Whether you find it inspiring or nauseating, whether it makes you wear red – or see red – Valentine’s Day is here once again. All over town today in the Capital City, couples met for lunch, women wore red and guys scrambled for last minute roses and dinner reservations. Personally, I’m a low-key girl when it comes to this particular holiday, always opting for a crowd-free dinner at home with my hubby and our three kids. And this year, with Val’s Day on a weeknight, Cupid is going to have move along while two exhausted parents deal with sports practice, homework, an obnoxious Spanish project and work deadlines. We need a drink a lot more than a box of chocolates.
But there is one thing I prepared for my crew this year, and I invite you to do the same when you get a moment. It’s baked meringues. They’re the perfect dessert for spring and they just happen to go great with local strawberries emerging on south Louisiana farms.
I can hear you groaning, but, I swear, meringues are NOT hard. Just the opposite. All you have to do is beat some egg whites until stiff, drop blobs of the mixture onto cookie sheets and bake until crisp. There’s very little measuring involved and you only need a few ingredients.
This is one deliciously airy dessert. Dive in with your fork and taste the scarlet strawberries, the creamy cream and the sweet meringue, which melts lovingly on your tongue. This is a great dessert to keep in your back pocket for both casual and fancy springtime gatherings. And guess what else? While being super elegant, it’s also super cheap to make.
Baked Meringues with Fresh Louisiana Strawberries
Cooking or baking spray
4 egg whites
1 cups sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar (or lemon juice)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Fresh fruit for garnish
Heat oven to 225 F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil and spray them lightly with cooking or baking spray. Beat egg whites in a clean, dry bowl at med-high speed with an electric mixer until they begin to look foamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar, about ¼ cup at a time, while continuing to beat another 5 or so minutes. Add vinegar and vanilla extract and continue to beat until whites form stiff peaks and look glossy. This takes another 2-3 minutes. Time will vary according to mixer, but your clue that the whites are ready is that you’ll be able to hold the bowl upside down and they’ll remain in place. Use an ice cream scoop or serving spoon to drop about 6 round scoops of the mixture onto each cookie sheet, gently pressing each down to form tidy discs of about 3-4 inches in diameter.
Bake for about 1 hour. Remove and cool. When ready to serve, plate each meringue with homemade whipped cream and fresh berries.