When we lived in San Antonio early in our marriage,Joe introduced me to one of his commanding officers when he served in the U.S. Army at Fort Baker, California in the 60’s.By the time I met them, Major Kneesy and his wife lived in officer’s housing on base at Fort Sam Houston. We visited with them in the living room of their home, and Mrs. Kneesy served us coffee and dessert. The dessert was a small meringue shell filled with ice cream topped with a drizzle of chocolate. It was the most elegant dessert I had ever eaten, and I fell in love with meringues. She told me she kept some in the freezer so she would have them to offer on occasions such as our visit. A young bride and fledging cook, I was of course, duly impressed. I have since made them many times myself.
Later, when we lived in Indonesia, I was introduced to Pavlovas, large meringues topped with whipped cream and mixed tropical fruits and my admiration of meringues increased. The ingredient list is very simple, preparation requires an electric mixer and patience, but this remains one of my very favorite things to serve guests in my home for dessert. The variety of toppings makes it very versatile.
Recently I learned that this is a Downton Abbey dessert. In one episode, Mrs. Patmore the cook makes Raspberry Meringues for the Crowley’s and their guests. However, her eyesight is failing and when reaching for sugar, she measures salt, resulting in inedible meringues!
Dessert Meringue with Raspberries and Ice Cream
5 egg whites
1 1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla.
Prepare 2 large baking sheets by lining with Silpat or parchment paper. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
Let egg whites sit at room temperature at least 30 minutes. Place in bowl of electric mixer, and begin beating slowly. When egg whites begin to froth, add cream of tartar. Increase mixer speed to medium and continue to beat until egg whites will hold a hard peak. Begin to add sugar, 1 Tablespoon at a time and beat at medium-high speed after each addition until all sugar has been added. Turn mixer speed on high and beat for 5 to 6 minutes until egg whites are glossy and hold sharp peaks. Remove and fold in salt and vanilla.
Meringues will spread, so do not crowd on baking sheets, adding 6 to each sheet. With a large spoon, add dollops of meringue and spread slightly to 3-inch circles. Make an indention in the middle of each by pressing with the back of the spoon. Place baking sheets into preheated oven and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Reduce heat by 25 degrees if they begin to brown. Turn oven off, leaving meringues in oven with door shut for at least 2 hours. Place in air tight containers and when ready to serve, fill with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream and top with raspberries or other berries of your choice.
Note: If using whipped cream, a nice variation is the addition of a splash of orange liqueur.