Meringues make for a delicate and refined dessert at any bridal shower, birthday party or family gathering. ALAN BENNETT/Journal Tribune

Meringues make for a delicate and refined dessert at any bridal shower, birthday party or family gathering. ALAN BENNETT/Journal Tribune

Happy spring. Finally.

There is much to celebrate this time of year: the warmer temperatures, the flowers about to come into bloom, the upcoming Easter holiday. So why not kick off the season with something sweet? 

I love meringues in the springtime. Their crisp exterior, chewy, marshmallowy interior and light texture make them the perfect afternoon snack with a spot of tea or a glass of wine. They also make a wonderfully light dessert after a heavy meal (such as Easter ham, of course).

Crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, these orange-scented meringues make a delicious and light springtime snack. ALAN BENNETT/Journal Tribune

Crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, these orange-scented meringues make a delicious and light springtime snack. ALAN BENNETT/Journal Tribune

And with swimsuit season on the horizon — sorry to remind you — they’re a not-so-guilty pleasure when you’re craving something sweet.

You’re probably familiar with French meringue; it’s the kind created quickly on your countertop, made by gradually beating sugar into egg whites until they form what are called “stiff peaks,” the point at which the meringue is stable enough to stand up on its own without collapsing. This kind of meringue is good for topping pies (such as lemon or lime) if they are to be eaten right away, since it’s the least stable.

Then there’s Italian meringue, made by incorporating a hot sugar syrup into partially beaten egg whites. I’ve never attempted such a feat, but if you’re an avid baker, this kind of meringue is best for buttercream.

Here, I make use of Swiss meringue, the densest of the three meringues. This meringue is made by heating the egg whites and sugar in a bowl over simmering water. This dissolves the sugar and partially cooks the egg whites, making for a thick and pillowy mixture once beaten. This kind of meringue is best for baking into crisp cookies (as I’ve done) or for topping pies in advance.

It may seem like a lot of work, but it’s no more complicated than making any other kind of confection. The beauty of meringue is that it’s blank canvas for any number of flavorings. I’ve opted for a refreshing orange flavor, using both juice and zest for flavor. You may also use lemon, lime or any other citrus, if you like, or go for classic vanilla or almond.

The sky’s the limit when crafting cloud-like meringues.

These cookies make a great addition to any gathering, especially a bridal shower or birthday party, but they’re also fantastic eaten alone, on your porch, basking in the warm daytime sun.

So go forth, with a new recipe under your belt and a rejuvenated lease on life. Enjoy spring, my darlings and, as always, stay hungry.

— Staff Writer Alan Bennett can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or [email protected]

Orange-scented meringues
Start-to-finish: 2 hours (45 minutes active)
Serves: 12-30

4 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 medium orange, zested and juiced
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar (optional, but recommended)
¼ teaspoon Kosher salt

Heat oven to 200 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Separate the eggs, reserving the whites, and freeze the egg yolks for another use (do not discard). In a large bowl, combine the egg whites, sugar, 1 teaspoon orange juice and salt. Gently whisk to combine.

Set the bowl over a pot of gently simmering water — the water should not touch the bottom of the bowl — and whisk the egg white mixture until the sugar dissolves, about five minutes. The mixture is ready when you can no longer feel grains of sugar in between your fingers.

Remove from the heat and add the cream of tartar, if using, and beat the mixture with a stand or hand-held mixer, starting on low and working up to high, until the meringue is thick and glossy. Add the orange zest and mix to combine.

Pipe shapes or spoon meringue onto parchment-lined baking sheet. You can use a pastry bag to form circles, rounds or any shape you desire, or you can make swirls with the back of a spoon. This recipe makes 12-16 large or 24-30 small meringues.

Bake for 1 hour, or until the tops of the meringues are slightly brown and beginning to crack. If they do not easily release from the parchment, add five minutes onto the baking time, repeating if necessary.

Serve as a light late-night treat with coffee, tea or a sweet dessert wine such as French Sauternes.


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