just before serving, place the cold cream in a clean bowl of a stand mixer*, fitted with a whisk attachment, or use a hand-held mixer. Beat the cream, starting at on low speed and gradually increasing to high speed, until it reaches soft peaks. Using a spatula, fold in the lemon curd, lemon zest, and lemon juice.

Assemble the berry cups
Carefully transfer the meringue shells to a flat serving platter or individual plates—be gentle as meringues are very fragile. Top the meringue with the lemon curd cream, followed by the mixed berries. Dust the berry bowls with powdered sugar, if using.

Pavlova is best enjoyed the day it is baked, as meringue will gain moisture and lose its crispness with time; leftovers can be covered with plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

* You can also beat both the meringue and whipped cream by hand.


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